Bang Thy Head Carefully

A survival guide for the summer's more vigorous music festivals

It used to be fairly easy to survive the summer concert season mostly intact. Wear sunscreen, remember where you parked your car, don't eat the brown acid ....

Though all that advice still holds true, there are new pitfalls to be avoided in the current crop of warm-weather music fests. Here are a few strategies for making it through some of the summer's larger events, happily and healthfully.

VANS WARPED TOUR

Saturday, July 2, at Pier 30/32

The average punk rock song is two minutes long, so there's some irony to the fact that Warped is America's longest-running traveling festival tour. It's also the Baskin-Robbins of music fests, with the 11th edition of "The Tour That Won't Die" offering 31 flavors of punk (emo, screamo, pop, hardcore, goth, '77, metal, etc.), plus skating, BMXing, and a nonstop parade of Hot Topic fashions.

Highlights: My Chemical Romance, The Transplants, The Offspring, Dropkick Murphys, Strike Anywhere, Mike Watt.

Survival Tips:

Plan early, plan well. There are 82 bands on 10 stages, with each act given 30 minutes to play. So when you arrive, figure out which bands you really want to see, exactly where and when they're playing, and if you can realistically catch their sets. Otherwise you'll spend nine hours scampering between stages and only 13 minutes actually enjoying the music, the spectating equivalent of the dopey college freshman who schedules back-to-back classes on opposite ends of a sprawling campus.

It's hot, dress smart. Hey, Mr. Goth: You might look cool in those black PVC pants and overcoat, but after five minutes in the MyChem pit under the blazing sun, you'll be carted off to the first aid tent with heatstroke, no matter how many $14 bottles of Aquafina water you've chugged.

Beware the half-pipe: Pro skaters can easily pull off awe-inspiring Nollie Heelflip Indy 540s about 90 feet in the air. The vert competitors at this year's Amateur Skate Jam ... mmm, not so well, probably. Special spectator warning: Enjoy from a distance, or you might come home with a deck lodged in your skull.

OLD SCHOOL FUNK FEST REUNION

Saturday, July 9, at the Chronicle Pavilion Surreal Life alumnus, PAX-TV preacher, legendary money-squanderer, wearer-of-shiny-genie-pants, and, oh yes, rapper MC Hammer headlines this year's celebration of all things old and funky (except your grandmother).

Highlights: MC Hammer, Cameo, Morris Day & the Time, S.O.S. Band, Ohio Players.

Survival Tips:

Selective memory: To keep from ruining your own good time, it's probably best if you avoid remembering MC Hammer proudly sporting his Speedo-wrapped boner in the "Pumps and a Bump" video; Cameo singer Larry Blackmon's bright-red codpiece (unless he pulls it out of mothballs for this show); or Morris Day being such a prick to poor Prince in Purple Rain.

No requests: Jerome Benton is Morris Day's onstage valet, not yours. So if you see him in the parking lot after the gig, don't ask him to bring you a mirror, fetch your dry cleaning, or bring your car around.

Leave the catchphrases at home: Sorry, but "I'm Rick James, bitch" isn't funny anymore, not even at a funk fest.

ANGER MANAGEMENT TOUR

Tuesday, July 19, at HP Pavilion

Believe it or not, the third installment of the Anger Management Tour marks the first time that close pals and fellow Dr. Dre protégés Eminem and 50 Cent are hitting the road together. Eminem, of course, is a veteran of the 2000 and 2002 AM tours, which also featured such nü-metal acts as Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach. This time out, however, it's all hip hop, with Lil' Jon ("Yeeeahhhhhhhh!!! Wut??!?!") onboard to make things extra crunky.

Highlights:Eminem, 50 Cent, Lil' Jon & the East Side Boyz, D12, G-Unit.

Survival Tips:

Know your beef: Last we heard, the "truce" between 50 and former G-Unit member the Game is off after the latter mocked the former onstage at a New York radio station festival last month and threw his old G-Unit chain into the crowd. Meanwhile, Eminem's DJ Green Lantern recently got caught up in the ongoing battle between 50 and Jadakiss and had to split from Em to help keep the peace between the two superstars. Confused? Well, just be sure not to show off any Game, Jadakiss, or (we think) Ja Rule gear, especially around the crews and posses, and check the wires for any fresh beef the day of the show and dress accordingly.

Mark your goods: If you're planning to bring a pimp cup to the festivities, and you didn't bother to get it personalized, be sure to etch your name and phone number on the bottom in case you lose it. Untold numbers of pimp cups go missing every year; don't become a statistic.

SOUNDS OF THE UNDERGROUND

Saturday, July 23, at the Shoreline Amphitheatre

Warped and Ozzfest too corporate for ya? Not keepin' it real enough? Too many prima donna MTV bands on those bills? The inaugural Sounds of the Underground festival was conceived as a super-aggro alternative to those other tours, where hardcore and extreme metal bands usually found on the small-club circuit can link their cult followings together for one big molten throwdown (or at least make up for the fact that they didn't get selected for Warped or Ozzfest).

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