Last night, attendees of The Station's weekly open-mic night were witness to an unexpected treat. In Chapel Hill for a Tuesday taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Roots took to the Carrboro bar's small corner stage for an impromptu 30-minute set. The overwhelmingly talented hip-hop outfit is the house band for Fallon's NBC talk show.
UNC senior Taylor Smith had just gotten home from seeing Trampled By Turtles at Cat's Cradle when a friend called him about the surprise performance. He rushed out with a housemate and got to The Station at about 11:30 p.m. as The Roots were just starting their set. He said the room was about half-full when he got there, but that it quickly filled over the course of the set. He estimatied that there were somewhere between 75 and 100 people in attendance.
According to Smith, the set started with what appeared to be a freestyle as the band invited a saxophonist who had shown up for the open mic on stage to play with them. They then transitioned into a string of disparate covers, including Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Lady Gaga's "Just Dance."
"They were really diverse, really talented musicians," Smith said, adding that he'd list the set as one of the top-five musical moments of his life. "I had never gotten the chance to see them play live before. It was fantastic."
After the performance the band stuck around for a while to hang out with the crowd. Smith proudly reports that he shook the hand of guitarist Cap'n Kirk.
The Chapel Hill-taped episode of Late Night premieres tonight at 12:35 a.m. with President Barack Obama and Dave Matthews as guests. The Roots will headline the Hopscotch Music Festival, which is owned by the Independent Weekly, Saturday, Sept. 8, in Raleigh.