Musician Andre “3000” Benjamin once said, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather” and his sentiments sum up the 2019 Roots Picnic.
For the first time ever, the Roots Picnic took over West Philadelphia’s outdoor Mann Center and was mostly a success. Legions of concert goers lounged on blankets while soaking up the sun and music from a star-studded bill featuring hometown heroes The Roots and rising stars like rapper 21 Savage and singer Queen Naija.
The grassy spaces of the Mann Center were a welcome change of scenery from the dry flatness of Festival Pier, the previous home of the Roots Picnic since its first edition in 2008. Upon going up the hill to get to the Mann Center’s highest point, patrons could even get a gorgeous view of the Philadelphia skyline.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, almost 25,000 people came to Saturday’s Roots Picnic and had different options in entertainment to choose from.
Black-owned businesses had a major presence, reflecting the diversity of the West Philadelphia community of which the Mann Center belongs. Local favorite Siddiq’s Water Ice showcased a unique recipe for water ice featuring pieces of delicious fresh fruits like strawberries and mangoes.
While the Roots Picnic’s first run at the Mann seemed to be going well at first, a moment during 21 Savage’s set became a cause for concern. A fight led to what could only be called a stampede.
Festival attendee Taja West was startled after the stampede formed and hundreds of festival patrons all ran towards the festival exits at once. “My friend and I were in the middle of the crowd when it happened. We just got to the edge when we looked over and there were hundreds of people running at us. We weren’t sure what was going on. We were so confused and scared after and we didn’t know what to do.”
After the furor died down, DJ Diamond Kuts played the classic line dance song “Wobble” and miraculously almost every person in sight did the dance.
As the day went on, veteran performers like R&B legend Raphael Saadiq showed why they continue to be a major draw 30 years into their careers. Not to be outdone, The Roots had their own tricks up their sleeves.
Like many festival attendees, Philly native Karaamat Abdullah was elated following the headlining set. “I enjoyed that massive Roots performance featuring Mos Def, Common, State Property and Jill Scott,” Abdullah said. As a special treat for their longtime fans, The Roots performed their album Things Fall Apart in celebration of the project’s 20th anniversary.
The Roots Picnic’s first time at the Mann Center may not have been perfect, but the event’s new home shows a lot of promise, and has more than enough space to welcome people from all over the world to Philly.