XPN Fest Recap: Drive By Truckers’ charged-up set rides the River Stage into the sunset

Drive By Truckers | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Roots-tinged Athens, Georgia rock outfit Drive By Truckers released American Band last year, an album with a strident political and social consciousness that many in the music world aligned strongly to the heated election year. While the connection was undeniably there, those who have been paying attention to DBT for a minute know that the stories of the marginalized working class, the people left behind in the race for wealth and power, have been a lyrical concern of Patterson Hood and his bandmates across their nearly two-decade career.

Their charged XPNFest set yesterday was a reminder of this; two songs into their set, the band ripped into “Puttin’ People On The Moon,” and though its lyrics outlining economic depression, unaffordable medical care, and shaky jobs at Wal Mart ring true today, the song actually dates back thirteen years to 2004’s The Dirty South. 
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XPN Fest Recap: The Record Company shreds and then shreds some more

The Record Company | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

In a weekend full of bands so big they were tough to stuff onto one stage, The Record Company broke the trend. The Los Angeles trio spaced out across the River stage Sunday evening with plenty of room. They needed every inch.

Unless he was forced to stay seated because of a lap steel guitar, Lead man Chris Vos was all over the place. He was like an animal out there, thrashing around with his guitar in a solo-flooded set, starting with the band’s latest single “Baby I’m Broken.” After that, the band’s only released LP Give It Back To You filled up the setlist. The vibe floated between rock in its truest and most mind-blowing form, with occasional drops of a country flavor seeping through the cracks. It was simple but in a good way. Between songs, Vos had plenty of positive messages — thanks to WXPN’s very own Bruce Warren for spinning a demo of theirs in 2012, news that they’re working on a new album we can expect next year, and notice that bassist Alex Stiff is a local boy who loves playing shows near home. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Hurray for the Riff Raff’s reflective, uplifting rock set rules the River Stage

Hurray for the Riff Raff | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

“Well, my friends, I hope someone warned you, because this is resistance music.”

Alynda Lee Segarra’s words echoed out across the River Stage as the words YOUNG, LATIN, & PROUD shouted proudly from her shirt. And that was just the beginning of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s immensely powerful, reflective, and uplifting performance.

Not to mention, it was also a complete dance party. Because even though Hurray for the Riff Raff’s album The Navigator focuses on heavy topics of the current whacked out state of the world, Segarra has an amazing talent in fusing her anger into an infectious positive energy that makes her a force to be reckoned with. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Sweet Spirit has no shame on the River Stage

Sweet Spirit | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Midway through Sweet Spirit‘s Sunday afternoon River Stage set Sabrina Ellis told the crowd she’s impossible to embarrass. She doesn’t mind how she comes off as a person. Then, only for a half sentence, she retracted. “The only thing that humbles me down to a slithery, slimy, pre-evolution being…I just can’t think of anything,” she joked. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: No Good Sister eases us into day three with breezy country harmonies

No Good Sister | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

With the sun in the sky and a cool breeze rolling in off the Delaware, the conditions for a good festival day were optimal when Philly’s No Good Sister took the stage this morning. The countrified singer-songwriter trio of Meaghan Kyle, Jess McDowell and Maren Sharrow was backed by a group of Philly friends, including guitarist Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, and they dug into their recently-released LP You Can Love Me for the early arrivers.  Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires supply plenty of soul to close Saturday’s Wiggins Park slate

Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

If you didn’t know better, you might have thought Charles Bradley was a soul pioneer, still belting out decade-old classics for an audience reliving the music of their childhood. The reactions from the crowd after every number played by Bradley and his Extraordinaires during their closing set on the River Stage Saturday evening pointed to such a notion being true. Heck, even Bradley’s age would make that seem like the logical interpretation. He’s 67 years old.

These assumptions would be incorrect. Bradley broke out just six years ago when he was finally discovered. After experiencing his live product for the first time, I can say with confidence that we were robbed of many years of heart-on-his-sleeve performances that would have been rivaled by few. Because that’s what Bradley and his band gave us in Wiggins Park Saturday. His age did not factor into his performance, except for the fact that he’s had more years than most to perfect his dance moves. I’d have a lot of fans too if I could pelvic thrust and do the robot like he does. But all jokes aside, Bradley and his Extraordinaires brought wicked amounts passion to each breath, whether that was from his howling, soulful vocals or the blasting brass courtesy of the band. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Rhiannon Giddens’ commanding set radiates strength and hope

Rihannon Giddens | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

At first listen, Rhiannon Giddens‘ music seems like an amalgamation of completely separate genres. Elements of blues and folk music fuse with banjo-filled bluegrass on her latest album, Freedom Highway, for an eclectic blend of backgrounds. But in reality, these genres are all connected through its African roots.

It’s a connection that’s not very prominent, as folk and bluegrass is commonly associated with America –particularly white America –so hearing Giddens weave a different kind of narrative, which blends these sounds and stories together to reclaim its true roots is truly an amazing and powerful thing. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Preservation Hall Jazz Band brings the big easy to Wiggins park, big time

Preservation Hall Jazz Band | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

As I stood in the crowd waiting for Preservation Hall Jazz Band‘s set to begin, I realized that I have never before truly watched a professional jazz band perform despite growing up playing in orchestras and musical ensembles – and there could be no better introduction to live jazz than the American institution (as categorized by David Dye as he welcomed the band on stage) that is the Pres Hall.

The Band has been around since 1963 during their start in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and over fifty years and several generations later they know how to draw a crowd. The standing audience at the River Stage was the largest I had seen of of the weekend thus far (save the BB&T crowd) and the most noticeably excited for a set; if it had been nighttime, I’m convinced XPN Fest would have been host to the first-ever jazz mosh pit. Members of the crowd around me swapped stories of Pres Hall performances of the past, others eliciting promises from friends to dance the whole time and another declaring “We don’t need dang lyrics to have a good time.” Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: The Dove and the Wolf eases the morning in with breezy, atmospheric vibes

The Dove and the Wolf | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

After the hoot of a time that was XPN Fest Day One, I arrived this morning more than a little sleepy and armed with a large cup o’ joe. I was very ready to hunker down in the lawn for the first set of the day, but as soon as Philly duo, The Dove and the Wolf‘s captivating atmospheric, sounds echoed out in the crowd, I knew there was no chance of me sitting for this one.

The Parisian-turned-Philly duo of Paloma Gil and Louise Hayat-Camard were practically heaven-sent to start off the second day of the weekend, as everything about the group drips floaty, breezy vibes; fitting as a wonderfully ideal match for easing in this morning of tunes. Continue reading →