Festival Review: The Roots Picnic - Festival Pier (Philadelphia, PA)

On Saturday, June 4th, The Roots hosted their 9th Annual Picnic on Philadelphia’s Festival Pier along the Delaware River.  Although a 1-day festival, the Picnic packs a punch, offering a lineup stretching from your favorite Soundcloud obsession you randomly found at 3 in the morning, to the Billboard Hot 100 artist tearing up the charts, and everything in between.  The strength of the Roots Picnic lies in their ability to curate a lineup that is both inclusive and musically diverse. Since the Picnic’s inception, it has served as an ode to the culture and musical legacy of Philadelphia, but also as a love to letter to Black music.

The 9th annual Picnic featured a broad and diverse lineup including several of Philadelphia’s own – Lil Uzi Vert, GoGo Morrow, Rich Medina, and Lil Dicky; Beyoncé protégés Chole and Halle; Tish Hyman; Willow Smith, where she closed her set by bringing out her Dad, Will Smith aka The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff performing Summertime!!!!; Lolawolf; Kehlani; Londoner Jodie Abacus; Blood Orange; French-Cuban twins Ibeyi; Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals – REALLY wish they more than 30-minutes; Migos; DMX. DJ sets from Swizz Beatz, Kaytranada, Metro Boomin, and Everyday People Ft. DJ Moma. Headlining artists Future, Leon Bridges, and Usher back by The Legendary Roots Crew. 

Closing out the night, Usher took the stage backed by The Roots.  Customary for the headlining act at the Picnic, The Roots used this time as a music history lesson. Reminiscing on the golden age of Motown Records, and 70’s Funk, Usher and The Roots wowed the crowed reinterpreting, and rearranging, Usher’s original music, but with a slight twist. The Roots, dressed in the classic black suit, black tie, and white shirt band attire of the 60’s seamlessly tied together Usher catalog with Funk hits of yesteryear, mixing Usher’s Caught Up, with an uptempo James Brown-lite funk groove, Usher’s Bad Girl sung over Ramsey Lewis’ Sun Goddess, Make Me Wanna sung over Eddie Kendrick’s’ Intimate Friends, U Got It Bad sung over Prince’s Adore, and many more.  Closing out the set Usher was joined by Lil Jon as they performed their hit song, Yeah.

Building upon their legacy as Hip-Hop’s first band, The Roots musical versatility was on full display, showing that they can play any and everything.  But the party doesn’t stop in Philadelphia, as the Picnic is expanding to New York for the first time, and a future Picnic to be held in Japan.