The Roots Picnic has evolved exponentially since it first hit the Philly stage in 2008. Before extending itself into a multi-stage, two-day affair on (mostly) grass—as it is this weekend at The Mann Center—it was a much smaller deal.
In June ’08, the inaugural Roots Picnic at Penn’s Landing’s Festival Pier had a DJ in a multi-use tent—West Philly’s DJ Jazzy Jeff who returns again for this weekend’s show—and a stage against Columbus Boulevard with Gnarls Barkley, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and more, with The Roots as its headliner. Fast forward 14 years and this year’s Picnic, slated for June 4 and 5, will feature Summer Walker, Kamasi Washington, Tierra Whack, Jazmine Sullivan and Mary J. Blige.
But going beyond the lawns of The Roots Picnic, entertainment and education extend far beyond the Mann’s borders.
On June 2, there will be a behind-the-scenes look at the machinations behind the big show with Philadelphia Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Philly-area students. Created by the School District of Philadelphia, Live Nation Urban, Live Nation Philadelphia, and The Mann, this walk-through tour is followed with a discussion and Q+A session. And dedicated on Thursday, June 2 — but displayed indefinitely — is “The Talented Mr. Trotter” mural, named for The Roots’ rapper and co-founder Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, at Clay Studio’s new address at 1425 N. American Street.
When it comes to The Roots Picnic and most of its pre-and-post events, Geoff Gordon, Regional President of Live Nation Northeast, was behind the first Picnic, the 2022 Picnic, and is excited by all that is happening.
“After a brief rest, we are coming back stronger than ever, to connect through the incredible power of music,” says Gordon. “The Roots Picnic, created for Philadelphia by Philadelphia, is designed to bring music fans together from across the region — and with our streaming partners, an international audience — to The Mann Center in Fairmount Park and celebrate music, art, and culture. We are proud to partner with the Roots and our partners at Live Nation Urban to create this annual festival that offers incredible musical memories, inspires us to open our minds, and challenges us to think in new ways. We’re looking forward to an incredible two days across Philadelphia.”
Picnic festivities continue on Friday, June 3, with Black Thought Presents “Delirious” (7:30 and 9:45 p.m.) at Punch Line Philly. Trotter once said his nightly stint as musical accompaniment for NBC’s ‘The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’ was something of an inspiration for “Delirious.”
“I do not seem like a funny guy,” said Trotter. “But for all these years, five days a week, I’ve worked on a comedy sketch show, whether it was Jimmy’s ‘Late Show’ or ‘The Tonight Show.’ Sometimes the comedy is dry, sometimes I’m in an apron or a blonde wig. Something had to rub off.”
There are plenty of other parties in Fishtown as well. On Saturday, June 4, DJ Aktive Presents Chill Vibes: The Karaoke Experience, powered by Hornitos, at Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia, and the KissnGrind AfterParty at the Fillmore Philadelphia later that same evening.
Across town on Sunday, June 5, University City’s World Café Live will help Philadelphians wind down with the Official Roots Picnic Afterparty, curated and produced by Adam Blackstone & The Origin Band, and hosted by Eric Roberson, featuring a funked-up, all-star jam session highlighted by local voices Freeway, GoGo Morrow, Bri Steves, Larry Lambert II, Noel Scales, George Spanky McCurdy, Thaddaeus Tribbett, Verbosity and more.
The ultimate extension of The Roots Picnic’s sound and vision comes with its partnership with YouTube, who will serve as the exclusive virtual host for the festival, and will stream the Picnic’s Saturday events live, on The Roots’ Official YouTube Channel. This means the Saturday bill of SerpentWithFeet, Robert Glasper & Bilal, Tye Tribbett, Mickey Guyton, Jazmine Sullivan, and the Mary J Blige pairing with The Roots is at your fingertips.
Don’t dare miss The Roots Picnic live, but, you know, it’s nice to have options.