Every June in Philadelphia, hip-hop-heads and music fans gather for the Roots Picnic. This Saturday will mark the 11th edition of the outdoor summer fest founded and hosted by legendary Philly group The Roots.
In a conversation earlier this year with Roots drummer Amir “Questlove” Thompson, Dallas maestro RC Williams was encouraged to start his own version of the picnic in Dallas. This June, the outdoor jam becomes a reality. Williams will present The Gritznic on June 30 at the Longhorn Ballroom Backyard.
“I’ve been putting on shows and events for last 12 years at my Wednesday night jam," Williams says. "Many artists have graced the stage with the Gritz there. I’ve always wanted to bring a festival to Dallas for years now, and now it’s finally happening. It was about connecting with the right people with the same vision to make this happen.”
RC Williams is a treasure of the Dallas music community. His Wednesday night jam sessions with his band, RC & The Gritz, are the best thing about the Prophet Bar in Deep Ellum. Williams is also part of the Cannabinoids, Erykah Badu’s backing band. Williams, along with percussionist Stefan Gonzalez, is arguably one of the most important members of the Dallas music community, as a performer, organizer and member of some of the city’s best collaborative projects.
No better representative than Williams could usher in a platform like Gritznic to put Dallas’ best musicians on the ultimate jam band bill. And while the city has been experiencing festival fatigue for a few years, The Gritznic aims to separate itself by being a jam festival built organically around Williams' years of collaboration.
“Definitely was inspired from the Roots Picnic and the vibe. I feel the Gritznic can bring that same feel to Dallas,” he says.
Williams plans to bring together some of the city’s best hip-hop, funk and R&B acts for the show, along with national touring acts, to perform alongside his band.
“This will be a vibe for everyone," Williams says. "We have worked with artists from all styles of music. We want to bring a family vibe through our relationships with artists we have worked with or want to work with.”
Williams foresees the Gritznic being an annual festival and says the outdoor event will be picnic style, with vendors, performances, food trucks, special guests and catered picnic baskets from local restaurants. He targeted the Longhorn Ballroom for the festival after his business partner for the event, Kris Norvet, suggested it.
“Kris and I were discussing working on another project, and she mentioned checking out the Longhorn Ballroom," he says. "I remembered that place from shows back in the day, so we met there, where I met the new owner, Jay LaFrance. When I saw the venue, I knew it was the place we needed for the Gritznic.”
Norvet is no stranger to putting on innovative, large-scale events. She has worked on the party of the year, The Eye Ball Party, for the last couple of years. It's the annual wrap-up party for the Dallas Art Fair. Each year has a theme, and this year's was an '80s pop throwback in which Morris Day and the Time performed to a surprised gathering of the art world elite.
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Norvet has also worked on and developed festivals and experiential events for Sirius XM, the Red Bull Music Academy/Festival, Starwood Hotels, Hot97’s Summer Jam, Spotify and Tribeca Film Festival. This will be her first venture under her new project, And Friends Entertainment LLC.
Williams credits his relationships with Norvet and LaFrance for this festival coming together quickly. The Longhorn Ballroom recently renovated its backyard, making this a unique christening event for the venue.
For Williams, the Griztnic provides an opportunity to have all of Dallas' most forward-thinking musical acts in one festival, with the idea that Dallas is the headliner. After a day of performances by local talent, the event will end with all the acts and special guests onstage with The Gritz for the ultimate jam performance.
Full lineup for the Gritznic will be released in mid-June. Early bird tickets are limited and are $25 for general admission and $100 for VIP. Regular prices are $35 and $150, respectively, and tickets at the door start at $50.