WXPN Celebrates 30 Years of The XPoNential Music Festival

Pictured Above: Wednesday, a rock band from Asheville, NC will perform at WXPN’S XPoNential Music Festival. Set to preform on Saturday 9/23  Photo Credit: Contributed.

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

By: Lori Goldstein

Who better to ask about WXPN’s 30th anniversary XPoNential Music Festival than Assistant Station General Manager for programming and Host Bruce Warren, who’s been with 88.5 for 34 years? “The passion has always been there, from the folks onstage, the DJs, to everybody behind the scene.  We’ve grown because of our members, that’s the bottom line.” Bruce remembers when the first festival, originally called Singer Songwriter Weekend in 1993, was located at Penn’s Landing.  In 1995 it became the All About the Music Festival. In 2007 it morphed into the XPoNential Music Festival and was relocated to Wiggins Park, on the Camden waterfront.

This year the festival will feature 24 headliners and rising Philly locals, Sept. 22-24. “We support artists and their careers for as long as they keep making music,” says Bruce. “The Old Crow Medicine Show, The Hold Steady, and Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band—they’re really good examples of artists/musicians that we’ve had long-standing relationships with, because we’re in the artist development business, we’re not about just playing the hit song.”

Pictured Above: Assistant Station General Manager and Host, Bruce Warren.  Photo Credit: Joe delTufo

“We have an amazing lineup, it’s like you have to pick your favorite cake.  People are going to be blown away by Celisse,” says Bruce, in much the same way Christone “Kingfish” Ingram wowed audiences with his guitar pyrotechnics a few years back, I add.  “I think people are going to go out of their minds.  Blues/rock guitarist, with gospel touches.  She can play the guitar like nobody’s business. I think people are going to say, ‘what the heck just happened?’”

Using a double-negative, I ask: doesn’t WXPN try not to have mass appeal? “Let me tell you a story I tell often,” says Bruce.  “My sister is a year younger than me. Her musical tastes stopped growing when she got to college. My point being, WXPN’s not for everybody, because there are some people who like to continue to learn and discover new music. We play familiar music, but really at the end of the day, it’s about new music for ‘XPN.”

Pictured Above: General Manager Roger LaMay. Photo Credit: Joe del Tufo

General Manager Roger LaMay explains the new format for the 30th year.  “Our crowd loves Wiggins Park.  Let’s go back to our beginnings a little bit, and we can do it all on our own with our friends from Camden.” Up through last summer, the evening’s headliners would perform in the venue now called The Freedom Mortgage Pavilion adjacent to the Park, while other performances were still happening on the marina and waterfront stages. Thus there will be no overlap with a two-stage format: while one band is packing up on one stage, another will begin its performance on the other.

Roger’s enthusiastic about not just the headliners, but also the up-and-coming bands and artists. “It’s always about the band you hadn’t heard of.  I’m excited about the band Say She She, who had played at our Non-Comm.  There’s a lot of excitement about the band Wednesday from Asheville, North Carolina.  Allison Russell is extraordinary, and Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie always puts on a great show.”

What makes you happy about what the station has accomplished? I ask.

“I would say we’ve been able to steadily grow our impact on the local music scene.  We want artists to feel that one of those [benefits] of being raised in Philadelphia is that there’s WXPN. I think we make a difference for the artists and the audiences here. That’s what I’m most proud of.”


Purchase 3-day, single-day, and kids’ passes online at xpnfest.org.  Become a WXPN member and get discount ticket prices.  Consider taking public transportation: the RiverLink Ferry or the River Line Park & Ride to Wiggins Park at 1 Riverside Drive, Camden, NJ.

The Friday, Sept. 22 lineup includes Old Crow Medicine Show, Margo Price, and Say She She. I spoke with Philly locals Don McCloskey and Nik Greeley of Nik Greeley & The Operators. Tune back in with us next week to hear what Don McCloskey and Nik Greeley had to say!

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