by Dan Emmons
Friday came in calm with an afternoon start, good beer and cool breeze over the river to Wiggins Park. Saturday started at noon, with not too much heat, and brought record setting number to Wiggins Park. Sunday, brought the ruckus.
The overall experience of Xponential festival was something this first timer was not accustomed to. It seemed as if all age groups were enjoying various types of music. On Friday alone there were children, teens, 20-somethings and people who often use their AARP card all feeling the vibes. Whether it be from the more “chill” sounds of Michael Kiwanuka, who did a fantastic Jimi Hendrix cover, to the high energy (and most likely my favorite act of the fest) Red Baraat with their multiple percussionist and horn sections that had my 23-year-old ass shaking with same age group that usually tells me to turn my music down! Credit where credit is due, there was not a bad band on the entire fest, not to mention Friday. Aaron Brown, Kat Edmonson, and of course Philly’s own rising stars The Districts manned down the Marina Stage at Wiggins Park while Alo Brasil did the same at the River Stage. The cultivation of the first day was an enormous crowd for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros playing to a sea of people.
Saturday brought the crowd back at noon to see The Stray Birds on the Marina Stage and The Fleeting Ends shortly after on the River Stage. Also playing at Wiggins Park was the much anticipated Matt Pond, who did not disappoint. After braving the awkwardly placed beer tents that were facing each other in the middle of the main walk, I got the chance to see Dr. John, who really surprised me. Years of blues and soul were packed in this brilliantly funky old man who was packed with energy and playing the keys. His band was phenomenal to say the least, taking turns for tasteful solos. One of my personal favorites was Trampled By Turtles, who put a wild mix of up-tempo blue grass and folk together, that even won me over admittedly not being a huge fan of either genre.
Maybe one of the coolest stories I saw from the weekend was meeting a young singer-songwriter who brought his guitar to get signed by the John Butler Trio. As I was taking in the breeze between bands we drummed up some conversation about the signatures and you could tell it was one of those moments that drew out some inspiration. He began playing his original stuff and I have to admit it was quite the show. It seems that JBT are just as amazing on stage as they are off, with their fans.
Admittedly I was a bit unimpressed by Dr. Dog, when I traveled over to the Susquehanna Bank Center for the much anticipated The Lumineers headlining spot. Huge suprises were on The Key Stage however, to the left of the main stage playing Hey Marseilles and Polica, who both absolutely blew me away! The Lumineers had the crowd on the fingertips the whole time and delivered just what was expected. Quite the story for a band coming from playing a side stage at Xponential Festival only a year ago.
Sunday had acts like DRGN KING early, rewarding the fans that showed up by playing a high energy set full of stage antics and excitement. The Kopecky Family Band played next over at the Marina Stage. They played an upbeat set with powerful harmonies and crowd participation. They even played an encore set at the Riverside stage. That stage was graced next by Jose James and his groovy tunes. With fantastic drum and bass prowess the crowd went on the journey with the band and even played an “Ain’t No Sunshine” cover. Also gracing the Marina stage was Phosphorescent and Justin Townes Earle, unfortunately cutting Justin’s set short due to the rain.
Eventually the rain led to many people slipping and sliding down the lawn, and unfortunately cut our night short. Overall, this weekend was one to be remembered by musicianship, fun, and people of all different ages coming together to enjoy good music. I can see why Xponential Festival has so many dedicated fest-goers, and they have certainly won this writer over for next year!