This weekend is WXPN’s 11th annual XPoNential Music Festival taking place at Wiggins Park and the Susquehanna Bank Center just across the Delaware River from Philly in Camden, NJ. The 3-day festival is showcasing some of the best live acts around, both big and small. Here are the Top 10 acts that you cannot miss this weekend at XPN Fest:
10. Vita and the Woolf – Saturday – 12:00pm – Marina Stage
Philly’s Vita and the Woolf is the brain child of Jennifer Pague. Pague uses her incredibly impressive voice and intertwines it with synthesized soul/dance beats to make beautiful pop songs. She a Florence Welch-esque voice that surprises you every time she sings a note and she’s sure to wow the XPN crowd who get there early enough to catch her noon set on Saturday.
9. First Aid Kit –Saturday – 3:20pm – River Stage
Swedish sisters First Aid Kit are another must-see. Despite growing up in Sweden they developed a love for classic country tunes. You can hear nuanced tributes to that sound throughout their records, and even more overtly in their ode to their idols in “Emmylou.” Their most recent album Stay Gold is fantastic and really highlights how well they can meld their voices. They have also been doing a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” on this tour- so that should be interesting.
8. Field Report – Saturday – 1:10pm – Marina Stage
Field Report is an Americana act led by Christopher Porterfield. Porterfield is a great songwriter who wears his emotions on his sleeve during his songs. His songs sound hugely personal and are impressively relatable. Porterfield came through Philly in April opening for Joe Pug at Boot & Saddle promoting his most recent release, Marigolden. He stole the show that night and promised that when he came back for XPN Fest he’d bring the whole band and to expect something new.
7. Son Little – Saturday – 2:40pm – Marina Stage
Philly’s Aaron Livingston, aka Son Little, has received most of his notoriety by working with other Philly musicians from The Roots to RJD2. Now, Livingston has released his first EP on his own and is off and running. Son Little is an incredibly interesting project fusing soul, rock, blues and funk. His song “The River” is one of those tunes that makes you halt in your tracks. He is sure to be a fan favorite on Saturday.
6. Fly Golden Eagle – Saturday – 4:10pm – Marina Stage
Nashville’s Fly Golden Eagle is Brittany Howard’s favorite band. Brittany Howard has great taste in music. Their latest release, Quartz¸ is a killer album, but the songs are brought to new heights on stage. Front man Ben Trimble is an impressive performer and he owns whatever stage he is on. Fly Golden Eagle were one of the highlights of WXPN’s Non-Commvention this year and undoubtedly made enough of an impression to be brought back for XPNFest.
5. The Lone Bellow – Saturday – 2:25pm – River Stage
The Lone Bellow is a three-piece from Brooklyn that released their second full-length album, Then Came The Morning, in January. All three share the singing duties and their voices work together wonderfully. The project started when Zach William’s wife suffered a horseback riding accident that left her a quadriplegic and Williams took to writing and playing the guitar to cope. Williams’ wife has thankfully since recovered and the band has taken off. They played a sold out Underground Arts in March and blew the room away. The band has a ton of fun on stage and it is infectious in the crowd. They even nailed a cover of Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You” during the show as a shout out to the city of brotherly love.
4. The Word – Friday – 8:15pm –River Stage
It’s possible that the most fun set of the weekend will be one of the first sets of the weekend. The Word, the super group including Robert Randolph, John Medeski and the North Mississippi All Stars, bring together incredible musicians with a serious knack for high quality performances to perform mostly instrumental gospel blues. These guys’ main projects are all major acts in their own right, so having the opportunity to see them play together on Friday will be a real treat.
3. Dawes – Friday – 10:05pm – River Stage
Old faithful. XPN-favorites Dawes returns again to headline Friday night at Wiggins Park. Fresh off the release of their newest record, All Your Favorite Bands, the americana stalwarts return to Philly for XPN Fest. The new record is a perfect display of Taylor Goldsmith’s talent as a songwriter. The new songs are mellow and nuanced, but contain the potential to really be explored live. Great songwriting, expert musicianship and an always fun sing-a-long to “When My Time Comes” is a great recipe for one of the best shows of the weekend.
2. Courtney Barnett – Sunday – 3:55pm – River Stage
Courtney Barnett is blowing the f*ck up right now. The Australian has been through Philly a few times the past couple years and the crowds don’t seem to stop growing. After selling out Union Transfer last month, Barnett returns to the XPN fest stage while still on tour promoting her most recent album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. It is not only a great album name, but a killer album as well- on my shortlist for 2015 album of the year. Her grungy storytelling is enhanced in the live setting into a gritty, sweaty, controlled mess – the way rock and roll deserves to be. Courtney Barnett will undoubtedly turn more heads this weekend and continue her meteoric rise.
1. My Morning Jacket – Saturday, 9:30pm – Susquehanna Bank Center
My Morning Jacket is THE BEST live act in America right now. I can see all the eye rolls from here. In January, I attended MMJ’s One Big Holiday resort festival experience in Mexico. I walked into the event as a big Jacket fan and I left there realizing that there is no better live band out today. In the midst of a massive worldwide tour for their most recent release, The Waterfall, MMJ has been crushing set after set with career-spanning set lists at every stop. XPN has promoted this show as a full MMJ show and not a shortened festival set, so I would expect at least two hours, hopefully more. My Morning Jacket will be headlining at the Susquehanna Bank Center on Saturday night. If you listen to anything I say, make it this: DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW.
Tickets are still available at xpnfest.org