Skip to content

tUnE-yArDs @ The Roots Picnic.

June 3, 2012

Text by Beth Ann Downey. Images by Rick Kauffman.

Backstage at the Roots Picnic on Saturday, Merrill Garbus looked like any other carefree festival-goer.

In a simple purple T-shirt and jeans, she walked around hugging and chatting with friends or texting on her phone.

But leave it to Garbus, the woman behind quirky indie pop band tUnE-yArDs, to take the stage barefooted in pink tights, a black frock with long orange tassels and matching orange face paint.

After playing the picnic two years before, she knew to bring her party clothes and her game face.

“How are you all doing today? In a dancing mood?” she asked the audience after opening her set with the hit track “Gangsta.”

Garbus said backstage that she was excited to play the picnic again, even though a lot of her hip-hop knowledge is dated and she missed Shabazz Palaces, who played earlier in the day. But with fellow festival darling Annie Clark of St. Vincent still to go on, and The Roots and De La Soul rounding out the night, she was still excited for what was to come.

“They’re like the busiest, most hardworking guys in the business right now,” she said of The Roots, and not without personal knowledge.

The Friday before the picnic, the internet buzzed about a collaborative track featuring tUnE-yArDs and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson covering Fela Kuti’s “Lady,” which was made to benefit (Red) and the Red Hot Organization’s fight against AIDS.

Garbus said as soon as she knew she wanted to do a collaboration track for this cause, she knew who she wanted to do it with.

“They’re one of my favorite bands of all time and I think one of the best sounding bands these days just in terms of their musicianship,” she said of The Roots. “So yeah, I inquired whether the collaboration could be with them, and Questlove agreed to do it, so it’s awesome.”

tUnE-yArDs’ display of musicianship on Saturday wasn’t too bad, either. Their picnic set featured Garbus’ signature and spot-on vocal, drum and ukulele looping, licks from bass player Nate Brenner and lengthy solos from the band’s touring saxophone section.

Playing all of the biggest hits from their sophomore album Whokill and rallying up the crowd for an evening still jam-packed with performances, Garbus seemed to accomplish what she said was the main goal of the band’s live performance.

“I just want to connect with a spirit greater than myself, and something that we all can connect with as an audience and as performers,” she said. “I like to keep it alive so that neither I nor the audience knows exactly what’s coming next. It’s different enough [from the album], but the same enough so that people can jam out.”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: