About an hour into their dominating set, the legendary Roots crew pulled out a trick few other bands could get away with: Drummer Questlove and percussionist Frank Knuckles did a drum solo. An extended one. It's always been my opinion that nothing kills the mood of a live show quicker than a drum solo (no offense to you "Moby Dick" fans out there), but The Roots mostly got away with it.
Then, following a beautiful version of the band's own "Break You Off," the band launched into a cover of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine," and guitarist "Captain" Kirk Douglas spent 20 or so minutes in the spotlight, as the song morphed into a rendition of George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone," which mutated into Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," which shifted into Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," and eventually someone was interpolating Super Beagles "Dust a Sound Boy," the dancehall hit sampled famously in Kanye West's "Mercy." I'll be honest: I got kinda lost.
It was the good kind of lost. The Roots, fronted by the dynamic Black Thought and led by the unassailable Questlove, played the role of a classic party band at McDowell Mountain Music Festival, closing out the evening on the main stage after local old-school rap-rock combo Cousins of the Wize brought their heavy sound to the local stage.
Phoenix reggae vet Walt Richardson introduced the band, noting the festival's 10-year anniversary and calling The Roots "one of the most exciting acts you're going to see here at the festival."
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He was correct. The Roots tore into The Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere," dedicating the track to the late Adam "MCA" Yauch the song was as clanging and hyper as the Beasties ever were, with a deft confidence all their own. Douglas' guitar coiled around the booming bass and the blasting sousaphone of Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson. From the onset, it was clear that The Roots' bass-heavy presentation was too much for the MMMF speakers -- massive as they were, The Roots were still managing to peak them out.
Eventually, adjustments were made, and the levels were fixed. From there, The Roots could focus on their sounds, tearing through newer songs like "The Fire" and "How I Got Over," and older material like "Mellow My Man" and "Clones," with its scathing indictment of fake rappers: "They don't go platinum; they go aluminum." I imagine it sounded pretty hard back in 1996, when it appeared on Illadelph Halflife, but the line still rings pretty true.
Seeing The Roots is kind of like tasting everything at once: every style, genre. It's a meal almost too big to eat, with so many different tastes to sample. As The Roots slinked into "The Seed (2.0)" from 2002's Phrenology, you almost didn't notice that Cody ChesnuTT, the neo-soul singer responsible for the song's hook ("I push my seed in her bush for life") wasn't there. The Roots don't just "get away" with that kind of stuff, with drum solos and expansive cover selections. They own the stage, and as the crowd cheered, it was clear that no one doubted what the band could pull off.
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Last Night: The Roots at McDowell Mountain Music Festival The Crowd: Jam-banders, reggae fans, plenty of indie fans still dazed from The Shins. Better Than: Experiencing The Roots on Jimmy Fallon. (Though that's pretty cool, too.) Overheard in the Crowd: "Uh, I ordered a beer lighter than this." "That's the lightest beer we have." "Uh, really?" -- The Deschutes folks, dealing with some people looking for Zima or some shit.