XPNFest Recap: Beck, Band of Horses and The Districts bring the weekend to a tremendous close
Wow. I really don’t know that there are any other words for it – wow wow wow. What a tremendous way to close this year’s XPoNential Music Festival: an outrageous, high-energy performance from the one and only Beck, with the stage being nicely set by the rousing rock anthems of Band of Horses and an intense performance from Central PA noisemakers The Districts. A triple-header that contained as much bottled-up energy as the rest of the weekend alone.
After the festival attendees were ushered from Wiggins Park to the Susquehanna Bank Center by Philly’s New Sound Brass Ensemble, The Districts took the stage shortly after 7 with an atmospheric and expressive performance of “Long Distance.” It was a bittersweet set for the guys, since it was the band’s last gig performing with founding guitarist Mark Larson. Frontman Rob Grote gave him a shoutout mid-set, thanking him for being there, being a part of the band and making their dreams a reality. The finale of “Young Blood,” which closed the band’s XPoNential debut in 2013, was hypnotic: bassist Conor Jacobus’ hypnotic playing and drummer Braden Lawrence’s hammering beat propelled song forward, while Grote and Larson leaned into one another swapping solos. At the set’s cathartic end, the guys embraced their departing bandmate.
Up next, Band of Horses provided a stirring contrast to their last Philadelphia appearance, where they played acoustic at the Academy of Music. This set was plugged in and turned up – not to say that the quiet moments were completely absent, but a nice dynamic was crafted. Frontman Ben Bridwell sat behind a pedal steel at the start of the set, coaxing evocative Americana tones from it, but then stood up brandishing an electric guitar later to punctuate fan favorites like “Laredo,” “Weed Party” and closer “The Funeral” with rock and roll gusto.
As for Beck – I’m still reeling over this set. As I predicted after seeing him at Firefly, the set was eclectic and career-spanning. “Devil’s Haircut” brought us back to 1996 and Odelay; “Soul of a Man” made me want to revisit Modern Guilt pronto. “Hell Yes” was a nice touch of Guero; “I Think I’m In Love” from The Information was blended with a cover of Donna Summers’ “I Feel Love.” An extended jam of “Where It’s At” featured a musical tangent of the harmonica bootstop jammer “One Foot in the Grave.” He played “Derbra.” He played freaking “Debra.” Unbelievable. Check out a gallery of Noah Silvestry’s photos below, watch some fan videos from the set and check out our complete XPoNential Music Festival coverage here.