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2011 WXPN XPoNential Festival: Other Lives, Ra Ra Riot, Joseph Arthur, Kuf Knotz, and Citizen Cope Took Over Camden


The heat wave couldn’t keep the music lovers away from the 2011 XPoNential Festival at Wiggins Park, Camden.  XPN, the local member joseph arthursupported and NPR-affiliated station, puts on a family friendly weekend of amazing music each year. The festival has two stages, the River Stage featuring the better-known artists, and the JerseyArts.com Marina stage provides an opportunity to see artists on the rise.

Boasting an incredible line up, the festival started strong Friday night. The breeze across the river cooled things down considerably for the faithful audience. I arrived in time to catch the Smithereens, who played beloved hits from their catalog such as “House that we used to live in”, “Only a memory” and “Behind the wall” as well as a few songs from their new album, “Smithereens 2011”.

New York singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur (photo on right) took to the Marina stage next. Joseph performed solo, but he always leverages loops to create a full sound on stage.  He played songs from his new record, “ The Graduation Ceremony”. He closed with his amazing song, “I Miss the Zoo”.
matt duke

Finally, Citizen Cope closed out the night with his solo acoustic set. He started just as Mr. Arthur was finishing, so we walked up the hill, his voice calling us back to the River stage. When Cope is solo, he also leverages some loops to recreate some of the feel of his band. I’ve seen him play with a band and solo – and I prefer the solo shows. I think his melodies work really well in that stripped-down style.

On Sunday, I was back for more, getting there early and I heard York band Kingsfoil rocking the Marina side while I got myself situated in front of the River stage. Kuf Knotz played a raucous set with Dana Alexander providing additional vocals. Local artist Dave Vegas performed with Kuf Knotz as well. Philly local Matt Duke (photo on left) performed with his band on the Marina stage. His voice reminds me of Ray La Montagne. He played a powerful set with his band.

For me, the big draw Rarariotof the day was Ra Ra Riot, (photo on right) this is the third time I’ve seen them – I first saw them when they opened for Death Cab for Cutie a few years back, and they stood out as a talented band. And what about that name? The cello and violin Wes Miles’ tenor provide a lightness to their melodies, while their lyrics often added contrast.   

Other Lives is my festival find this year. They are from Oklahoma, and I knew I recognized the name, I probably heard one of their songs on the radio. Then I rediscovered they are TBD label-mates with Radiohead and White Rabbits.  I couldn’t keep track of all the instruments they were playing, but they too had a standard set up supplemented with a harmonium and a cello. Lush, gorgeous tunes!

The last act I saw perform was Hayes Carll from Texas, his songs are a blend of country, rock and folk.  His latest album, “Trouble In Mind” came out in 2008. Some of his influences include Bob Dylan and John Prine.

One of the things I love about the festival is that it connects the artists to their fans in a more immediate way than other venues. So mark your calendars for next year’s festival. And bring lots of water and sunscreen.

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com

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