“Roots Picnic 2018… ¿Que Va?”

I sense an incredible amount of focus emanating from the sum total of planned American entertainment this year. The reason: on consecutive weekends (the last one in May and the first in June), we have slated two ginormous music festivals in the country’s two most major East Coast cities. Boston will hold Boston Calling (apparently a tip to The Clash’s album London Calling) May 25-27, according to a Facebook feed, and then what else but the Big Apple will unleash the Governors Ball fest, which along with Eminem (headlining each event) will see Jack White, DD favorite N.E.R.D., as well as New York’s own The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Gaslight Anthem.
Lots of things stuck me about this last festival as refreshing: for one thing, it’s called the “Governors Ball,” thus taking attention away from our sort of satyr president we’re suffering through in America from 2017 to 2021 (and hopefully not beyond). If you’ll remember, New York was a leading anti-Trump voice, issuing from amongst its citizens that open letter denouncing him pretty early on in 2016. Now, it seems, they’re on the front line in the plunge forth toward consolidating the entirety of American society as one giant, vibrating counterculture against the main powers that be. Eminem has been a vocal antagonist of the White House, The Gaslight Anthem is punk-minded, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are just crazy, and in general the diversity looks pretty decent at this event, sort of like Chicago’s Riot Fest.
Anyway, the more adroit mind than mine should have noticed that usually, just 50 miles down I-95, The Roots used to hold their annual “Picnic” in Philly, drawing icons like Solange, Pharrell, Jay-Z and others. In all my searches for “Roots Picnic 2018,” I’ve not uncovered anything at all — one source said that dates were unplanned, and another said tickets weren’t available for said event. If there’s one thing I noticed about The Roots Picnic, though, it’s that there weren’t usually white artists at it at all, and similarly I thought the Beastie Boys were inconspicuously absent from the Roots track “WAOK (Ay) Rollcall,” which is a sort of distorted, Cubist recording of some woman naming all the most influential hip-hop acts which contributed to The Roots’ overall pool of inspiration over the years. The piece is probably a little bent toward Philly, as it mentions the otherwise obscure Alkoholiks, but Grandmaster Flash and Outkast make the scene, so it does include an entire nation-wide snapshot, albeit one possibly of some reverse racism.
It hurt me that the Beasties weren’t mentioned in the clip because I am an ardent fan of them and of The Roots as well (chances are you might have heard my story about meeting a black dude whose favorite show ever was that very Jewish New York trio, whereas my favorite ever concert was actually Black Thought and the gang themselves at the IU Auditorium in 2005). Now, with Eminem “in our ears and nestling” on the festival circuit for this current scheduled trip around the sun, I’m afraid to the think of the reasons why The Roots are laying so low and un-celebratory.

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