XPN Fest Recap: Hiss Golden Messenger’s southern folk takes root on the Marina Stage

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Hiss Golden Messenger | photo by Natalie Piserchio | nataliepiserchio.com

Nursing a fresh sunburn and dodging the inflated beach ball being tossed around the crowd, I wove my way toward the Marina Stage. MC Taylor and the accompanying four-piece band of Hiss Golden Messenger dared the audience to match the energy of last night’s set in Newport, where the band was joined by singer Mavis Staples. “I could’ve died after that particular performance…It’s the third day of this festival, nothing matters anymore. This time tomorrow I’ll be in a hammock with my kids,” Taylor said.

What the blues-rock band lacked in dance moves (especially considering that they directly followed that wild Tank and the Bangas set), they made up for in power, giving a vivacious performance that left them toweling the sweat from their faces. MC Taylor tossed his fedora to the side and shed his amber Bono-like sunglasses. Taylor and Phil Cook had no fewer than nine guitars onstage, but managed to make smooth transitions between instrument changes and tuning adjustments. The chant of E-A-G-L-E-S (which I heard at least once during every set of this festival) brought irritated groans from everyone, but Taylor went with it: “We’re not going to perform Hotel California,” he nodded at the keyboardist, “even though he looks like Don Henley.”

Cook brought down the roof (metaphorically) with a mean, wheezing harmonica solo in “Gulfport” and during the soulful “Domino,” Taylor sang to a cappella clapping. In finale “Southern Grammar,” with dueling guitar solos, sharp-licking riffs and the rolling thunder of bass, all backed by a shattering tambourine and gospel piano, Hiss Golden Messenger gave their folk North Carolina roots a new home in South Jersey.

Setlist
Red Rose
I Am the Song
Biloxi
Jenny of the Roses
Daylight
I Need a Teacher
Gulfport
Lost Out In the Darkness
Domino
Southern Grammar

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