Guide to Northern California summer music festivals and concerts

How to indulge in acts of hedonism and make it out alive

photo by Wes Davis

Outside of Burning Man, music festivals are the ultimate in public-gathering acts of hedonism. In fact, if some of you are being honest, the music is just incidental—a carrier for all that drinkin', eatin', druggin' and skimpy-clothes wearin'.

Which means, ultimately, it’s about survival. Whatever your poison, be it A Lot Like Birds at the Vans Warped Tour (June 26, at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Wheatland), channeling your inner-NPR hipster with the National and Beck at the First City Festival (August 23-24, in Monterey), or even scrimping pennies to catch the Replacements at Bumbershoot (August 30, through September 1, in Seattle), common sense and preparation are the keys to any successful summer music festival. Follow these tips, and you might just make it out alive.

Bathroom breaks. Let’s get the grossest of gross out of the way first. There you are at Outside Lands (August 8-10, in San Francisco), waiting for Kanye West to take the stage, when, yep, you have to pee—or worse. Listen, those portable, smelly bathrooms are disgusting, but unless you plan on not eating or drinking anything (um, not recommended), then you’re gonna have to hit ’em up. Pro tip: Carry baby wipes. Trust us on this one.

Also, if there’s a long row of outhouses, pick the one on the very, very end if possible. Usually, it’s cleaner. Usually. Also, don’t wait until the end of your favorite band’s set to make a visit. That Warpaint encore isn’t worth the hellacious line.

Ingestibles. When it comes to things you eat, drink or otherwise put in your body, then please, please, please follow this simple rule: Unless you bought it or brought it yourself (or your bestie, significant other or anyone else you’d trust with your first-born child or kitten did) then don’t—repeat: don’t—put it in your body. Sorry, my friend, that means no lollipops from the guy dancing by himself as the Chris Robinson Brotherhood plays at the High Sierra Music Festival (July 3-6, in Quincy).

Hot or not? Rockin’ a ’90s crop top or artfully deconstructed Gunne Sax mini? Don’t forget plenty of sunscreen (applied often), and a big, floppy hat. Listen, you traveled hundreds of miles to make it to Hard Summer 2014 (August 2-3, in South El Monte), don’t let heatstroke get between you and A$AP Mob now.

Buddy system. Whether you’re going as part of a large group or with just a friend or two, be sure to stop for a pregame huddle. Because when your BFF suddenly disappears during Shaggy’s set at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival (June 20-22, in Boonville), you’ve got to know exactly which beer stand is your meet-up point. Also, make sure your cellphone stays charged. That means stop trying to film the band—you know that video’s going to turn out crappy anyway, so for once, just live in the moment. That’s kinda the point of all of this, right?,,,,,,