The Roots Present: The Jam

Date: April 29th, 11p
Venue: Highline Ballroom, NYC
Ticket price: $10 in advance, $12 day of the show
Rating: What the HELL was I thinking!

IMG_3565.jpg picture by johnsimondailyWhen I initially saw the posting on Highline Ballroom’s website for The Roots for $10, I thought I was seeing things! This had to be for a cover band! I emailed me friends and asked them if they saw the same thing. It was true. The Roots were doing a series of shows at the Highline Ballroom for $10. Should I go? I saw The Roots a few years back as headliners at Nokia Theater. I was blown away. I recently saw them as openers for Erykah Badu at Radio City Music Hall. Loved it! How could I pass this up? I love the Highline Ballroom venue because sitting or standing, you still have a great view of the stage. Most importantly, $10 for a concert to see one of the most innovative hip hop bands ever! SOLD!

Once word got out, tickets were selling out! I went to the box office prepared to purchase tickets for one date, only to walk out with tickets for another date. My first choice sold out during my train ride there. In the back of my head, I kept thinking “there has to be a catch! This is just too good to be true”. After reading an article in the Village Voice about The Roots’ new gig as Jimmy Fallon’s house band for his new late night show, it was clear to me this was real.


The anticipation for the show filled me with excitement the whole month leading up to the actual day. I was listening to my Roots library on my iPod, everything from Illadelph Halflife and Things Fall Apart to Game Theory and there most recent, Rising Down. If you don’t have Rising Down, you must be living under a rock! There was still a question in the back of my head: “What is the catch?”

In spite of the drop in temperature from 90s to 50s, the crowd was out. I didn’t expect anything less, it was The Roots. The crowd filled the floor and the upper level of the Highline Ballroom in a matter of minutes. Although my ticket stub said “show at 11p”, the show didn’t actually start until 11:30p. To the crowd’s surprise, there was an opening act. There was no introduction as to who the band was, but they did enough to keep me from falling sleep waiting for The Roots to come to stage. Lucky for me, they only did two songs. I don’t think I could have taken anymore than that.

After this nameless opening act finished their set, members of The Roots causally walked on the stage. What seemed to be a mic check, turned into an instrumental jam session among the musicians, lead by drummer ?uestLove. The beat wasn’t of any recognizable track off hand. The beat had that typical groove that makes The Roots more than just hip hop, but musicians who can hold their own with any genre. The crowd cheered as a smooth and cool Black Thought walked on stage with mic in his hand, free-styling. It was the beginning of a HOT show. I don’t know where it went wrong. Few minutes after Black Thought had entered on to the stage he was joined by 4-6 random MCs freestyling without an introduction.

IMG_3567.jpg picture by johnsimondailyI was willing to give the show a chance. I looked at my phone and at 12:45a I realized that this wasn’t going to be The Roots show I had experienced a few years back at Nokia Theater or even last year are Radio City Music Hall. This was an actual jam session, an open mic, a show case, a cornucopia of musical talents. This was the catch!!! I’m a fan of events like this, as an opportunity to be exposed to up and coming talents, but earlier in the day, like at 7 or 8p! I want Star, Break You Off, Rolling with the Heat, and You Got Me! As I looked around at the crowd, I realized that I wasn’t alone. We expected The Roots Show and got “The Roots presents special guest” Show.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Let’s face it, I saw The Roots perform as the background to talented artists such as singer de’Adre Aziza, rapper/singer Amanda Diva, and hip hop violinist Mazz Swift. What did I expect for $10?  By 1am, I had had enough. I had lost all interest in staying awake for any more.

Other special guests that night, who I missed, were Pharoahe Monch and Dead Prez.

The Roots will be performing at Highline Ballroom through July.

-Dana Bingham
The Concert Junkie

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