Last Thursday, I went to Brooklyn Bowl for the 6th Annual Okayplayer Holiday Jam. Upon walking in we were greeted by the bkbooth photo booth for some festive photo fun. After that we made our way to the bar for some Brooklyn Blast and then we headed to the stage to listen to the dripping hypnotic sounds of Sonny Moon. The set smoothly transitioned over to Jennah Bell, an up-and-comer recently signed on by Okayplayer Records. Her sound is soulful and jazzy and her rendition of “Big Poppa” was superb. Next up was Kids These Days, a band from Chicago who performed their song, “Summerscent.”
In between sets a Thriller flash mob broke out on the dance floor. At the end of the song, the leader proposed to his girlfriend and she said yes! The show continued with Wilbert Hart of the Delfonics crooning “La – La Means I Love You” with musical accompaniment from The Roots. Love was in the air. If that song, the thriller proposal, plus the fact that this might have been your last night on earth according to the Mayan prophecy didn’t get you laid, you simply weren’t trying.
After that things elevated quickly. Os Kuduristas danced/battled on stage with moves from Angola. It was wild. The Roots where just jamming on stage from then on with bunch of other artists. I recognized Q-Tip when he came on, and at one point Omar from The Wire, Michael K. Williams, who was hosting the evening, came on stage and rapped. It was an extremely stimulating evening to say the least.
On my way out I spotted David Cross and was surprised he politely waved back to my awkward, “Hi, Tobias Fünke.” And yes, to my friends who are reading this, it was a big deal and I will keep mentioning it until it’s acknowledged.
In closing, I would like to clarify that no two performances by “The Roots” are the same. When I first saw them in 2008, they covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun”, originally performed using a Univibe pedal, a wah-wah pedal and copious amounts of guitar feedback with the accompaniment of drums, to replicate the sound of a machine gun. The original was inspired by Hendrix’s experience in Vietnam, but when The Roots covered it, their rendition reflected their feelings of animosity towards the war in Iraq and the Bush administration. My point is that they are versatile and extremely intelligent musicians. Although most people would classify them as a hip-hop/ neo-soul group from Philly, I find that explanation doesn’t do justice to the uniqueness of their sound and the experimentation that is born with each album. Their sound at any given performance could range from Brassy, to Funky to socially conscience, to Jazz, to Rap to R & B. Not to mention their eloquence of sound and dedication to the art of making music.
One thing I can say for certain, their music is best experienced live.
You can see DJ ?uestlove from The Roots most Thursday’s at Brooklyn Bowl for “Bowl Train”. Or catch them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
– Heather Duge