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While festival season most often focuses on the big festivals across the world (Coachella, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo etc.) one of the things that makes festival season so great is the slew of smaller festivals that dot the country. They allow more localized scenes to come together and celebrate their love of music. One of the best “smaller” festivals in my opinion is the Xponential Music Festival hosted every July in Camden, New Jersey by Philadelphia radio station WXPN. XPN is a public radio station operated by the University of Pennsylvania and is member supported which means that everything they do is for the music and for the listeners. For local and emerging bands, college and public radio (especially a combo station like XPN) are where careers start, and XPN has launched more than one career, that’s for sure. The Xponential Music Festival is one of the best places to find local Philly acts as well as great national acts. This year’s festival headliner was Beck, following last year’s headliner Bob Dylan.

When I saw “smaller festival” I am using that as a relative term.

For anyone in the area, Xponential is a must-attend. The atmosphere can’t be beat, and supporting a cause like public/college radio is the best way to support music. This year’s festival was held at the Camden Waterfront from July 25th-27th, and I found myself there for the 8th year. Yeah, that’s how great it is. I loved absolutely every second of my time at the waterfront, but for those of you were not able to attend, here were my highlights.

Friday

Lucius


This was my second time seeing Brooklyn band Lucius and twice is not by any means enough. Their soaring two-part harmonies and matching outfits, combined with the vaguely nostalgic melodies make for one of the most fun live shows I have ever experienced. Put all of that up against the glittering Delaware river with the Philly skyline in the background and absolutely nothing can beat it.

Saturday

Dawes

Dawes was supposed to play at the XPN festival last year but due to some torrential rain, they were bumped from the festivities. I was so excited to see that they made the bill again this year because they are another killer live band. I am a sucker for lyrics and Dawes seriously delivers. I was crying before the second song even started (but what else is new?).

Jenny Lewis


I have seen Jenny Lewis a few times, but once she came out on stage at the Susquehanna Bank Center in a Krispy Kreme hat, I knew this set was going to be one of the best. She played a mix of old and new songs (including her latest single “Just One of the Guys“) as well as a sprinkling of Rilo Kiley hits, which definitely pleased the crowd. Who doesn’t love a powerhouse female singer? People I have no business wanting to know, that’s who.

Sunday

The Lawsuits


Philly locals/long haired dreamboats took the stage on Sunday and delivered a great set, per usual. I got the chance to interview them back in October, and ever since then they have completely won my heart. Take a listen above and let them win over yours.

Man Man


There is always one band on the smaller stage that draws such a massive crowd, you can tell that they will be headlining the big stage before too long. This year that band was Man Man who’s show is so infectiously fun there is no wonder they had such a massive crowd. It would be impossible to just walk by this band.

The Districts


When listening to The Districts, I always forget that they are so young. Due to their youth, Sunday night’s opening spot at the Susquehanna Bank Center was their guitarist last show so he could pursue higher education. Opening for Beck, what a way to go, right? The Districts made a massive jump from playing one of the smaller stages last year, and if they continue with the momentum they have been building, there is no doubt the will be headlining within the next few years. And they will have definitely earned it.

Will you be at Xponential Music Festival next year?


photo via Chynna Mela