Thursday, August 14, 2014

The 2014 XPoNential Music Festival Presented by Subaru AWARDS: - a festival recap

The 21st Edition of WXPN's Summer Music Festival was quite the success!  Just a little lightning Sunday night was the only scare as the entire weekend went off without a hitch. No storm, no sick artists, great crowds, happy crowds, and incredible performances.   There was so much to see, it's near impossible to recap it all.  

So, for our best attempt to hit all the high points, here are The 2014 XPoNential Music Festival Presented by Subaru  AWARDS:

Photo by Dan McGurk
Best Performance:  Hands down this was Man Man.  The Marina Stage was overrun by fans to eager to see Man Man, many of whom skipped the entire Lake Street Dive set, even cheering on the band's sound check.  Honus, Pow, Shono, and Brown Sugar put on an inspired show geared toward blowing minds.  Taking all the hits from On Oni Pond and mixing in more of their ongoing collection, the hometown Philly band had the intensity and moves of a luchador wrestler with outfits to match.  Don't confuse the intensity with gimmicks; Man Man was engaging and made connections with all the fans.  If you were not a fan before the show, there was no way they could have escaped your attention.  The fans were so frenzied they completely drowned out emcee Helen Leicht begging for an encore! 

Photo By Dan McGurk
Photo by Jeff Coon

Photo by Jeff Coon

Photo by Jeff Coon

Photo by Jeff Coon

Best Set:  J Roddy Walston & The Business.  
The set by Baltimore rockers J Roddy Walston & The Business gave seven reasons to be totally into this band.  Seven songs, all hits!  One rocker after another, these guys riled up the crowd with songs from their self-titled debut and last fall's Essential Tremors including "Don't Break The Needle", "Heavy Bells", and "Same Days".   No filler, no covers, J Roddy Walston came, rocked, and conquered.   It will be no small stretch to imagine the TLA filled with XPoNential Fest T-shirt wearing fans on November 8th, when J Roddy Walson & the Business come back to town

J Roddy Walson & The Business - photo by Dan McGurk

Best Hello Again:  Signaling how much artists like love working with WXPN, Nicole Atkins, Dave Hause, The Hold Steady, Ingrid Michaelson, The Districts, Joan Osborne, Diego Garcia, and Marah all made return trips to XPoNential Music Festival, but Dawes made a memorable 4th appearance.  Previously they played the 2010 River Stage, 2012 River Stage, and in 2013 were set for the River Stage, but set was cancelled due to storms.  Later that night, they joined My Morning Jacket at Susquehanna Bank Center Amphitheater to make the best of their trip to Camden, NJ.

For their fourth appearance Dawes had a short but sweet set which opened the 2014 SBC portion of the XPoNential Music Festival.  They played favorites "From A Window Seat", 'Time Spent In Los Angeles", "When My Time Comes", and "Most People" plus brand new song "Things Happen".

Best Goodbye:  The Districts said hello again to their WXPN family, playing their second XPoNential Festival opening for Band of Horses and Beck on Sunday .  However, at the end of the set at SBC they said goodbye to their brother of many years.  Guitarist Mark Larson played his last show with the Districts stepping away from the young band on a crazy journey.

Best opener:
Commonwealth Choir - Photo by Jeff Coon
Our Griffins - photo by Jeff Coon
Holy hell, this is a crazy one and no clear winner.  At first glance, it seemed WXPN followed a somewhat obvious model here: put the local band first, so we can check them off the list.  Yeah, but they didn't. In a lot of cases, the band that starts of the festival each day isn’t one that’s going to be remembered down the line, but what XPoNential Music Festival had was some amazing bands to start off each day.  There was no room for stragglers at this festival, as the lineups rocked from the start every stage/every day.   

On Friday, Lucius opened the River stage before an incredible evening lineup with The Hold Steady and Rodrigo y Gabriela.   Dawes and The Districts had the distinction of opening up at Susquehanna Bank Center Saturday and Sunday respectively.  Back at Wiggins Park on Saturday Our Griffins start off the marina stage and Commonwealth Choir the River stage, before a full day of great bands.  Likewise on Sunday Ginger Coyle and The Lawsuits made many people regret staying up so late the night before with their start-off spots!  All in all, there was no reason to show up late to this feast.  The lineup was solid beginning to end, leaving no spots to skip bands or find time to rest with these rousing bands kicking off each day.

Ginger Coyle - Photo by Dan McGurk

The Lawsuits - photo by Dan McGurk

Ingrid Michaelson - photo by Dan McGurk
Best Line-up:
Damn WXPN nailed it. I remember before the fest thinking: “yeah, they've got some bands I absolutely love on a local (The Districts, The Lawsuits, Our Griffins, Commonwealth Choir) and national level (J Roddy Walston & The Business, Lucius, Beck, Dawes) and bands I'm really curious about seeing (Man Man, Strand of Oaks, Ginger Coyle), but how can they compare to the incredible XPoNential '13?

Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff  - photo by Jeff Coon
WXPN did a great job of expanding my musical horizon in so many directions. Lots of bands, that I wasn't giving enough credit to, did fantastic jobs. Who knew that Rodrigo Y Gabriela were festival headlining strength, but damn, they were! (See BEST COVER below) Who knew that Ingrid Michaelson had some sass and brought a fun band with her to rock the River stage? Who knew that Lake Street Dive was cool enough to get the only encore of the Wiggins park side of the fest? Who knew Caitlin Rose was equally cute and talented? Who knew that Nicole Atkins has been channeling Stevie Nicks? Who knew Ginger Coyle would smile her way into the audience's attention and woo them with her songs? Who knew The Lawsuits would rock so hard (ok I knew that, but you get the point)

Everywhere you looked on the line-up it was a band you needed to know (Our Griffins, Lucius, Commonwealth Choir; a band you might not have caught onto before (Jeremy Messersmith, The Hold Steady, Old 97’s, The Lawsuits), legends (James Cotton, Trigger Hippy) and new hip popular artists that were doing the festival circuit (Hurray For the Riff Raff, Lake Street Dive, Band of Horses, Houndmouth, and more).  Kudos XPN!

Best Visit To My Youth:  BeckAlthough he didn't bite on my offer to hang before the set, the set was amazing.  To quote John Vettese over at the Key "He played “Derbra.” He played freaking “Debra.” Unbelievable."  Seriously, he only skipped over Mutations in his career spanning set.  He could have gone all Beck on us, and played songs from Song Reader or just songs from Morning Phase but seeing as how he hasn't been to Philly/Camden in years.  He did made up for it with a best of.  While "Debra" blew many a mind, "Beercan" was the hat tip to the serious fans taking the non-hit and making it a party anthem!

Best Beard:  We'll let you decide:
Will Chamuris of Commonwealth Choir - Photo by Dan McGurk

Brendan Cunningham of The Lawsuits - Photo by Jeff Coon

Tim Showalter - Strand of Oaks - Photo By Jeff Coon

Longest Commute:  XPoNential attendees may have been surprised to find the little treat from across the pond. London's Bear's Den took the Marina Stage in the afternoon, amongst the many local acts throughout the fest. Impressing the crowds despite the heat of the sun bearing down on us. They even played the growing crowd favorite, "Elysium," who's breathtaking video has been making it's rounds on the interwebs as of late. Bear's Den have been busy touring this year, having just been in Philly back in March for Communion Philly's Clubnight. Rumour has it that their debut album announcement may be coming up soon...  (by Carolyn Lederach)

Bear's Den

Rodrigo y Gabriela - photo by Jeff Coon
Best Cover: This is a serious toss up.  It could be either Lake Street Dive with their Hall & Oates "Rich Girl" encore or Beck taking on "Billie Jean" each getting major attention, but Friday night's headliners Rodrigo y Gabriela take the prize with some crazy covers ranging from Pink Floyd to Metallica to Radiohead.  The covers were remarkable for many reasons, the most significant was the out of character vocals by Rodrigo for Stone Temple Pilots, "Creep" and Red Hot Chili Peppers "Breaking The Girl", that really brought it home.  Not only did they go a little off-radar, but with this instrumental group actually singing a few lyrics was the cherry-on-top!

Rodrigo y Gabriela - photo by Jeff Coon

Best Family Experience \ Fan :  Lucius
XPoNential Festival, is hands down the best experience for all music fans.  From the wonderful care WXPN takes for it's members with the free drinks, meet & greets, and $5 youth tickets; it's a great way to bring a child to the show for just a bit without crushing the budget.  This year I took my daughter to see one of her favorites, the gorgeous Lucius.  

She loved every minute of the set.  She loved getting in line to meet them.  She loves listening to the LP and and treasures the experience! - Photo by Rachel Barrish

Photo by Patti Wyatt
1. Genevieve (Lucius EP)
2. Tempest
3. Nothing Ordinary
4. Go Home
5. Don't Just Sit There
6. How Loud Your Heart Gets
7. Wildewoman
8. Turn It Around


Best Family Experience \ Band : Marah.
Photo by Jeff Coon
The Marina Stage set by Marah was unexpected on so many levels.  First the band broke every rule of bluegrass.  The went electric, they looked like rock n rollers who picked up the wrong instruments, and they rocked so very hard.

Every where you looked or listened, there was a great divergence from what "they were supposed to"
sound like.   But then things got weird.  The excitement over Marah was eclipsed by two young brothers named Gus & Huck.  They were cute, yes, that's true.  But they both had some serious skills they brought to the stage.  These junior masters did an incredible job on stage, undaunted by the crowd.  Check out a quick video by site contributor Jeff Coon of Marah.

Marah - Photo by Jeff Coon

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hot August Music Festival - Founder Interview & Artist Preview

"The stages are set for this year’s Hot August Music Festival (formerly Hot August Blues & Roots Festival) scheduled for Saturday, August 16, 2014 at the picturesque Oregon Ridge Park. The family-friendly event will include three stages of live music and performance artists; an array of local artisans and crafters; food and beverage vendors; plus activities for the kids.

Now in its 22nd year, the Hot August Music Festival continues to benefit Common Ground On the Hill, a non- profit organization committed to the unifying power of music, as well as the Baltimore Blues Society, a 501(c)3  corporation dedicated to preserving blues music in our region."

To get ready for the fest, Root Down In The Shadow sat down with Event Founder and Producer Brad Selko to find out how it all started.

Root Down In The Shadow: How did Hot August Music Festival get its start? 
Brad Selko: While I was doing a benefit in downtown Baltimore it was suggested that I do a picnic at my farm, perhaps with Charlie Musselwhite.  And soon enough we had an event with Charlie and Brett Wilson, with a little stage and a little awning.  It was a great time; we even sold 300-400 tickets.   

Root Down: The festival used to be Hot August Blues & Roots.  When did Hot August loose the "Blues"?  
Brad: It started out, "Blues" at my farm 20 some years ago and it's slowly evolved, losing  "Blues" from the title 3 years ago.   Having the best blues is still a priority.  Tab Benoit will headline the 2nd stage.  That will never go away.   
But, in recent years we had Dickey Betts, North Mississippi Allstars, J. Roddy Walston & The Business.  We turned the wheel hard & ended up with this year's lineup.  We are now Americana, Funk, Bluegrass, & Alt-Country.  There's something for everyone! 

This year, we've had more positive feedback than ever about the lineup vs the other 21 years.  It can be so hard to get it booked, but I'm very happy with how it turned out.  

Root Down: Wow, 22nd year of Hot August Music Festival. What makes it so exciting to want to do this year after year?   
Brad: It's just a little addicting.  It's producing something and seeing the accomplishments, being able to share the experience with a friend.   Little things, like looking forward to dropping a friend and his wife in front of the stage for Chris Thile and Nickel Creek.  That makes me feel good!

Root Down: Festival popularity in general is through the roof in the last few years. What factors have allowed you to add a second stage in '10, and now a third stage?
Brad: First, It's my great Hot August family, some people have been working the festival for 20 years.  Nearly 200 volunteers - It's amazing.  During the festival, for me, there's no walkie-talkie, just his phone, trust everyone to do their job

Second, it's the location.  There's a one-minute walk from stage to stage.  The multiple stages allow longer sets for everyone.  All the sets on the main stage are 90 minutes to 2 hours.  Fans should be able to see most of everyone, with the 3 stages.  Expect a grand finale with Old Crow Medicine Show and a mix of other band members.

Root Down: Hot August Music Festival happens to fall on the same weekend year after year with the longest continuously running folk fest in the country (Philadelphia Folk Fest on year 53 for '14), yet you draw killer Philly bands such as Dr. Dog (this year) and Chris Kasper (2012). Is it hard to get Philly bands, or is it a bonus like Newport Folk Festival/XPoNential Festival/Floyd Fest all being on the same weekend.
Brad:  Actually, I never even thought of it.   We're just outside the radius to be a factor for each other.  We're like-minded, but each is unique enough to get enough of our own bands.  My sort-of focus group does a great job of suggesting bands, like Turkuaz and Sister Sparrow.  

Root Down:  Other festivals are expanding to 2 weekends (Coachella), more days, and official pre-shows (Newport Folk Festival), yet Hot August Music Festival is consistently and happily one day? Do you find it less chaotic without the camping and/or exhausted fans?  
Brad: Yes!  Really, I love the site.  It's less than two hours from Philly and DC, but 10 minutes from my house, here at Oregon Ridge Park.  The park is not conducive to camping, but that's really ok.  One day, in and out, and done.  

Interested in Hot August Music Festival?  Let's seal the deal by going through some ARTISTS TO WATCH!


Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog is renowned for their energetic and exciting live shows. But don’t confuse the word “energy” with physicality – these guys aren’t going to dance around the stage or break their instruments, but their vigor is unmistakable as it pours from their music through your ears and into your brain. Now a 6-piece outfit, they’ve been touring all over the U.S. in 2014, gracing grateful fans with lively and expressive renditions of tracks from their latest album, B-Room, along with fan favorites from the several albums they’ve released in their 15+ years. Dr. Dog’s members delight live crowds by mixing it up and playing different instruments for different songs, like when lead singer Scott McMicken (who shares the “lead” title with bassist Toby Leaman) hops from guitar to bass to organ, or when the keyboardist (Zach Miller) takes a turn on the slide guitar while guitarist (Frank McElroy) fills in on keyboard. Rumor has it the drummer (Eric Slick) has been known to do guitar solos. Three of the guys, including “multi-instrumentalist” Dmitri Manos, even play something called an “Omnichord.” These are musicians with too much talent to confine themselves to categories, and their audiences reap the rewards – the fun they’re having on stage is contagious, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a live show review that says otherwise. - Marye Isaacs

Dr. Dog will also be playing the Lawn of Mann in Philadelphia on September 13. 

Dr. Dog - "That Old Black Hole"

Nickel Creek is something special. Not many bands can take a 7 year hiatus and come out swinging like they did. 25 years ago, they formed as a bluegrass trio - Siblings Sara and Sean Watkins, and close family friend, Chris Thile. For 18 years they played together with little outlet or even side projects. They had played with acts like Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, and The Chieftains, and on A Prairie Home Companion (Which fiddle player Sara Watkins hosted - the only other person aside from Garrison Keillor to do so). They even won a Grammy for their 4th album, Sides. Yet they had no diversity, even though they were billed as a progressive bluegrass band. In April 2014 they released Dotted Line. This sixth album clearly shows that no matter how good an act is, they can grow and comeback with something great. Dotted Line is a great album. It includes a lot of original work, like “Destination” and “21st of May”, and brings the long missing diversity to the forefront with a cover of Mother Mother’s “Hayloft”. Look forward to hearing a very cohesive set at the festival, with rich three part harmonies, tons of energy, and varied sounds that will give absolutely everyone in the crowd something to smile about and deeply enjoy. - Jeff Coon

Nickel Creek - Destination

Nickel Creek - Hay Loft  (Mother Mother)

The eight-piece soul-funk super-troop Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds have been wowing crowds with their fiery, groovy live shows. Based in NYC, with Arleigh Kincheloe (Glamour magazine described her as what you get when you “cross Amy Winehouse and Tina Turner with Mick Jagger”) leads a pack of seven musicians that includes the expected guitar, bass, drums, and harmonica – not to mention a 5-man horn section – none of which can drown out Arleigh’s impressive and powerful vocals. The bad released the EP Fight last October and have been touring in support of it ever since, building a passionate grass-roots fan base. Their sound pulls the best elements from blues, rock, gospel, funk and soul, mixes it all together and comes up with a pleasantly dirty but polished product that invariably turns their live shows into crazy dance parties. - Marye Isaacs

Don't Be Jealous (Live) - Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

Tab Benoit is a Cajun with the blues - and he’s taking you with him into his world. One does not simply listen to Tab Benoit. When he fires up his gravelly world-worn voice and beat up Fender Telecaster, you experience every lyric with him. Rarely does a modern bluesman carry forward the true sensibilities that formed the genre. Like most true bluesmen, it never seems to be about the crowds or lime light; it is about the form and feeling of the music. His voice and simple style carry you off to another place. Your problems don’t seem so bad, things slow down, and suddenly you realize things are what they are, and we all just carry on. It’s that shared catharsis that brings his cult like fan base together. While he’s not as well-known as some of his contemporaries, he is the sound and of the bayou. Probably most well known of his work is “Shelter Me”, which is the theme for Discovery Channel’s “Sons of Guns”; however he has a discography worthy of any large label artist. Tab has 18 albums - all of which he penned himself. Better still, he connects with every crowd. At some shows he’s been known to stop and talk with the crowd like they’re his friends, tell stories and make them laugh. “A sense of humor is about the best thing you can have” he says. Tab Benoit is about to bring the true essence of Louisiana style blues to Oregon Ridge. - Jeff Coon

Tab Benoit - Shelter Me

Tab Benoit - Louisiana Style

Houndmouth is a folk-rock-gospel-country quartet from outside Louisville, Kentucky. Heavily inspired and shaped by the late-60s (their self-proclaimed major influence is The Band) and drawing on old-fashioned folk music and classic country sounds, they might remind you of Alabama Shakes, Cowboy Junkies, or the Lumineers. They recently played a show with another Hot August lineup star, Dr. Dog, and impressed the crowd with their “ragged charm.” All four members contribute to vocals, allowing them to produce lush harmonies on top of their memorable guitar riffs and a generally gritty, backwoods blues sound.  - Marye Isaacs

Houndmouth - Penitentiary

Roots. Americana. Bluegrass. New-grass. Folk. Alt Country. All of these terms have been used to describe Old Crow Medicine Show. They are in fact all of these. OCMS is a band that grew up busking on street corners and developed a truly individual style that crosses genres, yet manages to embrace them all. Their big break came in Boone, NC. when they were playing on the very corner that Doc Watson used to play in the 50’s. Watson’s daughter heard them playing and brought Doc to hear them. Once they were finished, he was quoted as saying “Boys, that was some of the most authentic old-time music I've heard in a long while. You almost got me crying." He asked them to play at the 2000 MerleFest music festival and they have been ascending since then. Among their many influences was Bob Dylan, and in 9th grade, Critter Fuqua came back from a trip to London with a bootlegged rough outtake from Dylan, called “Rock me Mama”, which he passed on to Ketch Secor. They worked it through and have been playing "Wagon Wheel" since they were 17. Critter noted in an interview that, technically, Dylan is listed as co-writer, but they've never met him. Amazingly the band was able to get the track to go gold without any radio airplay and it has now gone platinum since being covered by Darius Rucker. Their songs are infectious, their style is authentic to them, and they cut their teeth on live performances. This deeply multi-dimensional group is the Hot August Music Festival’s headliners - with good reason. - Jeff Coon

Old Crow Medicine Show will also be playing Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenksville, PA on August 15th! 

Old Crow Medicine Show -Wagon Wheel

Old Crow Medicine Show - Down Home Girl


Carpooling strongly encouraged and parking passes will be required for all vehicles parking at Oregon Ridge. A limited number of spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis and may be purchased at the website. Otherwise, a complimentary shuttle service to and from the Timonium Light Rail stop will be provided. 

No food, cans, bottles or coolers are permitted. For a complete list of guidelines and restrictions, including nearby accommodations, visit

General admission and VIP** tickets are on sale now at Kids under 12 get in free. Re-admittance not permitted.

**VIP tickets are only available in advance (none sold day of show) and include: One parking pass, VIP wrist band, special entrance to the tented VIP area, complimentary soda/water/beer/wine, two meal tickets, a designated Main Stage viewing area, VIP only rest rooms, and a festival poster. Group pricing available by contacting 1-877-321-3378.

Our Griffins #CoverClub version of Strand of Oaks "Last To Swim" included in Wake The Deaf Vol12

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New music competition, proposed legislation introduced at City Hall

At a City Hall press conference this morning in Philadelphia, Councilman-at-large David Oh and
Tri-State Indie’s Stephanie Seiple were joined by Philly artists and entrepreneurs to officially announce the launch of PHL Live Center Stage: a new music competition “highlighting Philly’s top musical talent across multiple genres.”

The event is to be held at numerous venues across the city, including World CafĂ© Live, the Trocadero, and ENON Baptist Church, and will showcase artists across many genres of music: classical, country/folk, hip-hop/rap, jazz, world, pop/dance, R&B, rock, gospel, and DJ. Competing artists will be chosen through an online video submission process that will run from August 15th – September 15th.  Selected artists will compete live to earn a spot in the finals to be held at the Trocadero in December.  Though a panel of judges selects participants and winners, recognition will also include a people’s choice award.

Organizers hope that PHL Live will be bigger than a musical competition, however.  In fact, Oh, Seiple, and other members of the PHL Live team spoke passionately about their desire that the competition will help to boost Philadelphia’s music and arts communities. Philly artist GoGo Morrow spoke about her desire to make Philadelphia once again a destination for artists, and representing the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Homer Jackson pointed to our city’s storied musical legacy and asserted that it is “our responsibility and role to make sure the future happens here.” The PHL Live organization will even include a non-profit component to benefit music education.

For his part, Councilman-at-large David Oh used the press conference to announce two new bills to benefit Philly’s music community that he will propose this fall.  The first seeks to designate free 30-minute loading zones for musicians and entertainers outside of reputable venues.  Councilman Oh cited the city of Seattle as a model and stated that such a measure will help to reinforce Philadelphia’s dedication to the arts. The second bill will push for a “bonafide” effort to ensure more local artists be represented at the city’s major music festivals, including Wawa Welcome America. Said Oh, Philadelphia should be a “city of opportunity for everyone."

The PHL Live website and submission process will launch August 15th.  Information can be found at, on Twitter and Facebook, and artists can stay tuned to Root Down in the Shadow for updates.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nomad Recording Studio / Live at the Rivals House - final show? The Bernhardt Family Band / Jake Lewis & The Clergy / Dirty Dollhouse

This Friday, stands to be the final house show at 3701 Spring Garden.  The home of many kick-ass house shows in the past few years, has really been on the map with 3 Sofar Sounds: Philadelphia shows, 2 Root Down In The Shadow & Swift Guitar Lessons Presents, 3 Cover Club sessions and numerous Live At The Rivals House shows!

Rumor has it that after recording some tracks for upcoming albums of The Rivals and Song Dogs, Nomad Recording Studio headed by Rob Swift, is packing up and moving to a new location.  To celebrate this final show at the studio space, we've got a Live At The Rivals House Line-up that looks to be a spectacular.

The lineup features songstress Chelsea Mitchell of Dirty Dollhouse, followed by Jake Lewis & The Clergy, who are coming in from Lancaster; and the Bernhardt Family Band.  

Come out and show your appreciation for the Rivals House and all the wonderful show's they've hosted for us!!! 


Check out some videos of the bands to get a taste of what you can expect!

Chelsea Mitchell - Ain't Got No Blues

Dirty Dollhouse - Teenage Dirtbag (Wheatus Cover) | Sofar Philadelphia (#640)

"Run Around" Jake Lewis & the Clergy

Cover Club | Bernhardt Family Band 'Moonlight'