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Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 08:22 am

Fair and un-fair


Who’s Bad performs a Michael Jackson tribute in the Miller Lite Beer Tent, Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. during the Illinois State Fair.

Here we go again as the Illinois State Fair encompasses Springfield in an annual entertainment entanglement of deep fried frenzy and pure played pleasure. Some folks revel in the excess and others leave town to avoid the mess, but regardless, the ISF consumes the capital city for the next 10 days.

Of all the entertainment excursions available at the fair, from tractors and bees to quilts and taffy, from big pigs, hot goats, cold shakeups and the little donuts, live music rises to prominence as a most attractive attraction. Impervious to your opinion of the Grandstand lineup, crowds arrive and drive fair talk. Every carnival game and ride setup seems to be blaring recorded music to attract customers. From the beer tents and wine places to the Ethnic Village and beyond, music greatly adds to the fair’s ambiance and thereby increases attendance, making my favorite pastime worthy of mention.

I don’t dare begin to list all the acts playing this year, but the sheer numbers are impressive. I’m figuring a minimum of two acts each night at the Grandstand making nearly 20 artists up there on the big stage. I counted 10 of the free stages with live music as the featured attraction, including hosted beer tents and shows at various locations on the grounds. They list an average of four acts per day per stage (roughly speaking), making for approximately 40 musical appearances, with some repeat performances by the same artists (those Alley Cats get around). So we are up to around 60 music performances over the next 10 days on the fairgrounds proper, and that’s a low estimate.

Some quick highlights include the Don Smith Band on Aug. 16 at the Twilight Ballroom making 2013 a sweet 33 years for Don at the fair and Rick Dunham as Elvis Himselvis at the Miller Tent, working on a good, long streak of his own. With the inclusion of impersonation bands for Michael Jackson (Who’s Bad) and Journey (Escape), the Miller Lite Tent becomes tribute show headquarters for this year. Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon picks the banjo with her band Loose Gravel on Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 3:30, proving that politicians can be artists, too. That somehow may come under the tribute banner, but I’m not sure how that works. All the other fair performances are listed in an easy to read format by venue on the ISF website under the conspicuous heading of Concerts and Entertainment, the number two tab on the main page just behind General Information.

Now with the fair business finished how about some un-fair events that, believe it or not, continue on around town in spite of the Northend shindig. Fans of southern Illinois folk and bluegrass artists Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin take note of an area house concert appearance next Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 10 and 11. Please call 217-566-3462 for more information. And here’s a happy, happy birthday wish to Wil from all her friends in central Illinois and Illinois Times readers.

If you’re headed out of town, head to SPACE in Evanston on Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. to catch seven-time Grammy winner Paul Wertico and Larry Gray with Springfield’s own David Cain as they, “take musical artistry to unchartered waters with explosive, creative improvising that is truly on the cutting edge ... and beyond.” JJ Lawhorn plays Boondocks on Friday and Josh Catalano and the Dirty Thoughts hit Donnie’s Homespun Saturday, fresh from a spellbinding show at the Downhome Festival last weekend.

Along with all this, remember, bars can be open until 3 a.m. during the fair for your fun and enjoyment. Everyone please be responsible and have good times without bad consequences.

Contact Tom Irwin at

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