[Photo by DAVID SIMCHOCK]
BY MEREDITH KLEIBER The only thing that promises to be more scorching than the weather for the 18th annual XPoNential Music Festival this weekend is the music being played there. WXPN, University of Pennsylvania’s public radio station and home to the beloved World Cafe, will be hosting the three-day festival for a seventh consecutive year at Camden’s Wiggins Park. Festival-goers will enjoy panoramic views of the Philly skyline, particularly breathtaking at sunset, while dancing to musical acts performing on the River Stage. In between River Stage sets, lay your blanket out on the lush grass and listen to the music on the Marina Stage, where the breeze emanating from the water will help to cool things down (and if that doesn’t work, don’t fret — there will be misting tents!). Ticket-holders with restless children can take them next door to the Camden Children’s Garden free of charge for a break from the crowds. And if you’re a member of the station like I am, you’ll probably spend a large chunk of time in the XPN Members-Only Area, where they will be serving complimentary nonalcoholic drinks and you can gussy up for a potential chat with performers. Although all of the music this weekend is sure to be worthy of your attention, listed below is our picks for must-see act for each day of the festival.
North Mississippi Allstars Duo
On Friday night at 7, brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, better known as the North Mississippi Allstars Duo, will take the River Stage by storm (or, more befittingly, by strum). Luther (guitar, vocals) and Cody (drums, keyboards, electric washboard) are taking a short break from their European tour with Robert Plant & The Band of Joy to grace the XPoNential Festival with their bluesy riffs and resonant beats. Presumably they’ll bring it as hard as they do when playing with the full band.
Blues legend Booker T. Jones will be putting his goods on display on Saturday at 6:50 p.m. on the River Stage. And when I say “goods” I don’t mean his three Grammy Awards. He’ll be tearing up the stage with his multi-instrumental prowess, most likely choosing to bang away on his signature keyboard for most of the set, but you’ll have to be there to see what other tricks he pulls out of his wide-brimmed hat. The Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Famer recently released a new album entitled The Road From Memphis, which features collaborations with Sharon Jones, Lou Reed, and Jim James, with backing help from Philly’s own The Roots. And of course he’s gonna play “Green Onions,” which is worth the price of admission all by itself.
While the obvious must-see act on Sunday is Emmylou Harris, Hayes Carll’s 3:35 p.m. set will surely be the dark horse of the day, if not the festival. Carll flies quietly under the radar, combining sometimes humorous, yet ever pensive lyrics with an absorbing concoction of country, rock, and folk reminiscent of the late legends Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt. (Hopefully, dropping the Gram Parsons comparison will summon the music gods to bestow upon us an Emmylou and Hayes collaboration?) In February, the Texas native released his fourth album, KMAG YOYO, which received high praise from the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone. If the lyrics, “I’m like James Brown only white and taller / And all I wanna do is stomp and holler” don’t get you excited, I don’t know what will.
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