The Roots and Miniature Tigers at American Junkie Last Night

The Roots & Miniature Tigers
American Junkie
November 20, 2010

Okay, let's go ahead and get this out of the way first: In terms of who would win in a true, neutral-turf battle of the bands between The Roots and the Miniature Tigers, there is really little doubt that it would be The Roots.

But last night's Soundclash at American Junkie featuring those two groups wasn't really about which of the two is the better band. It was about selling some energy drinks -- specifically Red Bull, which sponsored the event. But you really have to hand it to Red Bull for the fact that if you're going to come up with a way to sell your product, there probably isn't a cooler way to do it than to have two terrific bands face off against each other in a battle-of- the-bands-style competition.

Unlike most battle of the bands, in which two or more groups play a bunch of songs, and the audience determines a winner, Soundclash works a little differently. Normally, both groups would participate in a series of four challenges to help determine a winner. But as The Roots drummer Questlove mentioned in a recent interview with Up on the Sun, it's really not so much about the competition with them as it is just the music. In fact, at the end of the night, a clear winner was never declared.

Here is a breakdown of the event, challenge by wonderful challenge.

The Warm-Up
For the warm-up portion of Soundclash, both bands played a quick three-song set. It was pretty clear from the outset whom the fans were here to see, as many tried to crowd their way around The Roots stage. For the most part, it seemed the crowd wasn't sure how to react to the Miniature Tigers, and if I had to guess, Saturday night was probably the first time that most people there had ever heard any of their music. Either way, both bands put on a good opening set, but it was pretty clear that The Roots were going to be a tough act to follow.

Round 1: The Cover The first challenge of the night had both bands performing their take on Jimi Hendrix's classic song "Fire." The Roots kicked things off with their version of the song, which was mellowed out and jammy. The Roots guitarist "Captain" Kirk Douglas did a pretty amazing guitar solo during their performance. The Miniature Tigers offered up a pretty unique take for their version of "Fire," and you have to give them points for originality, but the guitar solo alone was enough to give this round to The Roots. Winner: The Roots

Round 2: The Takeover
For this round, one of the bands would begin by playing one of their own songs and then the other band would have to give their own interpretation of the song. Hearing The Roots reinterpret the indie-pop sound of the Miniature Tigers songs "Lolita" and "Rock & Roll Mountain Troll" was pretty interesting, but I have to really hand it to the Mini T's for their versions of The Roots songs. For the song "You Got Me" by The Roots the Mini T's incorporated The Kinks song "You Really Got Me" into the song. Big points here for originality.
Winner: Miniature Tigers

Round 3: The Clash
During this round, a genre of music would be picked by the DJ and the group would then have to perform one of their songs in that genre. The first genre of the round was punk rock, followed by disco, and finally ska. This round is pretty much tailor-made for The Roots, whose job as the house band for Jimmy Fallon requires them to be able to adapt to any musical guest who comes on the show. Both groups performed pretty unique takes of their songs in the different genres, with the highlights being the ska version of "The Seed" by The Roots and the disco version of "Bullfighter Jacket" by the Miniature Tigers.
Winner: The Roots

Round 4: The Wild Card
In the final round, each band was allowed to bring a guest of their choosing on-stage with them. The Miniature Tigers brought up on-stage with them a portion of the University of Arizona's marching band and local rapper AB Dollaz to help them out with their song "Gold Skull." The Roots brought up Angelo from the band Fishbone as they did a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead." Again, Miniature Tigers definitely had the edge here with originality, but The Roots just put on a hell of performance.
Winner: The Roots

In the end, nobody really bothered with announcing a clear-cut winner between the groups. Instead, both groups got on-stage together for one last song. The real winners of the night were those who got a chance to see this show. This was, in a lot of ways, so much better than a normal concert would've been, as the challenges both groups participated in made this show a lot of fun. Not to mention it's unlikely that these groups will perform again anytime soon, if ever. But having the opportunity to catch this show was definitely worth all the Red Bull in Scottsdale.

Critics Notebook:

Last Night: The Roots and Miniature Tigers at American Junkie

Personal Bias: Normally, I don't care for product-placement-heavy events like this, but it's not ever day you get to see The Roots live. The event even succeeded in getting me to buy a $7 Red Bull and Vodka.

The Crowd: Definitely your typical Scottsdale crowd. Interestingly enough, even though the event sold out, there were probably a bunch of fans who watched through the chain-link fence and even took to the rooftops of businesses nearby.

Random Notebook Dump: I really hope they keep the Soundclash concept going, and it would be interesting to see what other local and national groups they could pair up.

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Mike Escoto