Monday, July 27, 2009

The XPoNential Music Festival: A Brief Review

One of the highlights of the last few summers had been spending three or four days at the XPoNential fest at Wiggin's Park on the Camden Waterfront. This weekend concert event is the annual festival put on by 88.5 WXPN here in Philly.

This year, thanks to the arrival of our first little one in March, I had planned to miss the whole thing entirely.

When I saw Saturday's schedule however, I quickly changed my mind and made plans to attend at least that day.

I was rewarded by seeing three of my favorite bands back-to-back-to-back along with several others who were highly entertaining as well.

Starting at around 8:00 p.m., They Might Be Giants took the main stage. I was sitting near the top of the hill on the right side (facing it) of the stage, near the brick path in the middle of the park and from that vantage point looking down on the hill it looked like a prairie dog city when They took the stage. From just about every group little heads popped up when John and John came out and launched into Alphabet of Nations and all of those little heads kept dancing through Seven and then the adult stuff as well. One little guy near me didn't stop until the encore of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and did one of the best dances I've seen to "Dr. Worm." Even though I've seen TMBG 6 or 7 times live it never gets boring, though this was the first time they were called "The Toby Keith Experience," in homage to Mr. Keith's appearance across the marina.

After They, Hoots and Hellmouth blew away the crowd at the marina stage with a rousing set of stuff from their first CD and their newest, The Holy Open Secret. I had seen Hoots last year (?) at the Festival as they opened the main stage one of the days and they sounded great but seemed a little ragged. This time? Absolutely nailed it. The band was tighter and sounded fantastic.

After Hoots, it was time to get back over to the main stage for The Hold Steady. Having never seen them live, I wasn't entirely prepared for Craig Finn's on stage mannerisms. For a guy that sounds a little like Springsteen and has the vocal chops to command every single song, it was a little bizarre to see a guy that makes Devo look like James Brown clones on stage. But The Hold Steady rocked my face clear off of my skull...until the skies opened and they were chased from the stage. I did finally get to hear live versions of some of my favorites (Chips Ahoy, Stuck Between Stations, Massive Nights, Lord I'm Discouraged, Southtown Girls and One For The Cutters) but I feel like I got gypped out of so much more. I was really hoping for Two Crosses, Citrus, Slapped Actress and, of course, Constructive Summer. I really wanted to make that a sing-along song and belt out "GET HAMMERED" with the band. If only the weather had held out...

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