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Let Them Roll: Brandi Carlile, Old Crow Medicine Show wrap up XPNFest with maximum energy

Brandi Carlile | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN | sydneyschaeferphotos.com
Brandi Carlile | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN | sydneyschaeferphotos.com

Okay, Brandi Carlile, I promise to never again pigeonhole the wonderful thing you do as “singer-songwriter” or “roots / Americana.” Just keep slaying like you did from the BB&T Pavilion stage on the closing night of XPN Fest.

The Seattle-rooted musician and longtime XPN favorite took the stage last night not only with Tim and Phil Hanseroth – aka “The Twins,” her longtime collaborators on guitar, bass and vocals – but with a rousing full band that elevated her songs to arena rock proportions befitting the huge amphitheater they were performing in. On drums, Brian Griffin propelled the music forth; on cello and keys, Josh Neumann added nuanced, atmospheric accents; on guitar, Gibb Droll rumbled and roared. Carlile is gripping as a solo performer, no doubt — she made all of NonCOMM cry back in 2015, after all — but seeing her with this lineup is next-level.

Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Femi Kuti & The Positive Force share the beauty of Africa to close out Wiggins Park

Femi Kuti | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Femi Kuti | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Femi Kuti saw no need in doing a lot talking Sunday.

“We hope you see the beauty of Africa through music,” he said.

It was hard to miss the beauty even with a passing glance. Kuti himself was sporting yellow African garb, while most of his band, The Positive Force, donned vivid red. Three women decked out in intricate yellow outfits danced nonstop for the better part of an hour while also providing backing vocals and instrumentation. Altogether, the stage had 14 performers all at once. Plus, Kuti’s adorable daughter was free to roam wherever she pleased. Sometimes that meant dancing, other times it meant grabbing dad a water bottle.

That’s all just visual though. Musically, they brought a fast paced and politically charged dance party to the River Stage that rivaled anything the weekend had seen thus far. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Low Cut Connie shimmy and shake up the Marina Stage

Low Cut Connie | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com
Low Cut Connie | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

At his beloved piano Shondra, Adam Weiner hopped onto his piano bench, and with one leg extended in the air parallel with the ground, he continued to bang the keys during Low Cut Connie‘s rousing set on the Jerseyarts.com Marina Stage. Weiner isn’t about conventional playing, standing on his bench has become so ingrained in the band’s shows that his microphone extends to compensate for the added height. At one point he even stomped the keys with his feet before shimming in circles and grooving his hips to the music. Continue reading →

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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: David Wax Museum stay the night to play day three

David Wax Museum | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
David Wax Museum | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

David Wax Museum was just as excited as fans were to be rescheduled to day three of XPoNential Festival after having their set cancelled due to torrential downpours yesterday afternoon. Not only did they stay the night to perform, but if fans just couldn’t get enough, the band announced during their set that they will be returning to Philly for New Year’s Eve 2017 with a celebration performance at Johnny Brenda’s. The band counts the venue as one of their favorite in all of the country. 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: Oliver-John Rodgers welcomes us to his rock and roll roadshow

Oliver-John Rodgers | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
Oliver-John Rodgers | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

Come one, come all to the rock and roll spectacle. Nashville musician Oliver-John Rodgers and his band delivered song after song of heavy shredding during their Jerseyarts.com Marina Stage performance at XPoNential Festival. Rodgers shared the stage with Diane Coffee an hour prior to his own set, fanning Diane as he reappeared from behind stage draped in a new outfit, fabulous getup. 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: Diane Coffee dazzles with gripping theatrics

Diane Coffee | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
Diane Coffee | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

Diane Coffee is from another era. The intoxicatingly theatrical performance was filled with the essence of the greats that came before them, who would parade around the stage and truly give the audience a show. Getting fully into each song with a wide range of exaggerated facial expressions and mannerisms of the great frontmen and women of the ’60s and ’70s was a modern blast from the past to when rockstar sets would dazzle with a life and energy that couldn’t be contained. With the full band dressed as sailors, Diane (also known as Shaun Fleming, the drummer of Foxygen) entered the Jerseyarts.com Marina Stage in metallic eye makeup. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Eliza Hardy Jones takes center stage

Eliza Hardy Jones | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com
Eliza Hardy Jones | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com

Eliza Hardy Jones has been here before. She played keys in sang in both Grace Potter’s band and Strand of Oaks, two acts that have graced XPoNential Fest in years past. This time around though, all eyes were on Hardy as her solo project took to the River Stage. And in the pressure of the main stage, she made the most of her big moment. Continue reading →