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Roots Picnic Progress Report

Raindrops Raindrops started falling on my head just as Alex Ebert, the Jesus-bearded singer for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros started out their late afternoon set on the main stage at the Roots Picnic at Festival Pier. But just a few trickles is all it was, and the over 6000 hip-hop heads gathered for the multi-act musically varied 4th annual event presented by the Philadelphia's own Late Night with Jimmy Fallon house band had no need to run for shelter into the indoor tent at the Delaware Avenue outdoor venue, where, oddly, the disassembled airplane stage prop from Roger Water's The Wall tour is now on display.

So far, the appeal of the neo-hippie ES & the MZ has eluded me, and their sound problem-plagued set at the Picnic didn't change that, though by beginning the show amidst the crowd and encouraging singalongs at every turn, Ebert was surely spreading the good vibes amidst the largely 20-something Miller Lite-swigging crowd. And the party vibe continued in the new school R & B set in the tent by Donn T - sister of Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson - which was going off later than scheduled at the same time that ES & the MZ's were playing the main stage.

The picture you see above is of best new artist Grammy winner and bassist Esperanza Spalding, who played with the Roots as her backing band, as she sought to teach the crowd a lesson about jazz, informing that "jazz isn't back" because "it never went away." That's ?uesto on the right on the drums, wearing his Michael Jackson appreciation shirt, digging into the fusion foray of Weather Report's "Predator." I believe her hair is even bigger than his.

There was much more to come, with Philadelphia noisemakers Man Man (accompanied by 5000 kazoos), plus a set by serious-minded New York rapper Nas, plus the Roots themselves, closing out the show. Look for a.d. amorosi's review in Monday's Inquirer.  Below, find photos of Edward Sharpe and Donn T.

Previously: Roots Pre-Picnic Jam