Rock and bake survival guide 

The summer sun is scorching, but the summerpalooza beckons. Music fans take no heed of sunburn whilst soaking in the sounds of artists more prone to plying their trade from under the safety of an outdoor shed pavilion.

Metallica, Elton John, Sarah McLachlan and other pasty artful shut-ins rarely acknowledge the toll that a day spent slow-baking can have on the average concertgoer’s psyche and epidermis (by the way, your epidermis is showing).

Yet millions of us minions will not only plop down the ducats, but plant our selves on lawns around this metropolis (though mostly at joints such as Pine Knob and Meadowbrook Music Theatre) to bask in the reflective creativity of music’s boys and girls of summer.

Whether you’re kicking off the summer with Mr. Eddie Money at Pine Knob or wrapping a season of music on the downbeat at Hart Plaza and the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival, few folks – former Scouts or not – ever come truly prepared. Lollapalooza-help-you if you get burned, dehydrated and squashed in the sweaty throngs.

It is in that spirit that we now take a moment to imagine the "Universal Fan," if you will. Prepared for anything, the Universal Fan is a role model we should all follow.

The Universal Fan wears a lightweight pith helmet (available at most army surplus stores). Not only does this bonnet keep the rays off your vulnerable melon, but it’s a cheeky fashion statement that says, "Hey, I’m exploring new musical worlds here!" If you can, find a little battery operated fan to clip on to the helmet to provide that breeze, even on the stillest August day – you’ll be the envy of the whole crowd, trust us.

The Universal Fan isn’t afraid to raid his or her grandparents’ stash of sunglasses, either. Look for the fishing shades that block the light even to your peripheral vision (you know, the ones that could fit over your own specs if they had to). They do three things: First, they create the illusion that, even though it’s high noon in reality, in your darkened world, it’s always after dusk, thus eliminating the fear of having your image of your favorite musician ruined by the "illumination" a daytime performance brings (anyone who’s seen the Jesus & Mary Chain in the daylight will know what I’m talking about).

The second, lesser, effect is that these clunky specs give you an air of mystery and, for all anyone knows, you might well be plugged into "virtual reality" – How cool is that?!

Third, and not least, UV-blocking fishing specs eliminate the need to put zinc oxide under your eyes (which would really make the UF look like a freak!).

The Universal Fan also knows that versatility-on-demand can mean the difference between misery and musical nirvana. In that spirit, the aspiring UF wears warm-up sweats. But not just any warm-up sweats. We’re talking about that breed of pant that, at the pull of a few quick snaps, become, you guessed it, shorts. And, now get this, the shorts can also be resnapped to form, uh-huh, pants! The genius who invented these handy pants, we’re guessing, was one of the most comfortable folks to spend 72 hours on Max Yasgur’s farm, lo those many outdoor festivals ago.

While footwear is crucial, particularly when the risk of being sucked into a moshing mass of humanity looms ever-imminent, the UF has only one rule of toe when it comes to both lawn-friendly ease of removal and slam-dance durability: Velcro.

Anyone can buy a T-shirt at a concert. The Universal Fan knows that an ounce of early shopping can equal a ton of cool in the summertime music arena. The UF can be found wearing the T-shirt from last year’s tour/festival/album. If no previous merchandise is available, the UF will seek out a suitable T-shirt with the logo/image of a related or seminal group/performer in that genre. For example, if the UF cannot find an Earth, Wind & Fire T-shirt, a Gap Band one will do just fine. (This rule also applies to mesh baseball hats and bandannas in the case of that annual country extravaganza, the Downtown Hoedown.)

Thousands upon thousands of us will spend countless hours waiting around in parking lots, killing time until those damned opening band are through with whatever it is that they do.

At a joint such as Pine Knob the parking lot is an impromptu fraternity/sorority – in both the scary, backward-cap-dressed-at-the-Gap "Woooo!!! Party!!" sense and in the Grateful Dead "Hey, isn’t everyone just groovy" sense.

In either sense, the hacky sack is king and the Universal Fan is ready to pledge Phi Tappa Kegga. The UF is up early the morning of the concert keeping the little bean bag aloft. The true music fan will not leave for any concert until he or she can confidently stride into any hack circle with a repertoire of at least three trick "stalls" and the ability to keep the sack aloft for more than 20 kicks. It’s a UF rule of thumb that "If you can’t ‘hack it,’ don’t ‘hack it.’"

Tapping into that Universal Fan in all of us isn’t as difficult as it seems. This summer concert season can be more pleasant than last year. (Remember all of that skin peeling after a full day on the lawn at the Lilith Fair? Thought so.) Think of it this way: If Elvis Costello, George Clinton and Ozzy Osbourne can trundle themselves out into the sunlight, the least you can do is be there to see it.

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More by Chris Handyside

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