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XPN Fest Recap: RFA breezes through their early Sunday set at the River Stage

RFA | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN

RFA opened XPN Fest at noon with a refreshing sense of urgency. The band flew through their setlist, seldom introducing songs or speaking to the audience. But as a group that is still somewhat under the radar, they made the best use of their time. RFA sought out to do one thing, showcase their immense musical talent and garner new fans. Which as a young, stylish, talented indie band they undoubtedly did. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Elvis Costello and Blondie celebrate the past while looking to the future

Elvis Costello | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN

When an artist has been making music for over four decades, there are a couple common routes they can take with they live shows. One: stick to the tried-and-true, deliver a crowd-pleasing hit-parade, dial down the surprises or spontaneity. Two: write immersive new records and focus only on them, jettison the career-making singles that they’re tired of playing and don’t feel connected to anymore anyway.

Or they could find a third option in between phoned-in and alienating. On Saturday, two elite members of the post-punk / new wave vanguard, Elvis Costello and Blondie, did just that, headlining night two of the XPoNential Music Festival with sets that played equally to the casual listeners and the die-hards. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: The McCrary Sisters channel the divine in an incredible Marina Stage set

The McCrary Sisters | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN

The McCrary Sisters are a powerhouse quartet, able to channel the inner workings of your soul through their unique style of gospel music. Today at the Marina Stage, they used their powers for good, putting on a spectacular performance.

The sisters began with “Mighty Good Time,” fully supported by their highly skillful backup band. Moving and grooving, the sisters harmonized beautifully with one another. It was clear that they had a special bond that most siblings could only dream of. During “David Dance,” they began to let loose, encouraging each band member to improvise.

The set took a magical turn once they began singing a cover of “Amazing Grace,” injecting it with their gospel roots. Different from the traditional arrangement of it, the band changed up the chords, making them more dark and emotional. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: The Wood Brothers’ exceptional musicianship shines against the Delaware River

The Wood Brothers | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

Oliver Wood has one of those voices that, when you hear it live, you’re somehow surprised that it sounds exactly like it does on the records. It’s raspiness is unmistakeable, and it was absolutely on point on the River Stage, as was The Wood Brothers as a whole.

In case you didn’t know, two-thirds of the Wood Brothers are, in fact, brothers, and their vocals blend harmoniously together to prove it. Joining Oliver and Chris is Jano Rix on drums. The musicianship of each of the three members is impeccable, and the control they have over the volume of their instruments made for a solid set. Chris Wood’s upright bass solos alone were so intriguing — I couldn’t look away. His energetic dance moves definitely had something to do with that too. “Who the Devil” began with a wild, spacey, upright bass intro where Chris broke his bow out and dragged it back and forth across the thick strings. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Low Cut Connie bring a theatrical set to Wiggins Park

Low Cut Connie | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

A lot of artists have an objectively “good” stage presence, but few have the energy Low Cut Connie brings to the table. Frontperson and pianist Adam Weiner is an exceedingly natural performer. From standing on the piano bench and playing with a leg extended during “Death and Destruction” to jumping off the stage and giving out hugs and kisses during “Shake it Little Tina,” he makes for a wildly unconventional performance.  Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Caroline Rose provides endless laughs high-energy rock at the Marina Stage

Caroline Rose | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN

Pop-rock favorite Caroline Rose could have a fallback career as a comedian if the music thing gets boring. On the Marina Stage for day two of XPN Fest, Rose had the crowd laughing and dancing to her set, which included a preview of new material. Beginning with “Everybody’s Making Out,” Rose nearly decapitated her drummer after flicking a sandal straight into the air. Just a taste of what was to come, she continued on. The heat was no match for Rose, who came dressed in her signature red jacket, pair of fuzzy socks, and headband.

Her dance moves truly began to come out on “Jeannie Becomes a Mom,” where she and the band all jammed out. Rose extended the last chorus to further improvise on her dance moves at the edge of the stage. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds bring sunshine and soul to the waterfront

Sister Sparrow | photo by Makena Duffy for WXPN

Backed by her seven-piece band The Dirty Birds, Sister Sparrow brought a dose of swingin’, soulful sounds to the River Stage this afternoon. Arleigh Kincheloe is the singer-songwriter behind the high-energy project, which blends classic brass band sounds with contemporary pop influences for a timeless sound. The Brooklyn-based collective released their fourth album Gold last year, and came prepared to cool off the sun-drenched crowd with the new tunes. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Y La Bamba bring an explosive set of music from Mujeres on Saturday afternoon

Y La Bamba | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN

Saturday afternoon, Y La Bamba brought an explosive set to the Marina Stage at Wiggins Park, consisting mostly of cuts from their recent album Mujeres. The Portland-based band, led by singer-songwriter Luz Elena Mendoza, plays indie punk and experimental alt rock songs in Spanish and English with strong influences from the many genres of música Mexicana. Continue reading →