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XPN Fest Recap: Mavis Staples takes us there with a powerful River Stage performance

Mavis Staples | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Mavis Staples | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

After singing “Freedom Highway,” Mavis Staples shared the story behind the song written by her father in 1962. “Pops Staples wrote that song for the big march,” she told us of the iconic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. “I was there, and I’m still here…I’m a living witness, a soldier!” she said. Staples went on to say that she’s part of an army of love, fighting for hope and peace.

It was a well-timed moment from a timeless musician. In a weekend where one performer told the festival faithful that the evils of the world were the reasoning behind him cutting his performance short, Staples took the opposite approach. She provided the antidote to the evils of the world, a performance full of heart and happiness. The 77-year-old used every ounce of soul in her to put together a show even better than what her household reputation called for. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: The Districts throw down at the river stage

The Districts | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
The Districts | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

There’s no reason to cover up the truth. Before today, for one reason or another, I had never seen The Districts perform live. And in all honesty, I wasn’t even all that well-versed in their material. But I had heard enough to know that they were a big deal, and my expectations were high.

In short, my expectations were met. The guys from Lititz, PA absolutely killed it and provided what is most likely going to be my favorite XPN Fest set of 2016. They rocked hard — a degree of hard that can’t fully be expressed in a brief recap such as this.

One thing my uninformed self did get out of Sunday’s set, besides a newfound fandom of The Districts, was the fact that a younger crowd was drawn to see The Districts. There’s no denying that this festival, overall, is geared to an older crowd, which is totally ok. All I’m saying is that the average age of a Mavis Staples fan is most likely a few decades higher than that of a Districts die-hard. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: The Marcus King Band was lit

Marcus King Band | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Marcus King Band | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

A man with a braided goatee was howling his brains out. He had no shirt, no shoes, and thanks to The Marcus King Band, the man had not a care in the world. For more than half an hour, he played air guitar left-handed (How skilled). He screamed, jumped and bounced around to the wildly entertaining jam session put on by the South Carolina native and his band. As the gentleman next to me perfectly pointed out, “He [was] the happiest guy here.” Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: No amount of rain can stop the Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Preservation Hall Jazz Band | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Preservation Hall Jazz Band | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

You probably were looking to read this recap yesterday. I wanted to stay dry at the festival. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band would have loved to have been able to finish their set at the River Stage. Well, thanks to circumstances out of our control, none of those things were possible.

When the New Orleans jazz legends took to the River Stage on Saturday, it seemed like disaster was going to be avoided. Clouds were grey, but nowhere near apocalyptic. The light rain that was falling was a cooling drizzle, not an inundating monsoon. But I can’t stress enough that this was only what it seemed like — because an apocalyptic monsoon was exactly what was just moments away. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: The show goes on for The Felice Brothers, power or no power

The Felice Brothers | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
The Felice Brothers | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

Unexpected things have been happening all weekend here at the XPoNential Music Festival, but this last event turned out to be pretty special.

A power outage on the River Stage forced The Felice Brothers to end their set early. But rather than walk off stage and head for the greenroom, the ramshackle folk outfit walked off stage and into the crowd to continue playing, unplugged and intimate. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: The Revivalists breathe new life into festivalgoers

The Revivalists | photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com
The Revivalists | photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

In one flawless motion, The Revivalist‘s trumpet player and keyboardist Michael Girardot climbed onto the speaker system to shake his tambourine, then threw it to the side and continued to slam to the ground himself, all the while being sure to bang on his keyboard midair and as he landed. The New Orleans soul rock band exploded with this kind of heart-racing excitement throughout their set on the Riverstage during XPoNential Festival. The seven piece had a distinctly rich and full sound, thanks to the diversity of their instruments and arrangements — the horns section made way for some killer sax solos. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Ben Arnold and the 48 Hour Orchestra let loose on the River Stage

Ben Arnold | photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com
Ben Arnold | photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

Ben Arnold is a seasoned vet when it comes to performing at XPoNential Festival. This year was the local music man’s fouth appearance, but this time around things were a bit different. Thanks to the 48 Hour Orchestra, who joined Arnold on stage, his set today brought things to a new level. Together, the two sides brought life to Arnold’s 2016 record Lost Keys, an album that features much more brass than anything he’s put out in the past. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Colvin & Earle share old stories and new songs on the River Stage

Colvin and Earle | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Colvin and Earle | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

By the time Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle stepped on to the River Stage, the sun was setting and a cooler breeze was blowing through the packed crowd. The duo of singer / songwriter legends performed a retrospective set that pulled from their solo back catalogs and, of course, this year’s collaborative LP, which features a collection of originals and beloved covers.

Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Father John Misty gets a lot off his chest

Father John Misty | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN
Father John Misty | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN

Josh Tillman, who today was acting as Father John Misty, walked onto the River Stage for a solo set. His manager joined him to pass along a guitar. Tillman rejected the instrument, and what ensued was baffling to say the least. He stood in front of the audience for about half of the time he was slated to, and spent a good chunk of his moment preaching instead of singing. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Guitar solos and scenic skylines during Billy Hector

Billy Hector | Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
Billy Hector | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

The Riverstage at Wiggins Park is made for rockstars. Behind it lays a stunning backdrop of the Philadelphia skyline and Ben Franklin Bridge; in front sits hundreds of colorful beach chairs and hoards of fans. When our very own dayside host Helen Leicht introduced Billy Hector to the stage, she reminded the audience that Hector first came to her as a request for which area-artist to play on her broadcast showcasing local music. Lo and behold, the people wanted Hector, and next thing you know he was nothing less than a rock great gracing XPoNential Festival.

Hector and his band, made up of Sim Cain on drums and Winston Roye on bass, got the jams going with a good opening song that welcomed the crowd as they poured into the venue and gave them a taste of the beach blues they were about to experience. His next track began with a hint of Jimi Hendrick’s “R U Experienced,” before propelling into a jam session all their own. Continue reading →