[ATTENDED: July 22-24, 2016] XPN Fest
Even though I go to a lot of shows, I don’t really love Festivals. I actually enjoy concerts too much to enjoy Festivals. Which sounds dumb, but I’d rather see a band I like on their own play for a full set than for 30 minutes with a bunch of people who don’t really want to see them.
I’ve been to a few festivals over the years, and I have thought about going to other ones, but since I typically don’t want to spend a few days in the sun (and a few hundred dollars), I don’t go.
But the past two years we have seen some great headlining acts at XPN Fest. And we thought it would be fun to go for the day, bring the kids and just have a fun day outside with music and vendors. We bought tickets before the lineup was even announced.
WXPN members get half-priced tickets (which is cheaper than some of the regular shows I’ve been to) and kids’ tickets are $15 for the three days. Perfect.
In the past, I have loved most of the headliners, but this year I didn’t really like any of them. The three day pass includes lawn seats to the headliners, but we wound up not using them at all.
I planned to go on Friday night because I really wanted to see Father John Misty. And I figured I would stick around and see Kurt Vile, the one artist I was actually interested in seeing on the headline stage. I was torn between seeing Colvin & Earle or Tommy Stinson during the interim (although when I saw that Stinson was playing his own stuff, not Replacements songs, that made the decision a little easier). But I wound up leaving work late (Misty went on at 6:30) and it was very hot, so I bailed. I knew they were streaming the shows live, but when I clicked on the radio, there was no Father John. Then I found out that he basically went on a huge rant about the state of the world, played two songs (neither of them his) and then left after about 30 minutes.
So that meant the festival would be Saturday and Sunday for us. The Saturday line-up was pretty exciting for me. I imagined seeing all five bands on the Marina Stage (strange that I liked the bands on the smaller stage better than the larger one). Realistically I knew that my kids wouldn’t enjoy hanging out in one spot for 6 hours, but thought that just maybe they’d get int the spirit of things and just dance around and have a good time (not to be). The lineup was Kississippi (a local Philly band who I rather like), Esmé Patterson (who we saw), Darlingside (who we saw), The Record Company (who has one song that I really like although I don’t know much else by them) and David Wax Museum (who wound up playing Sunday instead).
Well, we wound up leaving later in the morning than I thought we would and with parking (and a delicious stop at the Krispy Kreme), we missed Kississippi altogether (but lucky for me they are playing at Musikfest in Bethlehem).
We arrived, got our wristbands, and that’s when I realized that the XPN Fest might just be the best festival ever. Especially if you are a member of the station. In addition to them letting you bring pretty much any food or beverage into the festival, the event was sponsored by a bunch of local and national companies. Like Turkey Hill, who provided free cups of delicious gelato all weekend. And yes, I will single them out as being awesome sponsors. We must have eaten about a dozen of these cups in various flavors which were delicious and perfect on a super hot day. They also provided tiny bottles of iced tea. Other vendors had chips and water bottles and all manner of other goodies that my kids loved grabbing.
But here’s where the festival totally kicks ass. If you are a member, there is a members only area that provides free water throughout the festival (I believe that there was another spot for non members to refill bottles). But amazingly, you could hang out in this area (in the shade) as much as you liked. This was also where the meet and greets took place. On top of that, there was a tent with free drinks from Turkey Hill (again). They had large bottles of their new Haymaker Punch (and yup, I’ll mention them by because of how much I drank of it). And it was there for the asking–various flavors of tea and punch and all of them quite good. I can’t even conceive how much free stuff they gave away over the weekend.
There was also some rather yummy Pepsi product called 1893. (According to an ad site, “the cola is made from kola nut extract, “real sugar” and sparkling water, with a touch of “aromatic bitters.” A ginger cola version includes “real ginger”). And that was flowing freely and was really tasty.
I realized that we didn’t pay for anything at the Fest on the first day (except for trinkets and souvenirs)–unheard of at a Festival. On Sunday we bought lunch from some of the booths. And the food was pretty good–lots of varieties and while certainly festival priced, not outrageous (and since you didn’t have to buy drinks, that was okay).
After Esmé Patterson, we wandered around some and this is when we learned some other cool things about the Festival. The River Stage is the larger one, it’s more or less centrally located and you can hear music on it from just about anywhere in the park. The Marina Stage is only a short walk away. They never have bands concurrently, so yo don’t miss anything. Nice.
As we were wandering around, The Revivalists were onstage at the River Stage. I didn’t know anything about them and wasn’t really that interested in them, but as we were walking around I realized just how good they were. Their songs were fun and solid and, from the recap it sounds like it was a blast that we should have stayed to watch. After Darlingside, we planned to take advantage of the location of the Festival to go to the Adventure Aquarium, which is adjacent to the park.
On the way there The Felice Brothers took the stage. I don’t really know them that well, but it turned out that they lost power to the stage and instead of calling it quits, they went into the audience and played the rest of their set acoustically, which is pretty cool.
Since we bought a membership to the Aquarium this year, we were able to walk in at 4 PM and not feel bad that we’d be there for just an hour. After going across the shark bridge and seeing the new penguins, we planned to head back to the Festival for David Wax Museum and maybe Josh Ritter. And that’s when we noticed that it was pouring outside. A huge thunderstorm had come through Philly, shutting down everything.
We hung out in the Aquarium until it stopped. Then we decided to go to the Camden Children’s Garden because Kathy from Kids Corner was going to be there. As we walked in, we saw that people were all milling about outside of the Festival gates–they had removed everyone from the grounds for safety reasons. No real news was forthcoming, we weren’t sure if we would be allowed in. There was talk of more storms coming. And worse yet, Kathy had already left. So we hung out in the garden and then it started raining. Really really hard. We hid under a tent and talked to two super nice young women (never got your names, but it was fun talking with you) and three other people ho were talking very loudly about politics (and making me embarrassed to be from New Jersey). When the sun finally came out, we had lost our momentum and decided to call it quits despite wanting to see David and Josh.
Well, it turned out that not only did both of those sets get cancelled (I guess Josh Ritter never played at all), but the flash flood completely turned the roads by the parking lot into a river! That, combined with an accident on the Ben Franklin Bridge, made it a pretty slow trek home. It made us wonder if we should have stayed, but clearly we made the right choice.
For Sunday, again, I had hoped to get there in time to see an early show (Diane Coffee, whose set sounds great and the lead singer made some excellent costume changes–see and hear it here)). But we once again left late. This time we went to the Aquarium first to see what we’d missed the day before.
Then we went to the Children’s Garden which was open to members. The spray ground was in full effect (and was much welcomed), an Tabby got to meet Kathy (Tabby has called in a few times and was delighted to meet the host). Then after some lunch, we managed to get over to the stage to watch The Districts. For some reason, their set started late and so when they ended we had to rush over to see David Wax. And then we made plans to go home–get some more free drinks and hit the Children’s Garden for a splash on the way out.
But we had to make another stop in the XPN photo both. All weekend long, anything that you hashtagged #xpnfest was printed from their tiny printer (a 1×2 sized print) which you could keep. And they were taking select photos and making a mural out of them. That’s what’s at the top of the post–the finished mural of everyone’s photos. That’s pretty cool (see a less cluttered photo at the bottom).
While we were filling up and looking at photos, Mavis Staples was playing on the River Stage. Our friends has just seen her open for Bob Dylan and they said she was great. And indeed she was (although I have to admit that I (and Sarah and the kids) thought it was a man singing–her voice is pretty intense). We could hear her all through the grounds and even into the Childrens’ Garden. And boy did she have power and energy to spare. I regret now not staying to dance with her (although we had a great time in the Garden, so, pros and cons to both).
And we left with no trouble.
Incidentally, I learned that parking from 11-3PM is $10 and if you arrive after 3PM, XPN technically ends and Live Nation takes over and they charge $30 to park! So in future, make sure you get there early! (We arrived at 12, so no worries there).
Aside from tickets and some CDs and bracelets, we didn’t spend very much. And we got a ton of free drinks and ice cream. And, since my kids love this sort of thing, we came home with about 12 pairs of sunglasses, 15 water bottles, 5 cooling pads, 3 moisture wicking headbands, chip clips, about 6 carabiners, some key rings, magnets, and more bags than we knew what to do with.
We will definitely go back next year, and I will be less snobby about needing to sit and watch the bands I want to see and maybe I’ll just enjoy the music and the atmosphere as I walk around. (Maybe).
Some setlists from bands we didn’t get to see:
Wish I Knew You
All The Young Girls
Down With The Current / 6 As You
I Dig You
Mavis Staples Setlist
If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)
Take Us Back
Love and Trust
Touch a Hand, Make a Friend
I’ll Take You There
And here’s an official photo of the mural (wonder if any of our pictures are in there).