Sorting out the summer concert scene

It’s time for another summer in New Jersey. For concert-goers, that means one of two possibilities – if you’re still caught up in the latest wave of Garden State-born pop-punk, hardcore and the rest of emo’s bastard children, then you won’t have to drive very far for a good music festival. If you listen to anything else, this column has two words for you: Get out.

Dirty Jersey

With The Bamboozle and Vans’ Warped Tour making their annual appearances in East Rutherford, Camden and Englishtown, fans of punk, screamo and/or anything else using “core” as a suffix can gorge themselves on a veritable buffet of acts ranging from Say Anything to Bret Michaels.

Yeah, Bret Michaels. The ex-Poison front man plans to make a cameo at The Bamboozle this year, so if you’re anywhere in north Jersey on May 3 or 4 and you hear an endless chorus of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” echoing throughout the state, pay no attention.

In all seriousness, while these two festivals rarely offer the appropriate amount of bang for the proverbial buck, with tickets ranging from $45 to $65, there are some standout performers on tap if you can sift your way between Paramore and the quartet of metrosexuals panicking at the disco on the main stage.

If there is one band worth wading through the Warped Tour for, it is without a doubt Say Anything. Max Bemis’ manic brainchild made the transition from Los Angeles-area notable to the cover of Alternative Press magazine flawlessly, releasing the masterful “.Is a Real Boy” and the solid, albeit slightly disappointing concept album, “In Defense of the Genre” in three years’ time.

The group has the discography to put together a killer set list nearly every night, and Bemis and his boys’ raw, gutsy energy at live shows serves to back it up. Tack on the potential for countless guest vocal spots from some of their Warped Tour running buddies, and the fact that they will be riding a wave of momentum from their tour with Bemis’ idols Saves the Day, and you could see one of the best performances in Warped Tour’s otherwise dismal history.

Free Things

To escape the aforementioned 12-hour sweat-and-noise fests, hop a train into the city on June 14 and catch the most confusing band to ever hit FM radio, Vampire Weekend, for free. Easily the hottest catch on the Central Park SummerStage slate, the jingly indie-pop/African-folk group will please anyone willing to listen on a balmy, beautiful Manhattan afternoon.

Revenge of the ’90s

Stone Temple Pilots are getting back together. Supposedly. Maybe. While every new quote from Scott Weiland and/or Slash drives the nation’s surviving grunge-era fans deeper into maddening confusion, there is another ’90s favorite that has reconvened on a much quieter level, and they have already confirmed summer dates. Toad the Wet Sprocket will be performing at Starland Ballroom on June 12. The four-piece band, best known for the early-to-mid ’90s single “All I Want,” played Maryland’s Ann Arbor Festival in January. Hell, make a three-day swing out of this and the Vampire Weekend concert. You and a few friends could see the best of the past and present of radio rock in a 72-hour span.

Road Warriors

Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza – at one point or another, you’ve all thought of taking that big summer road trip to one of the three premier American music festivals. Well, allow me to add a fourth destination to that list.

If you really want the most complete, down-to-earth music festival of summer ’08, then grab your cowboy hat, because we’re headed to the Lone Star state.

With a ridiculously long list of acts, the Austin City Limits Music Festival features the best in a host of genres ranging from rock to blues, indie to hip-hop to bluegrass. The Foo Fighters, The Raconteurs, Gnarls Barkley, Conor Oberst, Silversun Pickups, Gogol Bordello and Vampire Weekend are just a few of the top acts on a slate of more than 130 bands. If you happen to make the voyage and venture to the smaller stages, be sure to check out our generation’s Lynyrd Skynyrd, Drive-By Truckers, songstress Ingrid Michaelson and Del tha Funkee Homosapien.

It has become tradition for a lot of the acts to stay in the area after the festival closes and play shows at other well known local venues. If you plan this one right it won’t be just a concert, but a vacation.