Monday, July 23, 2007

Music, Sweet Music, There'll Be Music Everywhere: The XPoNential Music Festival

Friends, I have seen the present/future of music, and it is good.

Where, you ask? Camden, NJ, believe it or not.

This past weekend was the XPoNential Music Festival put on by the best radio station on the planet: "88.5 WXPN Philadelphia, 88.1 WXPH Harrisburg, 90.5 WKHS Whorton-Baltimore Maryland and 104.9 in the beautiful Lehigh Valley...member supported radio from the University of Pennsylvania."

XPN is truly the finest radio station. I guess technically it is classified as Adult Album Alternative, which basically seems to translate to "we're not Clear Channel so we don't have to fit into a certain format like 'Jack' or 'Ben' or 'urban' or whatever." For anyone not in the area listed above (from the station's hourly identification) you can listen to the station itself or one of its other streams here.

So which of the bands did I see and what did I like? Glad you asked. I now present...


The festival opened Thursday night with a single stage smack on the Camden waterfront at Wiggins Park, facing the beautiful Philly skyline. The lineup consisted of

1. Slo-Mo with Mic Wrecka

Unbelievable start to the festivities. Slo-Mo resplendent in his white suit, Mic Wrecka wreckin' the mic. If it's possible to shred the slide guitar, Mr. Mo (Mike Brenner) did just that. The full accompanying band threw down on a quick set that rocked both "Shackamaxon" and "My Buzz Comes Back." Set the tone for a fantastic three days (the fest was four, but I missed Sunday, so no review of the last day....sorry). If any one knows of a better hip-hop/slide guitar combo, please let me know. Otherwise, get thee to a record store and buy everything my these guys.

2. James Hunter

I nearly left the concert alone Thursday night. Mrs. Jewbacca almost went home with Mr. Hunter. He's that good. Imagine a short, white, English, Sam Cooke/Al Green/James Brown mashup and that gets close to how good James Hunter is. He sounds like a 1960s R&B master that someone misplaced for 40-odd years and only now rediscovered. I command all who read this to see him and his band

3. Tower of Power
Disappointing. We left during the third song.

Friday, saw some hooky playing as me and Mrs. Jewbacca cut the last three periods of the day and went to the fest. This was the first day of the two stages, so I wasn't able to see everything. These bands blew me away though:

1. Eastern Conference Champions

Holy crap. They f'in rocked out. Can't tell you the name of a single song but they all sounded amazing.

2. Sam Roberts Band
These guys flew down from Montreal for their set and flew back right after. More than worth it. They too, rocked out.

3. Special Guest...G Love
Bob Mould was supposed to play the main stage, but didn't make it due to a broken ankle. So, they went to the bullpen and called in G Love. He did a real short set, but sounded great. "Booty Call" and "Cold Beverages" made it into the short set and nearly brought the house down. He said he was working on a new album so keep an eye out.

4. Ruder Than You

Old school ska at its finest. And refreshingly, there were some young 'uns skankin' hardcore. They're getting up there, but they still sounded fantastic.

We finished the night with Cracker (yes, that Cracker), Fountains of Wayne (played on through the mass exodus when they finished "Stacy's Mom") and The Fratellis. Unfortunately, none of them really brought it.

Saturday was another two stage day. The highlights:

1. Hoots and Hellmouth

Wow. They kicked off the main stage with "Want on Nothing." Wow. They almost got swallowed up by the giant stage but still brought down the house with "This Hand is a Mighty Hand." August 3 at Chaplin's in Spring City, PA. I command all in the area to see them there. You owe it to yourselves.

2. Illinois
A side stage surprise. Anytime a heavier sounding band features a lead who rocks the keyboard, the banjo and a fuzztone phone sounding thing all in the same set, I am there. See these guys. Soon.

3. Will Hoge

The surprise of the fest. Black Crowes-esque, with some Skynyrd mixed in for good measure, but definitely greater than the sum of those parts. The future of southern rock is in wonderful hands.

4. The Cat Empire

Incredibly fun. Rocked out "The Car Song" and had the whole park dancing along. Harry plays a mean horn too. Funk, jazz, blues, name it it's in there.

5. Los Lonely Boys
Brought the Texican, and brought it fine. Instead of wrapping up with the standard encore (I was expecting "Diamonds" since they didn't play it in the set) the Garza Brothers embarked on a mind blowing jam that even jam-hating Mrs. Jewbacca had to agree was amazing.

Three great days in the sun listening to live music performed without click tracks or any of that crap that lesser talents have to rely upon.

Please check out these artists' web sites and support them. And check out XPN. Especially if you are as tired of corporate radio as I am.

They may have reunited, but they were not invited.

No comments: