I've been wanting to see The Roots for a long time, ever since hearing an interview with ?uestlove a few years ago that made it clear he was one of the most intelligent, creative and intriguing people working in music today. Last night I got my chance, as they closed out the Miller stage on the first night of this year's City Stages festival. They did not disappoint, starting out with Captain Kirk playing a twanged-out bluesy solo on a beautiful Les Paul, while the rest of the band slowly strolled out one by one, taking their places, the music building and rolling and rising down to the moment when Black Thought came out and picked up the mic. Thrilling. Watching Kirk and Tuba Gooding, Jr. prance joyfully around the stage with the sounds swirling as if they were channeling the whole heart and soul of all of American music wrapped up inside them somehow I could only have pity for people who'd hear they were a "hip-hop" band and derisively decide they couldn't possibly be worth watching and listening to.
That's the great thing about City Stages and it's a shame that some people only come to the festival when there's a "name" band that they want to see, or when they get here only go to hear the music that they're familiar with. I'd walked over to see The Roots after spending some time on the other end of the grounds listening to the Old Crow Medicine Show. I don't suppose there's a lot of overlap in the fan base of those two bands, but it seems to me that Old Crow were doing to bluegrass something akin to what The Roots were doing to soul and hip-hop. I love American music.
In every issue of Rolling Stone there's somebody whining about the sad state of the music business. Could be. I'm not sure I'd want to have my livelihood depending on it. But the music itself is in great shape.
Every year I end up with a bunch of CDs from people I've never heard of before (or since, in some cases) that I listen to over and over and that become a deep part of me. The last couple of years we've stayed at the Tutwiler Hotel, which is right outside the main gate. It makes it easy to stroll over early in the afternoon when things are relaxed and it's easy to sample what's happening on the different stages. That's when I come across some of my most remarkable finds. And there's a great kids area where Josie and I will undoubtedly spend some time.
I have no idea what kind of music I'm going to hear this afternoon and this evening (although I'm hoping to catch a bit of Al Green, some Buddy Guy and some Ben Harper). But I know that I'm going to have a wonderful time, and that I will be amazed.