It’s been eight years since the inception of the inaugural Roots Picnic in Philadelphia. And after hearing infinite stories of what it’s like, I can finally attest that Philly’s premiere music festival is pretty much the best way to intro your summer.
Year after year, the Roots Picnic boasts diverse crowds and a tradition of bringing eclectic artists to the stage. As someone who obsesses over music and spends her days people-watching for style, beauty and inspiration, it’s actually pretty shocking I haven’t made it to day-long festival till now. Any extravaganza that promises beautiful Black music and beautiful Black people is a gold mine for me.
For those who didn’t make it to this year’s festivities, I won’t break it down for you the way it’s been broken down for me in the past (i.e., “You missed out, it was great! Blah bla, blah…”). While it was all of that, there were some very specific details about the event worth noting.
I arrived at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing relatively late in the day. I missed most of the opening acts (Ill Fated Natives, Brianna Cash, even hitmakers Rae Sremmurd), making it just in time for DJ Mustard’s set. Before getting too far into the venue, I already knew this wasn’t going to be one of those lay-out-in-the-grass-and-vibe-out-to-music festivals. It was way too crowded. There was nowhere to go unless you inched your way to the front of the main stage. The layout was far from perfect, but who cares?!!!??! We’re here for the music.
A$AP Rocky fans were in for a treat, as his set featured songs from his new album, At.Long.Last.A$AP. Most of the audience couldn’t rap along but that didn’t stop the turn up. It was my first time seeing The Weeknd live, and from the energy both on stage andy in the crowd, there was no doubt lead singer Abel Tesfaye completely elevated the festival. He sang fan favorites like “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls,” “Often,” and his cover of Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love.” (He even later performed his hit “Earned It” alongside the Roots. More on this later.)
The Roots Picnic, launched by the self-proclaimed hardest working band in the industry, is obviously centered on The Roots, Philadelphia’s prodigal musical sons. In an over two hour set, the Roots crew showed off their musical prowess and undeniable stage presence. The highlight of their set came when the band performed “Act Too (Love of My Life)” featuring Erykah Badu and surprise guests Freeway, the Lox and California’s very own YG. From the roar of the crowd, it felt like a moment that would go down in the hip-hop history books, as in “Remember that time Badu sang ‘Love of My Life’ to a Freeway medley?”
If I’m being honest, the real reason why I personally attended the festival was to see the legend that is Erykah Badu. Hundreds witnessed the neo-soul high priestess as she flexed her vocal range while gliding across the stage on a roller scooter. (Yes, a roller scooter!) She slayed in style with her curly Afro, a flowy cut-out top, and her one-of-a-kind rolling shoes. She performed your favorite song, your other favorite song, and your other other favorite song, delivering pristine vocals every time. “On & On” “Otherside of the Game,” and “Didn’t Cha Know?” were just a few of the songs she blessed the crowd with.
The eight annual Roots Picnic was a day of musical acts to remember. If you can survive typical festival woes like waiting in line for a porta-potty or standing around for hours till the next act, you might not want to miss next year’s fest.
To learn more details about The Roots Picnic, see RootsPicnic.com.
Chelsey Wilkins is a digital producer and writer who has penned for MTV, Vibe.com and other digital magazines. When she’s not working, you can find her discussing pop culture and adding to her Soundcloud playlists.