#XPNFest on Film: 35mm of scenes from our weekend on the Camden Waterfront

photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you see me photographing a concert, you most likely will see me with one of WXPN’s digital cameras in hand. But depending on the gig, and depending on my mood, if you look closely you might spot something else; an old Pentax 35mm, or a Yashica twin-lens 120 camera. Or a Holga if I’m feeling particularly daring.

I went to school for photography when shooting on film was still the dominant thing — it was on its way out, for sure, but it was still being taught — and my initial outlook on how to shoot photos was shaped by the process of taking 24 or 36 frames and not knowing for anywhere from a few hours to a few days what any of them look like.

Lately, it’s been a fun way for me to document the music festivals I cover here at The Key — the sun-speckled Roots Picnic, or the earthy-toned Firefly Festival. Obviously I shoot digital in tandem, which allows me to gather as many images as I need and have as much control over all the parameters that go into those images; basically it guarantees me something serviceable (and immediate) for our web and social media coverage.

But there’s something to be said for surrendering much of that control to limitations and chance; taking photos as scenes unfold to you, to taking just one or two shots per scene (because you only have so much film), to refrain from getting caught up in fussy details and seeing what turns out. This year at the XPoNential Music Festival, I brought two cameras with me — a Ricoh SLR, an Argus rangefinder — and shot a roll of color film and a roll of black and white. Here’s what happened.
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Behind the Scenes at #XPNFest 2018!

XPNFest 2018 Behind The Scenes | photo by Rachel Del Sordo |

The 2018 XPoNential Music Festival is under way, and in addition to great sets from David Byrne, Sylvan Esso, Lukas Nelson, M.A.K.U. Soundsystem, Greg Sover and more, we’ll be bringing you behind the scenes coverage. Keep checking back here for an ongoing photo gallery of the fans at XPoNential and the people who make the festival happen. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Josh Ritter serenades the River Stage with sunset jams Sunday evening

Josh Ritter | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

To close another wonderful weekend at the XPoNential Music Festival, longtime station favorite Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band took the stage, sun setting on the Philadelphia skyline in the distance. The colors of the sky progressed through the sunset gradient, from pinks, yellows, and oranges of the early sunset to the purples and blues of nightfall – the perfect backdrop for Ritter’s festival-closing performance. Time can easily escape the crowd during moments like this, lost in the music during the famed golden hour. Ritter’s well timed 18-track set was the perfect compliment to close out the weekend at Wiggins Park. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: JD McPherson gets rowdy with the Marina Stage crowd

J.D. McPherson | photo by Natalie Piserchio |

Straight out of Oklahoma, JP McPherson brought the sweet sounds of classic rock n’ roll to the Marina Stage.

Starting with the infectious rockabilly groove of “Crying’s Just a Thing That You Do”, you immediately know J.D. was getting the crowd warming up and ready to twist some hips. Following was the 50s-style rocker “Fire Bug”, and this gem got the crowd jitterbuggin’. Throughout the performance, the band kept everything smooth and running perfectly without missing one beat especially during the boogie-inducing track “North Side Gal.” Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: The Blind Boys of Alabama connect to Gospel roots on the River Stage

Blind Boys of Alabama | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

“Sit back, relax, take your shoes off if you want to, and listen to The Blind Boys of Alabama,” founding member Jimmy Carter said to greet the crowd. Instead of noting what visually impaired people cannot do, The Blind Boys of Alabama promote what they can do, and this particular group sure can sing Gospel music.

Second track “God Knows Everything” highlighted this sentiment, and it was during this song I overheard a crowd member say “you gotta go to Church one way or another.” Sunday evening on the River Stage, the Blind Boys’ angelic riffs and choir style chorus brought the crowd to church. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Hiss Golden Messenger’s southern folk takes root on the Marina Stage

Hiss Golden Messenger | photo by Natalie Piserchio |

Nursing a fresh sunburn and dodging the inflated beach ball being tossed around the crowd, I wove my way toward the Marina Stage. MC Taylor and the accompanying four-piece band of Hiss Golden Messenger dared the audience to match the energy of last night’s set in Newport, where the band was joined by singer Mavis Staples. “I could’ve died after that particular performance…It’s the third day of this festival, nothing matters anymore. This time tomorrow I’ll be in a hammock with my kids,” Taylor said.

What the blues-rock band lacked in dance moves (especially considering that they directly followed that wild Tank and the Bangas set), they made up for in power, giving a vivacious performance that left them toweling the sweat from their faces. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Tank And The Bangas send the crowd into a vortex of chaos and joy

Tank and the Bangas | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

The New Orleans-based Tank and the Bangas can be described as a tribe of truly passionate artists with immense, generous talent and massive amounts of energy — it all showed on stage.

Everyone in the vicinity was not ready for the vortex of crazy we were about to enter. The band’s stage presence, especially frontwoman Tarriona “Tank” Ball’s, was electrifying as they performed a beautiful, chaotic explosion of genres from hip-hop to funk to hard rock, with covers from Anderson .Paak’s funky bop “Come Down” to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Darlingside has the best of the best of times on the Marina Stage

Darlingside | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

Darlingside is a somewhat unique group in this era of music. The four-piece group formed in Boston, Massachusetts, but their folk-pop genre is what makes them stand out. Their use of folk instruments, such as a violin and cello and their strong vocal harmonies define their sound.

The band brought all of these elements to the Wiggins Park Marina Stage to play the last day of the festival, and people of all ages could be seen enjoying their performance. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Phoebe Bridgers fills the River Stage with her “sad love songs”

Phoebe Bridgers | photo by Natalie Piserchio |

“Ah, some positive heckling,” was Phoebe Bridgers‘ very on-brand reply to someone’s awed remark of “You can SING!” during a quiet moment in her River Stage set this afternoon. But the heckler wasn’t wrong — Phoebe Bridgers can certainly sing, and her voice carries each of her songs from the softest of whispers to the most powerful of belts. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Mt. Joy is a Silver Lining among other Marina Stage performances

Mt. Joy | photo by Natalie Piserchio |

L.A.-via-Philly up-and-comers Mt. Joy played the second slot on the Marina Stage for the last day of XPN Fest, and their set was vibey and wild and enigmatic. It was all over the board in the best way. These guys are sort of chameleon rockers – each song is so different from the last, but still fits in the pocket of indie soul folk if you had to categorize their sound. Continue reading →