A Summer Feast of Music Fests

I’m a voracious fan of music festivals. Fortunately there are two annual musical shindigs in South Jersey that always scratch my festival itch.

The first  Appel Farm Arts & Music Festival made its debut in 1989 and has become one of the most dynamic (if somewhat under appreciated) gatherings of artists and musicians in the Northeast. The one-day outdoor festival will take place in Elmer on Saturday, June 2, from 11:30 AM to 8:30 PM on Appel Farm’s gorgeous 176 pastoral acres. Thousands turn out every year and all proceeds benefit Appel Farm’s summer arts camp scholarship program and community arts outreach residencies in local public schools.

The festival is geared toward fans of folk, blues, alt-country, roots, Celtic, and acoustic rock and has hosted some pretty big names in the past, including Jackson Browne, the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco. This year’s lineup includes the Carolina Chocolate Drops  and Tedeschi Trucks Band. I’m also excited about a stellar rock band called Dawes. If you’re a fan of the Band, the aforementioned Browne, Neil Young or their rootsy contemporaries, you will love this act. Their music is full of energy and positively pregnant with rich, narrative lyrics.

In addition to the music there are several family-oriented attractions, including the Children’s Village, where young ones can enjoy puppet theater, magicians, jugglers and storytellers. There’s also a large arts and crafts area that includes activities like beading and hat making as well as a craft fair featuring the work of 50 artists. Admission for adults is $45 and just $5 for children 12 and under. For tickets and information visit the Appel Farm website.

And then there’s the annual Xponential Music Festival, a three-day outdoor smorgasbord of musical acts presented by 88.5 WXPN (a stellar publically funded radio station out of Philadelphia). This year, the festival will take place July 20-22 at the beautiful Wiggins Park on Camden’s waterfront, where you can watch sailboats docking in the harbor or gaze at the Philadelphia skyline while listening to your favorite bands.

I’ve attended Xponential for the past four years, and this summer’s lineup is, without question, the festival’s best yet. Not only does it include the Hold Steady, the wonderful Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards and Diego Garcia (all worth the price of admission right there), but it also boasts four acts that I simply cannot believe are going to be performing on the same weekend.

On Sunday night, Counting Crows  will headline, and on Saturday festivalgoers will be treated to Dr. Dog, the Avett Brothers and Wilco. When I found out these four bands were going to be headlining this year’s festival I literally ran upstairs to my computer and dashed off an all caps email to several friends. The subject line: YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS!

The Xponential Music Festival is a fantastic way to spend a summer afternoon (or three if you so choose). Each and every night the sun sets beautifully over the Delaware River as festivalgoers mill about in good spirits, sipping on locally brewed beer or chowing down on one of many food-truck delights. Check their website for more information.

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