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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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XPN Fest Recap: Amos Lee and Spoon find common ground in groove

Amos Lee | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Unexpected match-ups at #XPNFest aren’t exactly uncommon — it’s kind of what we do, bringing together artists and sounds and styles that might not normally be paired together and getting fans of one to consider the other. Mass horizon expansion, if you will.

Last night’s headlining show at BB&T Pavilion was admittedly a puzzler, a little-bit-of-everything mix of The Suffers‘ soul, Chicano Batman‘s psychedelic Latin rock, and a dual headlining set from Austin’s Spoon and Philly’s Amos Lee. The two at the end in particular were a peculiar pair, the former occupying the gritty fringes of aggressive indie rock and the latter a singer-songwriter who takes the stage on stately theaters across the country and around the world.

But they showed that they had more in common than meets the eye — or ear, rather. In a word: groove.
Continue reading →

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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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XPN Fest Recap: Dave Hause & The Mermaid rep Philly with a rockin’ Marina Stage set

Dave Hause | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

It’s probably pretty hard to be more Philly than Dave Hause. He was born here and became a mainstay in the Philly punk scene for years, spending time with bands such as Paint It Black and The Loved Ones. Saturday afternoon, he shouted out Strand of Oaks and WXPN’s own Bruce Warren and Helen Leicht during his rockin’ set on the Marina Stage. His current band, The Mermaid, covered The Roots’ “The Seed” in the middle of it all. And their newest album, released in February, is entitled Bury Me In Philly. Like I said, it’s pretty tough to out-Philly this guy. Continue reading →

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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 →

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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 →