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Musical Diversity from National and Local Acts at the XPoNential Festival

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WXPN (88.5 FM) hosted their annual XPoNential Festival at Wiggins Park in Camden last'The Walkmen' at XPoNential Festival. weekend. I’m an active member, and volunteer a few times a year at their fund drives, but this year, I attended the festival on behalf of Philly2Philly.

The festival had two stages; the Main River Stage for the well known acts such as Roseanne Cash and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. The Marina stage featured the up and coming bands – including a nice selection of the Philadelphia local talent such as Ben Arnold, Dutch, Birdie Busch, Robert Francis and Free Energy.

I arrived around 7:30 p.m. on Friday night by the Freedom Ferry – which ran every half since there was also a concert at the Susquehanna Bank Center. After grabbing a bite to eat, I checked out Ben’s set. Disclosure: Ben’s a buddy of mine. He always delivers a great set of his original rock and roll. He has a new record out online, Simplify. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – clearly fan favorites – delivered a rousing set of rock/blues. Potter stood behind the piano, tossing around her long blond hair. For a moment, she reminded me of Taylor Swift who does the same thing. They wrapped up with a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “ White Rabbit” which was good – but sounded a bit too much like the original.

This year people migrated back and forth between the two stages. The sets were timed so thatRobert Francis at XPoNential Festival. as one ended, the other begin almost immediately. Free Energy was the local favorite that night – the guys came on stage and reminded me of acts from the 70s – with their shaggy hair and mustaches. Their energetic act delivered 70 inspired rock songs. Their full length debut, Stuck On Nothing, was produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.

Big Head Todd and the Monsters were not what I expected. Their sound varies greatly from their well known single, “Resignation Superman” or “Bittersweet”. Most of their set included upbeat bluesy rock.

I was curious to check out indie rockers The Walkmen on Saturday afternoon after they were featured in a snazzy spread in GQ in May. They have opened for Spoon, which is good enough for me. The band featured songs from their new album coming out in September, and also covered some older material – and the core fans crowded along the front of the stage, singing along. While it’s not my normal fare, I stayed to see Roseanne Cash perform. She was wonderful – she’s sang songs from her album of covers that was inspired by a list given to her by her father, Johnny Cash. John Wesley Harding supported her on guitar.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated and although it was hot, the crowds were able to enjoy all the acts uninterrupted by Mother Nature. The food vendors delivered tasty food, and you actually had your pick of a healthy salad or fried Oreos dipped in funnel cake batter. For something sweet you could grab a smoothie or some Ben & Jerry’s.

Being an XPN member definitely has it perks for the event such as lower ticket prices, and access to the member’s only area that provided free water, ice tea, and lemonade throughout the weekend. Members also had the opportunity to meet and greet some of the artists who performed.

This is a great all ages event and it’s wonderful to see musicians have a chance to share their music with such a welcoming crowd. Nothing’s better than enjoying the breeze off the river, with the backdrop of the Philly skyline. Definitely add this to your festival must see list!

Contact Diane Cooney at dc@dianecooney.com