Meet XPoNential Music Festival Friday's Sept 22nd Lineup

Pictured Above: Don McCloskey.  Photo Credit: Bryan Karl Lathrop Photography

This article is the second installment in a four-part series dedicated to WXPN's 30th anniversary of the XPoNential Music Festival, authored by Lori Goldstein. Join us tomorrow as we offer an exclusive preview of the upcoming Saturday performers!

The Friday, Sept. 22 lineup includes Old Crow Medicine Show, Margo Price, and Say She She. Arts News Now writer, Lori Goldstein spoke with Philly locals Don McCloskey and Nik Greeley of Nik Greeley & The Operators.

By: Lori Goldstein

Don McCloskey, a singer-songwriter born and bred in Bristol, PA, is on the heels of releasing his fourth studio album, The Chaos and The Beauty. “First in Flight,” the lead single from the album–with the recognizable South African sounds heard on Paul Simon’s Graceland–was featured in the Season 2 finale of Apple TV’s Mythic Quest.

Don’s songs have appeared in film and television, including the hit comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which stars his longtime high school friend Rob McElhenney. In 2008, when Don invited the cast to perform their musical episode, “The Nightman Cometh,” at his two Troubadour shows in L.A., they became the fastest sellouts in the club’s history. Don and the band open for the cast once again on Sept. 23 at the Mann Center as part of the It’s Always Sunny Podcast LIVE!

Growing up in the area, Don’s connection to WXPN was “as a listener first. They’ve always had great programming, the DJ is still the tastemaker, and I love the community aspect—it’s listener-supported. The festival is an extension of their priorities and values as a station.” Don’s relationship with the station has grown over the years. He remembers when John Vettese, the producer of WXPN’s Key Studio Sessions, attended early performances of The Chaos and the Beauty live at Fergie’s on 14th and Sansom last April.  He and the band have since appeared on the station’s Key Studio Sessions, the Free at Noon concert series, and WXPN “Welcomed” their sold-out album release show at Ardmore Music Hall.

Don thinks Philadelphia “should be spoken in the same breath as Nashville. There is and always has been a lot of great music coming out of Philadelphia across many genres. WXPN plays a huge part in that legacy, both introducing artists from all over the world to Philly music lovers, and Philly artists to music lovers all over the world.” This is the first XPoNential Music Festival appearance for McCloskey and his 8-piece band.

Pictured Above: Nik Greeley of Nick Greeley and the Operators.  Photo Credit: Contributed

Nik Greeley and the Operators are known for being “arguably the best funk, rock, soul, horn band in Philadelphia”—their words of course! They’ve been together for seven years, and for the past five, have played the Funk ‘n Bowl at the North Bowl on 2nd Street, which Nik regards as “some of the best musical nights of my life.”  One of the best days of his life was when Nik performed with Swift Technique—”the funk band in Philly at the time”—at the 2018 XPoNential Festival, with his idol David Byrne as a headliner.

Nik’s first connection to WXPN was when he was 16, cruisin’ around after school with his older friend Freshy, who had a drivers’ license.  Freshy turned the radio dial and it landed on 88.5. It was super funky–because it was “Funky Friday” with host Dan Reed.  At 21, Nik was in the band Black Stars. He sent their song “Leave Me Alone” to Dan with the note, “Dan, I think you would dig this.  And if you do, it would be a big thrill to have our song plugged on your show.” Dan got back to him, “I do dig this, it’ll be on at 4:15, tune in.” Nik and his coworkers at a liquor store in Marlton, NJ, turned on the boombox and got the thrill of their lives.

Nik just released his solo EP, Scatterbrain, on Sept. 1, teaming up with Barney Cortez, an exceptional songwriter and guitarist.  The songs are a reflection of the work Nik’s done to improve his mental health during pre- and post-pandemic times.  The EP ends with the catchy “Time Out of Mind,” “perhaps the best pop song I’ve ever crafted.”  For the Festival, frontman Nik Greeley and the Operators will have the audience dancing, juices flowing, with their irresistible big band sound.

Pictured Above: Christine Havrilla & Gypsyfuzz.  Photo Credit: Contributed

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I did not get to interview Philly native, Christine Havrilla, and her band Gypsy Fuzz, but they will performing at the Festival Friday. Christine’s creative work, including three albums and two EPs, deserves attention.  She recorded California Nights, her latest, a four-song EP at The Barn in Lower Bucks County.  She wrote the song “California Night” on her “baritone guitar the 1st day I had it…reminiscing of my drives down the 101 in California & taking in the air, the ocean, the redwoods, the sounds, the vibes…and always feeling refreshed!”

Especially striking on this EP is “Mother It’s Me,” a “heart wrenching song about someone dealing with their mother getting Alzheimer’s.  It was inspired by a script I was given for an indy film being made called Yachatz.

The WXPN XPoNential Music Festival is presented by Subaru.

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