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The Sunday (May 12th) of the Wonderfront Festival’s first ever sold-out weekend offered a roster that had San Diego County fire marshals on standby around the stages just in case. The festival grounds offered an easily accessible trifecta of main stages along San Diego Harbour’s Seaport Village. Shortly after 4pm PST, The Roots took their place on the southeast corner Marina Stage. The afternoon sun is intense on the beloved hip hop royals: Black Thought (Tariq Trotter), Questlove (Ahmir Thompson), Captain Kirk Douglas, James Poyser, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, Dave Guy, Kamal Gray, Stro Elliot, Jeremy Ellis, Mark Kelley, and Ray Angry. Questlove and Black Thought founded the first draft of the iconic group in 1989 when they were teenagers attending a performing arts high school. Initially known as “The Square Roots”, the group dropped ‘square’ from their title and relocated to London in 1992. Here, The Roots would experience a swift ascension toward larger and larger stages as their growing cult following enticed the attention of the Universal Music Group in 1993. The Roots signed with DGC/Interscope Geffen Records that year and released LP “Do You Want More?!!!??!” shortly after. This group’s influence conquered rap, jazz, alternative, and rock music fans alike. The glass shattering ingenuity of The Roots musical craft has been endorsed by their resume of collaborations; including numerous artists across the diaspora of music genres such as Common, Erykah Badu, Sufjan Stevens, and Elvis Costello. As the first hip-hop group to perform at Lincoln Center, they have become household names and coveted musical comrades for notable Hollywood agencies. They’ve collaborated with television network giants: The Late-Night Show With Jimmy Fallon, MTV, “Yo Gabba Gabba!”, and others to provide musical back up for the likes of Jay-Z, and Usher. Along with fourteen Grammy nominations and three wins, The Roots have been hailed by Rolling Stone as one of the “Twenty Greatest Live Acts in the World” when the list was published back in 2003. This clearly rings true still in 2024 as more and more festival guests headed toward the Marina Stage lawn. Captain Kirk coaxes his guitar to sing powerfully and sweetly to the spring afternoon among Black Thought’s booming lyrical flow for an hour set that felt like minutes. Before exiting, Questlove’s drumstick gave pleading fans a final wave and a point toward the Ocean Stage where Marcus King and his band were already taking place. Marcus King – from Greenville, South Carolina hails from a lineage of musicians with notable achievements in blues and gospel music. His career began playing guitar with his father, blues musician Marvin King. His pursual of musical mastery led him to a Jazz Theory & Performance program at the Greenville Fine Arts Center where during this period, a YouTube video of King singing at Norman’s Guitars in Canada would go viral on YouTube in 2014. A decade later he is acquiring hundreds of thousands of views as he follows suit of The Roots by performing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, as well as The Kelly Clarkson Show. The blues influences of his lineage held the lawn captive as he strolled easily up and down the stage. Against the setting sun, fans dance lazily on the lawn as Marcus sings “Beautiful Stranger” and “It’s Too Late” from albums “El Dorado” released in 2021 and “Young Blood” released in 2022. Both records were produced by The Black Keys vocalist Dan Auerbach and the synth-pop psychedelic rock that listeners recognize from Auerbach creates an addictive amalgamation when melded with the rugged fluidity of Marcus’s Americana sound. Later, more alums from Philadelphia: Matt Quinn, Sam Cooper, Sotiris Eliopoulos, Jackie Miclau, and Michael Byrnes, take the Ocean Stage after Marcus King. Together they form Mt. Joy, the band whose song “Silver Lining” occupied the #1 spot on Billboard’s Triple A chart in 2017. Their self-titled album “Mt. Joy” went on to receive platinum certification as tracks “Jenny Jenkins”, and ”Sheep” made their own journeys up toward their own top 10 positions on the Triple A chart that same year. Formed in 2016 by Quinn and Cooper, they recruited the talents of Eliopoulos, Miclau, and Byrnes after the success of “Sheep”. Mt. Joy has since signed with Dualtone Records and has shared stages with The Lumineers, The Head And The Heart, The Shins, and others. Now they captivate Seaport Village with “Silver Lining” as excited fans take their gamble with crowd pushing under the gaze of the fire marshals. Boats slow their pace along the harbour to relish the glossy alternative sounds as they end their set with dance friendly favourites “Orange Blood”, and “Strangers” from the LP “Rearrange Us”. Back on the lawn, akin to a school of fish the relentless wave of bodies redirected themselves toward the Marina Stage once again to see Beck close the festival. Beck Hansen’s musical progression includes 14 studio albums that offer thorough explorations of multiple music genres. A multidisciplinary master native to Los Angeles, Beck’s experimental incorporation of anti-folk themes, psychedelia, hip-hop, rock, and electronic elements have captivated the interest of music analysts and critics since the 1990’s. Endowing him with eight Grammy awards, three Brit awards and four NME awards over the course of his long and robust career. The artist’s creative curiosity has become an esteemed primary example of what it looks like to successfully direct ones entire being into their own creative expeditions. LED stage flats project brain bending visuals as Beck’s thunderously imploring vocals flow out of a body that spins and shimmies with energy envied by the people much younger than him who looked up at him from the grass below. Beck performed his songs “Debra” and “Lost Cause” before adorning fans with his ever-popular cover of The Korgis “Everybody’s Got To learn Sometime”. Beck ended his spellbinding, moonlit performance with “Where It’s At”, the song that won him a Grammy for Best Male Rock Performance in 1997. Feet tired and dysphoric from dancing, fans filtered off the festival grounds for the final time that year after the pleas for an extended performance eventually petered out. If you have the opportunity to see any of these artists performing a concert or festival in your own city this summer, it’s ensured that your experience will be worth the venture. Please enjoy our photo gallery from the Wonderfront Music Festival 2024 in San Diego featuring The Roots, Beck, MT Joy and Marcus King linked in just below! For more photos and additional information on the festival including future line ups you can follow them on Instagram @WonderFrontFest.

Article & Photos By Salome Solomon (@thehomelandobscurity)