Six Best Coachella Death Matches


Justin Vernon of Bon Iver at the Pageant in 2011. He'll be at Coachella, as well, but can he stand up to kindred spirit Andrew Bird? - JASON STOFF
  • Jason Stoff
  • Justin Vernon of Bon Iver at the Pageant in 2011. He'll be at Coachella, as well, but can he stand up to kindred spirit Andrew Bird?

You may know that the Coachella festival begins this weekend, in which Indio, California is overtaken with every type of person from hippies to people who like watching bands outside and camping yet deny being hippies. The impressive lineup has a few notably similar acts who may not be rivals but still bring up thoughts of competition when deciding which band to walk a mile to see. Here are the six best Coachella death matches and the respective winners.

6. Explosions In The Sky vs. Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Explosions and Godspeed are arguably the two bands most responsible for the surge in instrumental post-rock bands in recent years. The former expanded the style's popularity by loaning its tracks to the Friday Night Lights franchise. The latter kept up the mystery by being cryptic and Canadian. Explosions In The Sky tends to be more raucous live than its moderately tame records. Meanwhile, Godspeed You! Black Emperor's drawn-out quiet intros are likely to be buried by festival chatter and its climaxes may not achieve maximum impact without walls to contain the punishing volume. Plus, that exclamation point still does not sit well. Winner: Explosions In The Sky

Andrew Bird at the Pageant last month. - JASON STOFF
  • Jason Stoff
  • Andrew Bird at the Pageant last month.

5. Andrew Bird vs. Bon Iver

These two post-Sufjan kitchen sink songwriters have broken into the highest level of success allotted without a legitimate radio hit song. Bon Iver performed on SNL and was honored with a parody the following week. Andrew Bird recently received the "Colbert Bump" after an interview and performance on air. Those highly publicized appearances captured the essence of both; Bird proved he could keep up with a wittier-than-thou interview while Bon Iver's Justin Vernon was mocked for putting listeners - and himself - to sleep. Winner: Andrew Bird

4. Squeeze vs. Pulp

For the international attendees of Coachella, or maybe even those who experienced the late '70s/early '80s instead of learning about them after the fact, these two acts may not seem comparable. But the long-running bands seem to attract similar attention in today's context, mostly an entry point for digging into Britpop on a deeper level than Oasis/Blur/The Smiths. In the most general sense, Squeeze's tunes are a bit calmer and Pulp's frontman Jarvis Cocker is the best kind of trainwreck, two factors that give Pulp more potential for a memorable performance, regardless of one's experience with their catalogs. Winner: Pulp

tUnE-yArDs at Off Broadway in 2011. - JASON STOFF
  • Jason Stoff
  • tUnE-yArDs at Off Broadway in 2011.

3. St. Vincent vs. tUnE-yArDs

Badass female pop weirdos Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) are hard to compare because their similarities are so plentiful on paper but so irrelevant when listening. Clark is a damaged diva who shreds at guitar, Garbus is an androgynous alien who semi-shreds at ukulele. Clark's live spectacle - she has been rightfully compared to Odelay era Beck - is form-fitted to the Coachella setting. Garbus, though, is mainly a one-woman show even when her band is augmented with additional members. tUnE-yArDs is less contained and has more potential to create something singular and magical than St. Vincent's awesome but rehearsed routine. Winner: tUnE-yArDs (barely)

2. Snoop Dogg vs. Dr. Dre

This may not count because Snoop and Dre are teaming up to headline Coachella's third day. But the gangsta-rap icons performing together again is important because both artists' careers have taken highly disparate paths post-The Chronic. Dre has become more of a businessman than an artist, not the least of his accomplishments being his push of one Marshall Mathers. Snoop has become a novelty, popping up as a punchline in movies and commercials as a modern Cheech. The biggest difference is that Snoop has made more music, and more of what he has made has been good. "Sexual Seduction," hell, even his guest spot on Chingy's "Holiday Inn." Plus, looking back at Death Row's greatest hits, the weakest cuts seem to have Dre's name all over them. Winner: Snoop Dogg by an ounce.

  • At the Drive-In

1. At The Drive-In vs. Refused

For anybody who was not into punk rock between 1999 and 2001, let it be known that this is a big effing deal, the rebirth of two bands who seemed to burn out so violently that a reunion was out of the question. ATDI made the template for modern post-hardcore, which begat Thursday, which begat Glassjaw and so on. Despite all the imitations, its album Relationship Of Command is still untouched. Likewise, Refused's super-ambitious The Shape Of Punk To Come is a monster album at the intersection of hardcore and metal, and even great records by forward thinking acts like Botch and Converge can't compare in the department of diversity. After At The Drive-In fizzled, the group famously turned into Sparta and The Mars Volta while Refused divided into The (International) Noise Conspiracy and the underrated group Text. ATDI's legacy bands, particularly the Mars Volta, have put out more music and been noticed by more people. With that said, post-Refused acts have been remarkably more consistent, which is the mirror image of the original acts. As awesome as The Shape Of Punk To Come is, Refused is a one-album pony. On the other hand, Relationship Of Command is the pinnacle of At The Drive-In, but its In/Casino/Out record is fantastic, as is half of Vaya. Additionally, Refused's performances are contingent on the charisma of frontman Dennis Lyxzen, while the entire ATDI ensemble looked like it was going to hurt itself at any moment during every show. Winner: At The Drive-In, by one and a half albums and two afros.

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