XPN Fest Recap: Davy Knowles brings bluesy rock to close out the Marina Stage

Davy Knowles | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

Shouts of “Davyyy!” were in full force even before Helen Leicht came on stage to lead the crowd in a full-blown, proper chant of the blues rock favorite’s name: Davy Knowles.

Once on stage, the former Back Door Slam member did what he does best: he slayed that flippin’ guitar of his. Playing tracks off his newest album, Three Miles from Avalon, along with old favorites, Knowles and his crew fed off the crowd’s energy for a heavy, searing set. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: The Dream Syndicate lays it all out on the Marina Stage

The Dream Syndicate | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

“Who says you can’t freak out in the broad daylight? I never said that.” And freak out The Dream Syndicate did. The 80’s indie rock band from California rocked NonCOMM back in May, and today they performed as a complete band for the first time ever at XPoNential. It’s been 30 years since the group released their last album Ghost Stories and only five since they reunited, but from today’s tight set it would be easy to believe that they never stopped.

The high-energy performance was filled with heavy electric guitar riffs (and guitar battles), old classics, and previews from the Dream Syndicate’s upcoming album, set for a September release. Frontman Steve Wynn introduced the new track “Out of my Head” with the unbelievable statement “This is from a new Dream Syndicate record. I haven’t said that since Herbert Hoover was in the White House.” Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Joseph’s sisterly harmonies mesmerize the Marina Stage crowd

Joseph | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

In an obvious way, Joseph‘s Closner sisters are a single unit. In watching them during a Sunday afternoon set at XPoNential Festival’s Marina Stage, their bond was detectable past their similar faces. Their harmonies intertwined by more than any certain key or pitch. There was something about the connection that wasn’t necessarily visible, but felt or understood.

Yet just as they exist as one, the three sisters also shined individually. Natalie, the eldest and clear leader — she was the one to announce, “these are my sisters” — flanked the right. Only she sported an instrument beyond her human abilities, equipped with an acoustic guitar and bass drum stomping pad. With those tools, she guided the 11-song set through each twist and turn like an older sister should. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Adia Victoria bewitches the crowd with eerie, stunning soul

Adia Victoria | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

There’s a frenzied unpredictability to Adia Victoria — it what makes her performances so captivating. It’s like an underlying current of electricity that bursts unexpectedly through her trademark soft and raspy vocals. And just as quickly as it comes, it disappears with a sweet smile, but is left with traces of daggers in her eyes.

It’s this undeniable swagger and confidence that oozes through the slinky, unsettling songs of Victoria’s acclaimed album, Beyond the Bloodhounds — which she entranced the XPN Fest crowd with today.   Armed with a guitar and commanding vocals, Victoria strays from sugar-coated, predominantly white country music depictions of Southern life by unapologetically describing the harsh realities of living as a black woman in the South. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Hardwork Movement is all positive energy and community on the Marina Stage

Hardwork Movement | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

Hardwork Movement is a hip-hop ensemble rooted in community and positivity, and they definitely showed up with the good vibes flowing for their performance on the last day of this year’s XPN Fest. As the performance began, those in the audience not familiar with the group would be excused for thinking it was one-man show with a backing band. That is, until a second emcee joined in. Then another…then another. By the end of the first song the whole of Hardwork Movement had joined on the stage nine performers strong. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Strand of Oaks brings rock and redemption to the Marina Stage

Strand of Oaks | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

XPN Morning Show host Bob Bumbera gave Philly’s Strand of Oaks a rock star welcome to the stage, and the crowd followed his lead. When Tim Showalter stepped onto the Marina Stage, it felt like a long-awaited family reunion. When he started out with a cover of Father John Misty’s “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” it felt like the best inside joke between old friends (if you aren’t up-to-date on the infamous FJM-XPN Fest series of events, check it out here because a Strand of Oaks post can’t turn into the pure comedy that follows in Josh Tillman’s wake). But as Showalter put it after the cover ended, “That’s some redemption for you, XPN Fest.” Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: The Suffers make their set a family affair

The Suffers | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

Starting with a team huddle, the energy at the Marina Stage was electric even before the sweet, sweet tunes of The Suffers began. Having played XPN Fest last year, the crowd knew exactly what was in store for them. And they were ready to party. Someone even brought a beach ball, folks — it was that level of ready.

Kicking the shindig off was hit “Make Some Room,” in which the group’s uberly charismatic frontwoman, Kam Franklin, began by explaining the meaning behind making food for someone you love — then asking the crowd if she could make us a sandwich. Sadly, our initial less-than-thunderous response was not up to her standards, but it was okay though because she graciously bestowed upon us another opportunity, saying she believes in “second chances and second helpings.” Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Xenia Rubinos slays her genre-defying set at Wiggins Park

Xenia Rubinos | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

If you missed the supremely cool Xenia Rubinos‘ Saturday set, do yourself a favor and listen to the live recording that was streamed on WXPN. The Brooklyn-based artist absolutely slayed her set on the Marina Stage, and I can’t imagine any complaints had the schedule allowed for double her stage time.

Xenia Rubinos’ sound defies categorization – one verse she’s funk, the next soul, the one after borderline hip hop. No matter the crazy unpredictability of her songs, the one thing they all have in common (besides being completely awesome) is that they are fun. Rubinos kept the crowd jamming and moving to her beats as she threw her voice and body around the stage with contagious and endless energy; she could dance to her own heartbeat. If I were braver this would have been the moment to clear a circle and let out every crazy dance move that the music moved me to, and some people did just that. At one point Rubinos commented to the midday “It feels like nighttime in my soul, that’s because y’all turned it up.” Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Cliff Hillis kicks off day two with power pop energy

Cliff Hillis | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman

Day two of the XPoNential Music Festival got under way with a shimmering set of homegrown power pop from local scene vet, Cliff Hillis. He’s been a fixture in Philly music going back to his time in the John Faye Power Trip in the 90s, and last year released his sixth project, Love Not War, the uplifting tones of which resonated from the Marina Stage this afternoon.
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XPN Fest Recap: Brownout’s takes on Black Sabbath and Latin rock keep dancing at a maximum

Brownout | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

It would have been easy for everyone to just mail it in for Brownout‘s performance, which closed out Wiggins Park Friday evening. Just a few hundred yards away, Angel Olsen was wowing BB&T Pavilion. The crowd at the Marina Stage had thinned. Just don’t tell those who were smart enough to stick around. Brownout seemed to take them to another land.

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