roots picnic

The Roots Picnic: The 101 on the annual festival with artists hand-picked by Philly’s hometown band

For the eighth year in a row, The Roots are hosting their annual festival at Penn’s Landing this weekend featuring an eclectic mix of more than a dozen acts ranging from A$AP Rocky to The Weeknd to Phantogram — all artists the group from Philly hand-picked themselves.

Now, the Roots, who formed here in 1987, are also the house band on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, bringing their soul-y version of hip-hop to the nightly spotlight. But The Roots, and famous drummer Questlove, are pretty much known in hip hop and R&B as the band that’s played with everyone — and as the guys who have released as many critically acclaimed albums as Jay-Z.

But they say for them, Philly will always come first. 

“The Roots Picnic is the ultimate homecoming for us,” MC Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter recently told Consequence of Sound. “It’s an amazing and sentimental feeling. We’re Philadelphians first and foremost, and we’re ambassadors of the arts, so with that said, the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia is as iconic as the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s an iconic historic landmark and the perfect backdrop for us during that homecoming.”

Here’s what to expect this weekend:

The basics

What: The 8th Annual Roots Picnic

When: All day Saturday with doors opening at 11 a.m. and shows beginning at noon

Where: Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard at Spring Garden Street

Tickets: Official tickets are sold out, but there are still some available on StubHub, starting at $186.

Listen: Can’t get tickets to the event? Here’s a Pandora station of the acts that you can listen to.

The acts

A full crowd enjoys spring weather and great music at The Roots Picnic.
CREDIT: M. KENNEDY FOR VISIT PHILADELPHIA

A full crowd enjoys spring weather and great music at The Roots Picnic. CREDIT: M. KENNEDY FOR VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Here’s a full schedule and festival map to cite if you’ll be attending. There will be three separate stages, with The Roots performing at 9:15 p.m. on the Pier Stage. These are the confirmed acts, with a short description of who they are:

Erykah Badu (backed by The Roots) – This singer-songwriter, producer, activist and actress will be backed up by The Roots this weekend and her music takes cues from R&B, soul, hip-hop and jazz.

The Weeknd – A Canadian R&B singer and songwriter who rose to popularity in 2010 when he anonymously posted music on YouTube under his stage name “The Weeknd.”

A$AP Rocky – A rapper and member of hip-hop group ASAP Mob. Has worked with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Rihanna to Juicy J.

Phantogram – This male-female duo performs electronic rock.

DJ Mustard – Rapper, producer and DJ famous for house-style hip-hop.

Hiatus Kaiyote – A neo-soul quartet originally from Australia.

Rae Sremmurd – A hip-hop duo made up of two brothers.

Chronixx and the Zincfence Redemption – Chronixx is a Jamaican reggae singer who performs along with his band, Zincfence Redemption.

Hudson Mohawke – A Scottish EDM performer and DJ.

Afrika Bambaataa – A DJ and electronic artist whose work in the 80s made him a rap music pioneer.

DJ Windows 80 (Win Butler of Arcade Fire) – The lead vocalist from the indie rock band Arcade Fire is off on his own doing DJ work.

Raury – Artist who takes cues from hip hop, funk soul and folk.

King Britt – DJ and producer originally from Philly.

Bishop Nehru – Rapper and producer who also directs and creates music videos.

Moses Sumney – Known as a one-man soul-folk orchestra.

Brianna Cash – Local singer and songwriter.

Marc E. Bassy – Singer/ songwriter and rapper from San Francisco.

Donn T – Local soul singer and songwriter (who’s also Questlove’s sister)

About The Roots Picnic

Since 2007, The Roots have hand-curated the Picnic in Philadelphia, a show that they now consider to be the smaller of two that they’re involved with — second to the Fourth of July Welcome America! Festival, which drew hundreds of thousands of spectators last year. (More on that here.)

But the group has big aspirations for what the Picnic can become — “on par with Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and all these other festivals that have grown,” Black Thought said recently. But the group also apparently had no idea its first festival would go past the first year.

Questlove told Spin Magazine earlier this month that when the group curated its first Roots Picnic, he thought it would be “a nice little one-off” that LiveNation ended up wanting to continue hosting on an annual basis. But he has one qualification for whether or not it’s the huge festival of his dreams: “It won’t feel like a thing until the Roots don’t have to appear themselves.”

Not so this year, as The Roots are headlining the show, backing up R&B and soul artist Erykah Badu. Here’s a look at what last year’s Roots Picnic was like:

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