What Philly soul singer-songwriter Aaron Brown does wrong, he does right.
“A lot of folks write in a I-IV-V [chord progression],” Brown says. “I don’t follow that. What I do is I use the wrong chords and I try to make it work out.”
That he does. Brown and his group The Spell, which opens this weekend’s WXPN-sponsored XPoNential Music Festival at Wiggins Park and the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, have a happy crookedness in their soulful blues-pop sound.
The group’s torchy R&B workout, “Don’t Cry,” is being played regularly on WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania public radio station at 88.5FM.
Playing this year’s fest is a big step for Brown. Also on the bill are Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, the Lumineers and Dr. Dog at Susquehanna, and Dr. John, Matt Pond, the John Butler Trio and more at Wiggins Park.
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“It’s a huge deal for me personally and professionally,” Brown says. “It’s going to be a big boost for my career.”
The festival and the station have become bellwethers for what’s hot in the Adult Album Alternative format.
“We’re not looking to make money on it,” says WXPN general manager Roger LaMay. “The goal is to get as many great artists for as little money as possible [to keep admission prices down]. We want to make sure we cover our costs. The audience trusts the radio station to locate the artist they will probably love. We want them to go away talking about artists they weren’t aware of before the festival.”
The XPoNential Music Festival is essentially two fests in one. At Wiggins Park, it’s chock full of the unknown artists LaMay speaks of. Over at the Susquehanna Bank Center, it’s two nights of national headliners.
“Part of it is that Philadelphia is a great music town,” LaMay says. “One of reasons for that is this radio station has been doing what it does ... for the last 25 years or so. There's a trust building that takes a long time between an audience and a radio station.”
Aaron & The Spell shouldn’t diminish that trust when they take the Wiggins Park stage at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
“We’re going to start off the festival with a bang,” Brown says.
Bob Dylan's AmericanaramA Music Festival tour featuring Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham will play the Susquehanna Bank Center on Sunday, as part of XPoNential. The Saturday lineup at Susquehanna is Hey Marseilles, The Lumineers, Dr. Dog and Polica.
XPoNential Music Festival
Wiggins Park and the Susquehanna Bank Center
Camden waterfront, N.J.