Let Me Entertain You: XPoNential Music Festival 2010 Part 1

My fifth XPoNential Music Festival (technically fourth…the first was still the All About The Music Festival) was as enjoyable as any, even if only a handful of the acts were ones that I just had to see.  Regardless of my personal tastes, each day was packed with enough musical joy to overwhelm any ill-prepared guest.  With my badges signifying my credentials and my swarm of compatriots (radio folks and photographers alike), the weekend blew by in a haze of energetic performances, countless covers and one unforgettable noise jam.

Here are some highlights from Friday, for starters:

Toy Soldiers

As is often the case with XPN’s festival, the whole event was kicked off by a promising local band.  Toy Soldiers, who I had last seen opening for Midlake at the TLA, got the still-arriving crowd into an early frenzy.  Their old-fashioned take on Americana is refreshingly loose and free-spirited, yet they play with virtuosic shamble.  Most of the attendees probably didn’t get there in time to see their set, but Toy Soldiers are bound to become an indispensable part of the Philadelphia scene.

Dutch

Another local band followed Toy Soldiers, albeit one with a very different sound.  Dutch is formed by former members of Jedi Mind Tricks, and specializes in murky electronica, not unlike Mezzanine-era Massive Attack.  While their album, A Bright Cold Day, is an all-around terrific listen, it’s probably better suited to an autumn evening that a sunny July afternoon.  Still, the captivating loops and Liz Fullerton‘s ethereal intonations helped to chill the crowd down in the increasingly blistering heat.  On top of that, their revision of the classic Phillies logo on their t-shirts became the most talked-about merchandise of the weekend.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

Though she’s been an XPN favorite for nearly five years, Grace Potter is finally breaking through on the global stage.  Her new, self-titled album features plenty more of the soulful blues-rock that she used to woo festival goers back in 2006.  Grace has made a few changes to her group (most notably her new blonde ‘do), but no amount of primping for the mainstream can dilute this powerhouse’s fierce stage presence.  The audience was just as floored by Grace’s performance this year as those who saw her previous two appearances.  This is the kind of thing that XPN thrives on: introducing a new artist who continues to give back to the fans who supported her in her earliest days.

Free Energy

One of the number of bands that I was quite excited to see over the weekend was Free Energy.  Sure, I’ve seen them numerous times this year, but I simply cannot get over how much I love this band’s live show.  As I described to several of my fellow audience members, Paul Sprangers is a great frontman because he’s not too over-the-top, and is just showy enough to keep himself from being obnoxious.  Each year, there’s at least one act who, for one reason or another, plays the smaller Marnia stage when they probably could’ve played the main River stage.  Last year, it was Hoots And Hellmouth, this year it was Free Energy.  Whether it’s a simple matter of overbooking or an underestimation of a band’s draw is really neither here nor there, since those bands drew massive crowds to the hill surrounding the Marina stage.  Playing favorites from Stuck On Nothing such as “Dream City,” “Bang Pop” and their theme song, “Free Energy,” the boys showed everyone why they’re one of the city’s fastest rising stars.

Check out Saturday’s acts in Part 2!!

Click HERE for my full Festival gallery!!

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~ by E. on July 20, 2010.

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