review and photos by Matt Kelchner
The weekend leading up to the Democratic National Convention takeover in Philadelphia, local stalwarts of the music scene here brought their annual three-day celebration across the river in Camden. The XPoNential Music Festival presented by Subaru brought an eclectic mix of artists across the Delaware River, to Wiggins Park and the BB&T Pavilion. With temperatures soaring each day to right around the 100 degrees mark, concertgoers for day after day of music, food, fun, beers and sweltering heat.
After battling traffic commutes and a quick ferry ride over, we made it to Wiggins Park just in time for the now infamous Father John Misty set. What a way to start the festival! There isn’t too much to say that hasn’t already been said. The “performance” wound up being a recurring joke throughout the weekend. After the subsequent remarks following his performance, it’s safe to say that might have been Father John Misty’s last event promoted by WXPN.
We caught a handful of other artists while hopping between the River and Marina Stages before making our way over to BB&T Pavilion. The Suffers helped people get down as the sun began to set, all with an introduction from their longtime friend and the Eagles now defensive end Connor Barwin. The duo of Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle made their debut earlier this year at WXPN’s NomComm and the station brought them back to close out Night One at Wiggins Park.
Walking over to BB&T Pavilion, we caught the final minutes of Tommy Stinson’s set before Kurt Vile took to the stage. The hometown hero played a short set made up material mostly from his last two albums, along with reaching back to Smoke Ring For My Halo for “Jesus Freak”. Guitars buzzing and hair flowing, Vile’s short but sweet set got the crowd ready for the marathon performance from Ryan Adams that was coming up.
“No lectures tonight, let’s have some fun,” Ryan Adams announced as he and his band came out on stage, taking a shot at Father John Misty. With 16 songs and just about two hours later, Adams practically tore the roof off BB&T Pavilion. The career spanning night covered hits like “Shakedown on 9th Street” and “Cold Roses”. Missing completely were any songs from the 1989 cover album released last year. One thing that was definitely not missing was the stage banter. In typically Ryan Adams form, the night was equally filled with stories and jokes. These ranged from smoking weed at his shows to WXPN’s own David Dye. The culminating piece was “Frank Star”, a song completed improvised on the spot.
With day one in the books we made our way back across the river to catch up on rest before venturing back the next day. Father John Misty and Ryan Adams alone made for quite the kick off, let alone all of the other great acts we caught in between. The weekend was full of surprises and Friday night served as the first of many shining examples.