Over the weekend Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, drummer and founding member of hip hop/soul band The Roots, made a statement on Twitter that had the William & Mary community buzzing.
His tweet read: “i'll say this much about the show: the William Mary show was hands down the BEST college show i've ever done in my 18 years.”
On Feb. 5, the Philadelphia-based outfit played the Charter Day concert at a packed William & Mary Hall’s Kaplan Arena. They didn’t disappoint.
one of the best, and most high energy shows I’ve ever seen,” said Micah Head
Ever since the concert announcement last December at the College’s Yule Log Ceremony, hype, anticipation, and concern that the 4,500 available seats would sell out had been mounting among the student body. Members of the senior class gift committee even agreed to grant early admission to the concert for selected donors from the Class of 2011, allowing them to get to the floor of the converted basketball arena before the crush of students that had been lining up outside in the rain since 6 p.m., a full two hours before the show was due to start.
Yael Gilboa ’11 said that she was impressed, and, as a senior, more than a little bit proud of her future alma mater for the healthy turnout, stating that she felt the event was “packed with more students than I have ever seen in one place.”
By 8 p.m., the floor of the arena had been closed off having already reached the 500-person capacity, and students were occupying seats stretching all the way up to the rafters. The opening act, Givers, was the first band to take the stage.
Described by concert attendee Rachel Lear ‘11 as “earthy, feel-good music,” the band got a positive response from the crowd, thanks in no small part to the energy and earnestness of charismatic vocalist Tif Lamson. Lamson, whose range as a musician stretched from the tambourine she shattered and distributed to the audience following the show to the ukulele, quickly became a crowd favorite.
After Lamson and the rest of her band left the stage it was time for the main event. The anticipation built in William & Mary Hall for a full 20 minutes before Roots MC Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter took to the stage among cheers from the assembled mass.
“There was a great energy in the crowd” said Rachel Follis ’11, describing the mood on the floor where she and hundreds of other William & Mary students stayed for the set.
Trotter was later joined on stage by performers such as guitarist “Captain” Kirk Douglas and sousaphone player Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson, who were clearly enjoying themselves as they raced about the stage, playing directly to, and occasionally in, the audience.
However, the audience did their part as well to generate energy in the hall. Starting at about the second number in the set, a large dance party began to form in the upper left-hand corner of the arena. It was not long before the group began to take a special shine to those students. About an hour into the set, all of the performers left the stage except for Thompson and fellow percussionist Frank “F. Knuckles” Walker, who decided instead to take a journey into the crowd to pay their favorite student dancers a visit. The response was overwhelming.
“I loved that The Roots called us out on dancing up there and was so excited when ‘Questlove’ came up through the stands playing the drums,” remarked Gilboa.
Jess Benson ’14 remarked that the thing she enjoyed the most about the show was The Roots enjoying themselves.
“The Roots really seemed to be having fun. They were laughing and smiling,” she said. “It was nice to see that this isn’t just another job for them.”
After an encore, a special guest MC appearance, and a second journey into the stands -- this time with a Sousaphone -- The Roots put an end to the show just before midnight.
Emily Sample ’11 summed up the experience of both band and audience.
“They were obviously having just as good a time there as we were.”