XPoNential Music Festival / Camden, NJ

Check out our gallery of XPoNential Music Festival photos below.

The XPoNential Music Festival was originally known as the WXPN Singer Songwriter festival, held at the friendly confines of Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. WXPN, the radio station that produces the festival, was very much known as a “singer/songwriter” station, but both the station and the festival have grown to become much more than that. Having moved across the Delaware River from Penn’s Landing to Wiggins Park on the Camden, New Jersey waterfront, the new location features two excellent stage areas: the main River Stage, with an amazing location right on the river, and the Marina stage. Furthermore, this marks the third year that the nearby Susquehanna Bank Center (a high end indoor/outdoor theater complex) has acted as another venue for the festival.

This year, the festival featured a very diverse list of players, some new, some old, some local, some not. Friday’s schedule included Via and the Revival, Lucius, The Hold Steady (who rocked the house) and Rodrigo y Gabriela. But as a longtime lover of the blues, my star of the night was James Cotton. Although Cotton has been in the business now for nearly seven decades, when he came onto the Marina stage, it was mobbed front, back and sideways. With Darrell Nulisch on vocals and the James Cotton Band backing, we all heard and felt the blues first hand. Caitlin Rose’s “Spare Me” and “Dallas” are great displays of what this young lady from Nashville is made of – she uses her songs to tell stories she has lived. C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band are just that: hot and from Louisiana. There is no mistaking their roots; their Zydeco music is all about the energy – the crowd couldn’t help but dance.

I first saw Dawes a couple of years ago, when they were just breaking out. This wasn’t their first XPoNential festival, and it was obvious that the band and their lyrics have matured. They played a couple of songs they were working on and some existing hits like “Time Spent in Los Angeles.” They bring to mind Jackson Browne – sing a song and tell a story. Ryan Adams, on the other hand, was having a hard time with his guitar and didn’t seem to be enjoying himself, putting a kind of damper on the mood. J. Roddy Walston & the Business rocked the house, and Trigger Hippy with Joan Osborne was fantastic as well, adding to an overall outstanding three days of music.

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– Mark J. Smith

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