You don't really "attend" Bumbershoot, the Northwest's monstrously huge arts festival, so much as you do battle with it. With hundreds of thousands of people pouring into Seattle Center over four days, you have to fight for parking (if you're dumb enough to drive), fight the lines, fight the crowds, fight for your strawberry shortcake. You have to fight to get into shows, fight to get good seats, and fight your way into the beer gardens. As soon as you walk through those gates, it's You vs. Bumbershoot.

But with stadium-worthy acts like the Pixies, the Drive-By Truckers, and Public Enemy on the bill, along with rising stars like Cobra High and internationally awarded breakdancers like Massive Monkees, the brawls are worth it. In addition to dozens of bands worth dueling to see, Bumbershoot offers funny guys like Fred Armisen, The Stranger's annual all-city talent show, Pizzazz!, Kiki & Herb, author Jonathan Raban, comic-book hero Harvey Pekar, and more.

Going into a death match, it helps to know something about your opponent. That's where THE STRANGER VS. BUMBERSHOOT comes in. This special pullout section of The Stranger will help you battle your way through this year's festival. Inside you'll find a complete and updated schedule along with the critical reviews that you count on The Stranger for. There are recommendations about what to see and what to skip, the Bumbercream separated from the Bumbercrap. You wouldn't want to make a wrong turn into, say, the patchouli-sponsored spoken-word drum circle--er, drum "orb"--when you could be watching, say, a world-famous bluesman bringing down the house just two stages away, now would you?

But some of the choices you'll have to make as you wrestle the Bumbershoot monster won't be quite so easy. At our city's packed-to-the-rafters arts festival, there's often more than one kick-ass performance or event going down at the same time. So it's not just You vs. Bumbershoot this weekend but sometimes it's Bumbershoot vs. Bumbershoot, the Walkmen vs. Public Enemy, Peter Bagge vs. Death Cab for Cutie. To help you pick between competing events, we've included hundreds of write-ups, a four-page grid, and a map of Seattle Center. It's all here.

Music, art, beer, film, authors, theater, beer, strawberry shortcake, crowds, more beer--events like Bumbershoot are what make living in the big city exciting. Go get 'em, champ.

--Stranger eds.