This weekend, more than 40 acts will take to stages in Camden's Wiggins Park, culminating with Sunday's finale by Joan Osborne. Performers range from local favorites such as Mutlu, Amos Lee, and the Brakes - whose freewheeling yet sturdy pop-rock has made them a popular live act - to genre-defying musical storyteller Alejandro Escovedo, and hip-hop/funk band Michael Franti & Spearhead.
The XPN festival has come a long way since its 1994 Penn's Landing debut, which featured only nine acts over two days. LaMay said that more than 20,000 people could attend this year's event, depending on the weather.
"We moved across the river to Camden in 2005 to give us more space; we added a second stage in 2006, and we started staggering performances last year so people could see more acts," LaMay said. "Each year, we try to make it a little better; a little different."
New for this year is the Village Green, a designated area with information about eco-friendly products being offered by area businesses. Kid-friendly performers will take over the four-acre Camden Children's Garden beginning at noon Saturday and Sunday. And for the second year, a Crafts Village featuring dozens of vendors will be set up at the Wiggins Park marina.
"It's a labor of love to put this event on, but we view it as the heart of what we do," LaMay said, adding that WXPN members can take advantage of a meet-and-greet area to chat with some of the performers and enjoy complimentary nonalcoholic beverages.
Alt-country songstress Shelby Lynne, who last performed at the XPN festival in 2000, said by phone that she and her band "absolutely can't wait" to take to the River Stage at 6:20 p.m. Sunday.
"We come on a little later, which is perfect for me to sing Dusty Springfield songs," said Lynne, whose highly praised Phil Ramone-produced Just a Little Lovin' offers her takes on Springfield's best-known songs. "Some of those songs are pretty sultry; the mood will be just right." Lynne says fans can expect to hear songs from all phases of her career during her set.
"I'm there to give the people what they want, which I'm guessing is a little bit of everything," she said, adding that she and WXPN, which has championed her career since her early days as a western-swing singer, share a common trait: "We're mavericks who break the rules and play whatever we want."
Singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet, who hits the stage at 7:10 tonight, said he was looking forward to winning over some new fans during his 40-minute set. "At a festival like this, I'm not just preaching to the converted, which is cool," Prophet said, praising WXPN for "never underestimating their audience's desire to hear new, different stuff. And for a musician like me, that translates into something huge."
Self-described "swinger-songwriter" Jim Bianco, whose old-school jazz- and blues-infused songs are known for their smart-aleck lyrics and catchy melodies, agrees that XPN's support is immeasurable for nonmainstream acts.
"Playing this [festival] is nothing short of a fabulous opportunity," said Bianco, scheduled to appear at 6:40 tonight. "My whole career is about converting the unconverted and catching their ear, so I'm totally ready to go."
Escovedo, who cowrote his acclaimed, autobiographical/ rock-infused new album, Real Animal, with Prophet, will perform at 8:20 tonight at the River Stage, backed by a five-member band that includes a cellist and violinist.
"Without the support of stations like 'XPN, it's hard to find a forum on the airwaves for an artist like myself," Escovedo said, adding that he'll focus on tracks from the new album tonight, "but there's always a chance of doing some covers, you never know."
XPoNential Music Festival
Today Gates open at 4 p.m.
The Brakes 5 to 5:30 p.m.; Dar Williams 6 to 6:40 p.m.; Chuck Prophet 7:10 to 7:50 p.m.; Alejandro Escovedo 8:20 to 9 p.m.; Beth Orton 9:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Kuf Knotz & the Hustle 4:30 to 5 p.m.; the Refugees 5:30 to 6 p.m.; Jim Bianco 6:40 to 7:10 p.m.; the War on Drugs 7:50 to 8:20 p.m.; the Redwalls 9 to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday Gates open at noon
The Spinto Band 1:50 to 2:20 p.m.; Angel Band 2:50 to 3:30 p.m.; Teddy Thompson 4 to 4:40 p.m.; Nicole Atkins 5:10 to 5:50 p.m.; Railroad Earth 6:20 to 7 p.m.; Amos Lee 7:30 to 8:20 p.m.; Michael Franti & Spearhead 8:55 to 9:55 p.m.
Cheers Elephant 12:30 to 1 p.m.; Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer 1:20 to 1:50 p.m.; Jesse Ruben 2:20 to 2:50 p.m.; Fooling April 3:30 to 4 p.m.; the Shackeltons 4:40 to 5:10 p.m.; O'Death 5:50 to 6:20 p.m.; Ezra Furman & the Harpoons 7 to 7:30 p.m.; Dean & Britta 8:20 to 8:55 p.m.
Kids Corner Stage*
Bubboon's Tunes noon to 12:45 p.m.; Two of a Kind 1 to 1:45 p.m.; Bill Harley 2 to 2:45 p.m.; John Hadfield 3 to 3:45 p.m.; Steve Pullara & His Cool Beans Band 4 to 4:45 p.m.; Skip Denenberg 5 to 5:45 p.m.; the Great Holtzie throughout the day.
Sunday Gates open at noon
Mutlu 1:50 to 2:20 p.m.; Back Door Slam 2:50 to 3:30 p.m.; Ingrid Michaelson 4 to 4:40 p.m.; Matt Nathanson 5:10 to 5:50 p.m.; Shelby Lynne 6:20 to 7:10 p.m.; Joan Osborne 7:45 to 8:45 p.m.
The Mint 12:30 to 1 p.m.; Dave Barnes 1:20 to 1:50 p.m.; the Loved Ones 2:20 to 2:50 p.m.; the Budos Band 3:30 to 4 p.m.; Madi Diaz 4:40 to 5:10 p.m.; Susan Werner 5:50 to 6:20 p.m.; John Gorka 7:10 to 7:45 p.m.
John Hadfield noon to 12:45 p.m.; Audra Rox 1 to 1:45 p.m.; Kids Corner Birthday Celebration with Kathy O'Connell 2 p.m.; Miss Amy 3 to 3:45 p.m.; Ernie & Neal 4 to 4:45 p.m.; John Flynn 5 to 5:45 p.m.; the Great Holtzie throughout the day.
*Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times while in the Camden Children's Garden. All performances and activities are subject to change based upon weather conditions.
The XPoNential Music Festival is scheduled today, Saturday and Sunday at Wiggins Park on the Camden Waterfront. WXPN members pay $17; nonmembers $25, children ages 2-12, $5. Tickets sold at the door or go online and print tickets up to 9 a.m. the day of the show at www.xpn.org. Information: 215-222-1400.