Odd that some of the region’s biggest summer festivals (not including some Jay-Z Parkway thing) all fall on the same weekends. For the two full-weekend bonanzas starting Friday and aimed at largely the same audience—WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival in Camden and the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del.—Jersey wins hands down.
There are a million reasons why. Here are just 18 of them.
1) Wilco (XPN) vs. Death Cab for Cutie (Firefly). Ben Gibbard might bring the cute tattooed girls around, but Death Cab never wrote Yankee Hotel Foxtrot , as close to indie rock’s Sgt. Pepper’s as we’ll ever hear.
2) The Lumineers (XPN) vs. Walk the Moon (Firefly). We really like Walk the Moon’s bouncy, carefree pop, but the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” is easier to remember and sing along to than WTM’s still really delightful “Anna Sun.” The “Anna Sun” video is arguably best of the year, but you don’t watch music videos at summer festivals.
3) The price. The $55 member three-day pass for XPN is still cheaper than the cheapest one-day pass for Firefly. And with the Firefly three-day passes long ago sold out, XPN costs way less any way you slice it.
4) Counting Crows (XPN) vs. Wallflowers (Firefly). These two were joined at the hip from “6th Avenue Heartache.” But for those who like their ’90s alt-pop delivered by someone who flat-out refuses to sing his original lyrics or melody—thereby completely thwarting annoying sing-alongs—Counting Crows take it. Also, Adam Duritz’s hair still looks like a pineapple, and that’s really fun.
5) The Hold Steady (XPN) vs. The Black Keys (Firefly). Both are about as pure, back-to-basics rock ’n’ roll as these festivals get, but only Hold Steady concerts feel as religious as church—without all the God bothering, mostly.
6) War on Drugs (XPN) vs. Cold War Kids (Firefly). The War on Drugs heated up just as the Cold War was dying down, and not like Obama’s doing anything to end the War on Drugs anytime soon. Plus, a civil battle between War on Drugs and Work Drugs (XPN) would be a nice side-stage match.
7) Kaki King (XPN) vs. Jack White (Firefly). Guitar virtuoso who’s recognized by music snobs to be one of the greatest living players of the instrument, or guitar virtuoso who’s recognized by music snobs to be one of the greatest living players of the instrument—and is also a chick?
8) JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound and J.D. Souther (XPN) vs. J. Roddy Walston and the Business (Firefly). JC and J.D. outnumber J. Roddy. Forget music; that’s just math.
9) The money. XPN is a nonprofit and regularly touted as one of the top public radio stations in the country. Firefly’s top two sponsors are Bud Light and Ketel One. Where should your dollars go?
10) Delta Rae (XPN) vs. The Felice Brothers (Firefly). The sibling superpower of Ian, Eric and Brittany Hölljes against Ian, James and Simone Felice. Sounds like an even matchup, right? Sorry, Simone left the band in 2009. Math wins again.
11) John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders (XPN) vs. John Legend (Firefly). The latter is both a literal and figurative Legend. (OK, not really literal; his last name actually is Stephens—he changed it after graduating from Penn.) Harding’s Cabinet is an interdisciplinary vaudeville showcase that features multiple legends, including Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller, writer Rick Moody, comedian Eugene Mirman and, of course, Harding himself. None of these Cabineteers, as they’re called, is as smooth as Legend, but the mixture should be bizarre and wonderful.
12) Dr. Dog (XPN) vs. Chiddy Bang (Firefly). Both are serious hometown pride, but Dr. Dog has been repping Philly harder and longer.
13) Ozomatli (XPN) vs. Mariachi El Bronx (Firefly). Los Angeles’ Ozomatli have a day named after them in the City of Angels. The Bronx, meanwhile, is gentrifying more by the day.
14) Lee Ranaldo Band (XPN) vs. Girl Talk (Firefly). Girl Talk prominently sampled Sonic Youth. Ranaldo is in Sonic Youth.
15) Rhett Miller & The Serial Lady Killers (XPN) vs. Matt Costa (Firefly). Miller’s joy-filled, sky-high Texas-chunk leg kicks or Costa’s sunshine California pop? Firefly already has a ton of other Californians (Bassnectar, Silversun Pickups, Young the Giant). Don’t mess with Texas.
16) Avett Brothers (XPN) vs. the Head and the Heart (Firefly). Both have gorgeous down-home harmonies. But the Avetts like to shout some, too.
17) Mike Doughty (XPN) vs. The Flaming Lips (Firefly). You might think the Soul Coughing frontman’s spoken word is weird—until you hear the Flaming Lips’ 1997 album Zaireeka: Four different CDs that you had to play all at the same time. Even in 1997, who had four CD players?
PW's Music Issue 2014