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Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012 07:38 am

Fair fun

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Miranda Lambert

Hey everybody, welcome to State Fair time, that special 10 days in mid-August when Springfield transforms into a bustling metropolis bulging with extra residents of many kinds, including humans, animals and insects. Of all the attractions at the fair from the butter cow to live bovines, from The Whip Guy to the fair queen, from deep-fried anything to lukewarm beer, live music is one of the most abundant.

With at least 10 stages on street corners, in the beer tents and other standard venues each presenting at least three acts a day, and often more, plus at least a couple of bands at the Grandstand each night, the amount of live music performances is truly immense. According to the concert and entertainment schedule on the fair website (http://www.agr.state.il.us/isf/entertainment.htm) there’s a lot going on, maybe not enough to please everyone, but enough to entertain the troops for a while.

The Grandstand entertainment, sometimes a laughable lineup, looks impressive for 2012. Hot country acts, including Miranda Lambert, a top young star, and Eric Church, a rockin’ country boy, a classic rock night with Cheap Trick, Night Ranger, Blue Oyster Cult and The Georgia Satellites, a classy classic rock evening with Steve Miller and Dave Mason and hip pop groups from now and of a few years back with headliners Creed, Train and Demi Lovato each bringing a different sound of modern pop music to the outdoor stage, all endeavor to make the lineup credible. Plus there’s more, including the venerable Charlie Daniels Band one night and the Million Dollar Quartet musical, featuring tunes from the 1950s Sun Studios in Memphis as recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins and performed by a stellar cast on another.

The various beer tents and venues hold steady with a familiar bunch of local bands including Elvis Himselvis, the Debbie Ross Band, Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters, Brushfire, The Hitmen and a Dame, Roxschool, Screamin’ Vatos, Still Kick’n, KFD, Stone and Biscuit Band and others, mixed with a few touring groups. Some variations include a blues night with Hipbone Sam, Mojo Cats, Hurricane Ruth and Tombstone Bullet on Tuesday and our talented lieutenant governor performing on her banjo in a bluegrass folk group as Sheila Simon and Loose Gravel from 3:30 to 5:30 Wednesday, both at the Miller Lite tent, Who’s Bad, a Michael Jackson tribute, and Escape, a Journey tribute band, at the Coors Light tent and Poprocks, Brat Pack and the Machine dropping in at the Budweiser-sponsored tent and the Kevin Lucas Orchestra in the Twilight Ballroom. I’m just naming a few that jump out at me, so be sure to check the listings to see when what tickles your fancy plays.

The Twilight Ballroom always has big band-style groups like the Don Smith Band (celebrating their 32nd year of fair performances), Ed and Judy Howard Six, Bobby Remack Band and others, while the Ethnic Village hosts an incredible assortment of music, often from bands in our own backyard like Exorna, Bustin’ Loose and the Salt and Pepper Band.

The other striking addition to music nightlife during the fair concerns that odd city ordinance allowing for bars to remain open until 3 a.m. every night during the fair. Originally implemented to help our local watering holes compete with the beer tent bashes, it also keeps the live music going until the wee hours at many establishments that would normally close at 1 a.m. The bars nearest the fairgrounds understandably benefit most, but downtown venues also feel the effects of the extended hours, both in the register and in the feet of the busy bartenders.

Now that’s a fair amount of music.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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