REVIEW: The Roots at Summerfest


I’ll admit that I am, like most people, a creature of habit. Every year, The Roots return to Summerfest, and every year, for whatever reason, their set always conflicts with another band that I want to see. And every year, routinely, I tell myself “okay, I’ll catch them next year.” This year, the annual favorites and resident Tonight Show band was scheduled against Rise Against, who always deliver a high quality show. However, I finally broke my habit and checked out Questlove, Black Thought, and the rest of the Legendary Roots Crew, and it was a great decision to break the habit.

The night was prefaced by a spectacular show from New Age Narcissism, and the crowd was amply set up to be blown away by the night’s headliners. Once The Roots took the stage at the Miller Lite Oasis, though, the party was kicked up to another level. Emcee Black Thought brought the crowd to life, explaining that we were about to “revisit the classics”, and once the band kicked in, they didn’t stop. The night included cut after cut of throwback Roots material, all transitioning into one another seamlessly. It was almost like a live version of a greatest hits album, mixed like a DJ-hosted mixtape.

For a band that plays night after night while (mostly) stationary, The Roots were anything but on Sunday night. Tuba Gooding Jr. on the Sousaphone was the most agile large brass instrumentalist I’ve ever seen, making his way back and forth across the Oasis stage with ease. Tuba, guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas, and the unparalleled percussion duo of Frank Knuckles and Questlove all had moments to break it down and show off their skills at one point throughout the night, and all showed why The Roots are one of the most versatile groups running today.

On Sunday night, The Roots also demonstrated why they’ve been long hailed as living legends. It was definitely a party from start to finish, and at times it didn’t seem like the band ever wanted to call it a night. The appeal of the group is interesting as well; the crowd spanned all walks of life, and a very wide-ranging age group, too. Perhaps it was the curiosity of seeing “Jimmy Fallon’s band”, as one crowd member referred to them, but more than likely it was the decades of solid music that The Roots have been making. Once they were there, however, there was no leaving, and it was definitely a night most won’t forget anytime soon.