The Roots, The Observatory, Santa Ana, California photo by Wes Marsala
The Roots

The Roots wasted no time in getting 2015 started off on the right foot by having a show on the first day of the new year.

To get the groove going last night, the show kicked off with Lion Babe opening for the Roots. Lead vocalist Jillian Hervey came out dressed all in white, with white platform boots, and her hair was beautifully vivacious. The backing band was good and Hervey was stunning and her voice, beautiful. She did miss a note twice (but who’s counting). It was okay though, she recovered well.  They played a pretty short set, about 20 minutes, and it left me wanting to see more.

Lion Babe

Then things really got going as the crowd cheered when Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” came onto the stage and began to chant “tuba, tuba, tuba” as he suited up with his brass instrument. The crowd went from cheering to roaring as soon as Questlove took to his rightful spot on his drum throne, followed by Black Thought coming up from behind the stage and taking lyrical command of the show.

The whole show had the feel of an intimate jam session – each musician had their own solo, and so forth. Guest electronic beat boxer, Jeremy Ellis, joined the group on stage which at first seemed kind of odd, as he was up there looking a bit out of place.  He was not playing an instrument, he was just there kinda dancing to the beat, and he was kind of off beat in his dance. People standing around me, including myself, were asking, “who is the weird white guy doing nothing on stage?.”  Well, we were about to find out.  Black Thought reappeared, finally introducing Jeremy Ellis properly, and he began to reveal his talents. The rest of the band left the stage other than Questlove, building up to an Ellis and Questlove drum battle that was pretty bad ass. Eventually he had his own solo that went on for sometime, and I began to wonder if I was at a Roots show or a Jeremy Ellis show. However, it was quite entertaining.  Ellis sampled sounds from James Brown to Super Mario Brothers. Remember how I said he could not keep a beat in his dance? Well all the rhythm was in his hands – and those mad skills got the crowd cheering loudly again.

Jeremy Ellis beat boxing with The Roots, The Observatory, photo by Wes Marsala
Jeremy Ellis & Questlove

The Roots came back on stage and the rest of the show belonged to them.  Dice Raw made an appearance for a couple songs with the band and they jammed until about 9:30pm, followed by a rousing finale with a couple of unexpected covers.  One being Guns n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine,” which Captain Kirk Douglas sang and shredded on the guitar, and then “Apache by the Sugar Hill Gang. It was a great way to start off 2015, a Happy New Year indeed!

Photos and Words: Wes Marsala

The Roots

Captain Kirk Douglas of the Roots at the Observatory, Santa Ana, Ca photo by Wes Marsala

Questlove of The Roots, photo by Wes Marsala