We all know that WXPN
is a member-supported public radio station. Truly, "support" is the optimal word to describe the affable atmosphere of the station's annual XPoNential Music Festival
this past weekend. I was almost taken aback by the friendliness that pervaded the waterfront. Everyone just seemed to be looking out for one another, ensuring good times were had by all. The vibe was infectious.
I couldn't make it out to Day 1 of the three-day excursion, but reports from the crowds later informed me that I missed dynamic performances from Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
and Fishtown's own Free Energy
. Bummer. Next time.
On Saturday, I heard a surprisingly refreshing rendition of BeyoncÃ©
's ballad "Halo
" by NYC-band Harper Blynn
on the Camden County River Stage
, where I stayed for most of the festival. The lawn was filled with multi-colored lawn chairs and blankets, reinforcing the festival's mellow tone. Still, there was standing room right in front where devotees could get extra-close
to the artists and jump and dance as they pleased. I'd never heard Jersey girl Nicole Atkins
before, but she reeled me in with the extra kick she adds to the female singer-songwriter bit. She has some serious pipes and a great rock energy to her set. The Walkmen
whom David Dye
introduced as a self-proclaimed "big fan" gave a commanding performance that resonated most with the younger rock-oriented crowd who were familiar with such visceral anthems as "The Rat
." I enjoyed their diverse set which drew from across their catalog and into new material, including the slow and dreamy "Stranded
," which featured Walkmen leader Hamilton Leithauser
's wife Anna
in the brass section. Hoboken, N.J. three-piece, Yo La Tengo
ended my day with their eclectic repertoire and quirky sense of humor ("You've caught me with my laminate on!
" exclaimed Ira Kaplan
, quickly removing his performer lanyard for the band's encore.). The indie vets played new(ish) material like "Periodically Double or Triple
," off Popular Songs
, but also older favorites like "Little Honda
." They were accompanied through much of the set by the Sun Ra Arkestra
, who danced and played in in sequined attire as YLT shredded on distorted guitar.
|Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen
Sunday felt the most packed with people, and I got to spend some more time just milling around the grounds and people-watching. It became evident that the 35-and-older set, often with kids in tow, matched or even exceeded the younger crowd. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
closed their much-anticipated set with that whistling pop confection "Home
," and I was glad to hear the romper lilting throughout the park. Before leaving the festival, I took in Dr. Dog
's effervescent and well-played set, as beach balls soared through the crowd and the sun set behind the stage on the Delaware. As they left, they thanked XPN "for being so kind to us over the years," before an encore performance of "Jackie Wants a Black Eye
I had continually heard artists thank the station for playing their music and radio personalities profess their fandom for their favorite local (and even not-so-local) bands. But this mutual support didn't come off as some kind of sickening PR ingratiation; it felt sincere
. And you could feel it among the XPN members and casual attendees, too. Before Dr. Dog took the stage, I turned to retreat from the standing area to get a better view, when I almost bumped right into World Cafe
host Dye, who happened to be standing directly behind me. Dye, the host of XPN's most well-known and nationally syndicated show, seemed just to be eagerly awaiting a beloved Philly band. He wasn't standing off in the wings of the stage, he was right out there with his listeners.