There is only one type of occasion where it’s acceptable for thousands of hot, sweaty substance abusers to pack in together like sundried sardines: summer music festivals. And for us concertgoers — the CamelBak-toting, beach-ball-throwing, caution-to-the-wind-dancing subculture of music aficionados — the warm months are our regular season, like football in autumn and cricket in … whenever that’s played. But now, in the lull between the dead of winter and the buds of spring, we must scour the web to salivate over the lineups already confirmed and those that, for now, are just rumors — under-the-table whispers that may, just may, bare some iota of truth.

As it stands now, of the summer’s musical triple crown — namely, Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza — only the first two have officially released their arsenals of artists for 2012. Lollapalooza, being the latest of the three, typically doesn’t make such an announcement until the middle of spring, but they’ve never been afraid to give an early taste of who will be headlining, so be on alert in the coming weeks. That’s not to say there hasn’t been some juicy gossip and speculation in the meantime — but more on that later.

Coachella has always promised big names in the past, and boy, will it deliver this year. Taking place over two consecutive weekends (April 13-15 and 20-22), guests can expect to see the Black Keys, Radiohead, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, the Arctic Monkeys, M83, the Shins, Bon Iver and a collection of non-headliners that will rock your socks off (literally). The double-festival construction might be tough for travel plans — especially considering the dates are in the heart of finals — but the music should be well worth the effort to attend.

Bonnaroo took its time this year, finally releasing a lineup on Valentine’s Day, but the variety is better than any heart-shaped box of chocolates. We see a few Coachella repeats here — Radiohead, the Shins, Bon Iver — but otherwise, the Tennessee festival is lights out this year, promising the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish, the Beach Boys (who are, amazingly, still capable of playing music), the Avett Brothers, Foster the People, Alice Cooper, The Roots, and Ben Folds Five. It’s ludicrous … oh, no wait, I mean Ludacris — he’ll be there too. Taking place in early June, the fest has also featured comedy acts in the past (Lewis Black last year, Conan O’Brien the one before), and has thus far teased Aziz Ansari, with more to be announced later. It’s clearly shaping up to be a banner year for festivals.

That leaves the third and oldest of the holy trinity: Bill Graham and Perry Farrell’s immortal Lollapalooza. In past years, the full catalogue of performers has been announced in late April, so for now, we’ll have to make do with watching for the headliners (who were themselves disclosed in early February last year). Except, wouldn’t it be great if somebody with information privy to the organizers leaked what the plan is thus far? A confidential source alleging such knowledge has indicated that the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Sonic Youth and Beyoncé seem to be in the mix. Though this type of speculation would normally draw little attention, the one and only Perry apparently responded to the leak with anger, suggesting at least some truth to the claim. However, the only promise thus far is that Passion Pit is confirmed to be playing a big show in Chicago somewhere in between August 3-5. And Lollapalooza is, incidentally, taking place during those exact days. Spooky coincidence.

For those who are less committed to one of the aforementioned powerhouses, there are a few alternative festivals to consider. Sasquatch is promising Jack White, Beck, Bon Iver, the Shins, Beirut, Tenacious D, Pretty Lights and The Roots — a perfect soundtrack for a four-day outdoor celebration in the countryside of Washington. Hangout Music Fest, on the beaches of Alabama, has a surprisingly boastful lineup, featuring Dave Matthews Band, the Chili Peppers (once again), Jack White, Wilco, Skrillex and Chris Cornell, among a fairly deep roster of other noteworthy acts. And Jazzfest, held in New Orleans from late April to early May, has got a jam-packed schedule: Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty with their respective bands, the Foo Fighters, the Beach Boys, Eddie Vedder, John Mayer, Al Green, My Morning Jacket, Zac Brown Band and a variety of jazzy acts.

As one can clearly see, 2012 is going to be an exceptional year for live music. Metallica has invited a modest-but-respectable collection of bands for a show in Atlantic City, and we’re still awaiting announcements from Pitchfork festival, Summerfest, Outside Lands festival and Austin City Limits (rounding us out in October) — all with exceptional rosters in years past and a lot of potential for the coming summer. So dust off your worst pair of shoes and start saving up — the festivities are about to begin.

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