Revisit XPNFest with a 45-song VuHaus video playlist

Drive By Truckers | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

The annual XPoNential Music Festival is easily the highlight of our year around these parts, and this summer’s lineup was a particularly strong one. From Rhiannon Giddens to The Record Company, Strand of Oaks to Sweet Spirit, Hardwork Movement to Hurray for the Riff Raff we were covered across the board with sounds and styles and incredible performances. And thankfully, those sets don’t have to remain too far in our memory. Continue reading →


25 Random Points from this year’s XPoNential Music Festival

XPoNential Music Festival | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

There are a lot of die-hards every year at XPoNential, but this year, one face in the crowd definitely stood out to those of us working backstage. Reuben Frank, who many of you might know from his reporting on the Philadelphia Eagles for Comcast SportsNet and WIP, as well as occasionally writing about music in Magnet Magacine. One of his claims to fame is his 25 Random Points column on CSN Philly, and we asked him to reprise that here on The Key, collecting things he heard and saw and thought about during #XPNFest. Continue reading →


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. 
Continue reading →


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 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: 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: 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: 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 →