Saturday, July 21, 2007

XPoNenetial Music Festival - Friday

It's strange that while the Northeastern section of the country has many top-class symphonies, museums, and other cultural institutions, it is sorely lacking in big, outdoor, multi-day music festivals. This is especially frustrating since some cities get two such things each summer (Chicago, I'm looking in your direction). Since I'm too cheap and lazy to fly out to Manchester or Indio (and because I suffer from a rare allergy to both hippies and hipsters), I guess I have to settle for WXPN's XPoNential Music Festival, a.k.a. the festival that changes its name more often than Diddy.

Friday's lineup was heavier on the rock than previous years, due to WXPN's partnership with Y-Rock. Due to traffic (since when is the Schuylkill congested?) and getting lost in Camden for a while (which is not a fun thing to do), I missed the first couple of performers. So sorry A-Sides: I had to content myself with listening to your set on the radio. They did set up the theme of the day, however, by remarking about their technical difficulties between songs. At one point, it sounded like they were picking up a police scanner frequency, although that could have been my radio. They also said that their long-awaited album Silver Storms will finally be released in August, which sort of makes it the SMiLE of Philly-area indie-rock. I also missed second-stagers Eastern Conference Champions, whose name makes them sound like a third-rate emo band. This is apparently not true, so my apologies to them for my prejudice.

Sam Roberts Band

I finally arrive at the stage towards the end of their set, so I can't really comment on it. I saw about ten minutes or so, but I think that was entirely taken up by an extended guitar solo. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, though.

G. Love
So Bob Mould was originally scheduled to perform today, but he broke his ankle and had to cancel. The station was teasing that a "special guest" would be appearing in his place, but I was suspicious; how special could the guest be if they could convince him to appear with only a day's notice?

Well, G. Love was apparently in the studio until he drove across the bridge to perform a (very brief) set. You know, about ten years ago people might have been excited to see G. Love without needing to keep us guessing about a mystery guest. (Then again, the crowd seemed genuinely psyched to see him, and some were even bragging about the fact they had tickets to an upcoming show of his, so what do I know?)

Bitter Bitter Weeks
Well, I was interested in seeing these guys, since I've heard good things about them, but was left underwhelmed. I'll try to give a listen to their album before making up my mind. Their between-songs banter was cute, though.

The Switches

I'd never heard of these guys before they took the stage. I had no idea the lead singer was British until he introduced himself a couple of songs into their set (I'm not sure if his nationality is any excuse for that getup he's wearing). Their energetic rock was not exactly moving the crowd, although that's probably more because it was 6 PM and everyone was lounging on the grass, so it's not really their fault.


The antipenultimate slot on the main stage kind of sucks, since the sun is setting behind the band and you're forced to balance your desire to see the show with your desire to find some shade. Cracker's set was heavy on new material (they played "Low" really early) as the crowd shouted out requests that were destined not to be played. The young fans seemed to give it their seal of approval, though:
Cracker was the only band of the day to play an encore.

Incidentally, if Cracker plays a Camper Van Beethoven song, is that technically a cover? David Lowery's project-juggling confuses me.

Fountains of Wayne
Partway through the Fountains of Wayne performance, Adam Schlesinger thanked the crowd for picking his band over the John Mayer concert taking place next door, but anyone who would consider that a dilemma is not someone I'd like to meet. These guys are worth seeing for their on-stage banter alone, with the irresistably hooky power pop as a bonus. I've loved this band since I first heard "Radiation Vibe," and I've stuck with them through obscurity, unexpected ubiquity, and their current status of "just right" (I guess).

During Cracker's set, I saw Jody and Chris hanging around near the stage. I had no intention of barging up and saying anything, so I just attempted to take a discreet picture, after which I felt really creepy.
So much for my career as a paparazzi.

Earl Greyhound
[Note: My camera sucks when it starts to get dark]

Earl Greyhound won the following awards:
  • Most awesome hair
  • Most giant kick drum
  • Most justification for me wearing my earplugs
  • Most sheer face-rocking-off power
  • Most sheer ass-rocking-off power
  • Most disappointment upon announcing they only had time for one more song
  • Most excitement by me to see these guys perform a full set in the near future
The Fratellis
I must say I was surprised by the number and ardor of fans who were waiting to see these guys; I was under the impression that the kids today all listen to My Chemical Fall Out at the Disco. Costello Music has been kicking around on my iPod (how's that for synergy?) for a while now, and while I could only hum a handful of songs if you asked me to, I tend to enjoy them. The band is really tight live, but I guess you'd have to be if your songs included as many tempo changes as theirs do.

The best recommendation I can give for these guys, though, is that by the end of the set even I was engaged in a stiff-limbed approximation of dancing. I'm hopeful that the Fratellis will be able to make a name for themselves without being known as "Those Guys Who Had That One Song in a Commercial."

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