Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WXPN's Xponential Music Festival, Wiggins Park, Camden, NJ, July 16 -18, 2010

Every year, non-commercial, WXPN, 88.5 FM in Philadelphia, hosts an annual, three day, outdoor music festival. For those unfamiliar with the station it's owned and operated by The University of Pennsylvania but it receives no funding from the historic Ivy League institution.  The influential station survives solely on their very aggressive fund raising efforts. One of its money makers is the annual Xponential Music Festival which for the sixth consecutive year has been held in Wiggins Park, on the banks of the Delaware River in Camden, NJ, directly across from the attractive Philadelphia skyline.

While out of town readers may believe there is nothing of interest for them in this post they will quickly find out that they're wrong because WXPN and its festival can be enjoyed from anywhere. The entire event is always broadcast live on the radio and it's streamed all over the world on WXPN's website. Today, even though the very well-attended affair is over, you can still find highlights and some of the performances online.

Concerts are held Friday evening and all day on both Saturday and Sunday until well past sundown. Many fans attend all three days. I'm past the point in my life where sitting outdoors in very humid, ninety degree weather is something I desire to do so my wife and I usually choose the one day with the best lineup, pack up our folding chairs and cooler, and head out to join the throng.

Saturday featured twelve performers on two stages, seventeen if you count the additional shows on the Kids Corner stage.  XPN includes just as many unknown acts as seasoned veterans. Here was Saturday's diverse lineup.

River Stage
1:00 pm Harper Blynn
2:15 pm Nicole Atkins
3:45 pm The Walkmen
5:20 pm Yo La Tengo
6:55 pm Rosanne Cash
8:50 pm The Felice Brothers

Marina Stage
12:30 pm Birdie Busch
1:35 pm Bobby Long
3:00 pm Joshua James
4:35 pm Diane Birch
6:10 pm Robert Francis
8:00 pm Ben Vaughn

Time and space do not permit a review of everybody so here are a few of the highlights.

Harper Blynn was a nice surprise. They are an up-and-coming power pop quartet from New York City with very nice harmonies. They're perfect for fans of Big Star and the British Invasion.

Yo La Tengo, a trio now in their third decade together, mixed their acoustic pop with atonal electric noise, frequently in the same song. During the second half of their show they were accompanied by the horn section from the Sun Ra Arkestra who took the stage in their usual flamboyant regalia. Clearly, Yo La Tengo are not for everybody but I'm glad I saw them just this once for educational purposes.

Due to her reputation and legacy Roseanne Cash should have been the evening's headliner on the much larger River Stage instead of taking a back seat to The Felice Brothers who, despite giving a sloppy performance, were a festival favorite.  A reality check would tell the listeners that they are nothing more than a poor man's version of The Avett Brothers.   In contrast, along with her husband, producer and guitarist John Leventhal, Cash and her top notch band gave a tight but spirited performance that featured seven songs from her most recent CD, The List.

Diane Birch, raised by strict Seventh Day Adventist parents who only allowed classical and religious music in their household, has learned to play gospel tinged, secular R & B quite nicely. She is a singer-songwriter and piano player who should go on to much bigger things. Her set proved that plunking down $10 (great price!) at the artist's merchandise booth for her debut CD was worth it. (More on that in a future post).

Finally, there was Camden County's own Ben Vaughn, whose best known CD, Rambler 65, was discussed here a few weeks ago. He combined rockabilly with surf guitar while giving a light-hearted performance satirizing rock's great guitar heroes. You can listen to his entire humorous show here.

As always, WXPN gives us the most eclectic Summer Festival in the tri-state area at very reasonable prices.  Past performers have included Back Door Slam, Los Lonely Boys, Art Garfunkel, Joan Osborne, Shelby Lynne, The Bacon Brothers, They Might Be Giants, The Smithereens, Fountains Of Wayne, The Cat Empire, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, (who were back rocking the stage on Friday night) and scores of others. If you love music and the great outdoors attendance is mandatory.

1 comment:

  1. the day the avettes can write a song half as good as the felices is the day AB can affectionately be referred to as "a rich man's Felice Brothers." sloppy as hell though. i'll give you that.


    -paydirt III