They have Minnesota ice cream, Minnesota apples, Minnesota politicians and even a wide variety of Minnesota beer and wine at the Minnesota State Fair. So why not Minnesota grandstand performers?
The Great Minnesota Get-Together finally saw a great Minnesota takeover on its big stage last week. Two of the biggest Twin Cities bands of the '90s, Semisonic and the Jayhawks, shared the grandstand lineup with three current, Current (89.3 FM)-approved stars of the local scene, Dessa, Jeremy Messersmith and Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles.
The Minnesota Music-On-A-Stick concert drew 6,000 fans -- not the biggest show at this year's fair, but pretty good for bands more likely to be seen at First Avenue than on Dan Patch Avenue.
While Semisonic and the Jayhawks both had played the grandstand before, neither could brag of as much fair experience as Dessa. The rapper/singer/poet from Doomtree told the crowd she worked the fairgrounds "for about a decade" as a face painter.
With her punchy live band in tow, Dessa painted jazzy overtones on such songs as "Mineshaft II" and "Dixon's Girl." Her Doomtree mate P.O.S. also helped her raise "Dots and Dashes." For opening acts, both she and Messersmith had an unusually large portion of the crowd singing along. The poppy singer/songwriter's older favorites "Dillinger Eyes" and "Violet" were nicely complemented by new tunes such as "One Night Stand."
Three summers since they played their first hometown reunion show at the Basilica Block Party, the Jayhawks came to the fair risking over-familiarity. The alt-country darlings nicely freshened things up, though. They dropped in several songs off last year's album "Mockingbird Time" (highlights: "Closer Side of You," "She Walks in So Many Ways"). They also added a couple of songs from outside their current lineup's discography.
Singer Mark Olson, who originally left the band in 1995, played his solo gem "Clifton Bridge," while co-leader Gary Louris and drummer Tim O'Reagan steered the band through the post-Olson Jayhawks selection "Angelyne."
At least one familiar Jayhawks standard shimmered brightly: "Blue" was perfectly accompanied by the rise of Friday night's real blue moon. Sighs all around.
All of Semisonic's blue-note power-pop songs resonated extra warmly. Very infrequent giggers, the trio still gave fans a few surprises. After opening with two of their rockiest hits, "FNT" and "Across the Great Divide," they turned the elegance knob up to 11 with the addition of the Laurel Strings Quartet (also Messersmith's collaborators) in the tender tracks "Secret Smile," "Chemistry" and "DND." The strings then came back near the end to accompany frontman Dan Wilson on "Someone Like You," the mega-hit he wrote with Adele. And more heavy sighing.
Not exactly a big surprise -- since the Current DJs had been talking it up like junior high girls with a secret crush -- but Semisonic's set ended with an all-star cover of Prince's "Little Red Corvette" featuring all the night's previous singers, minus the Jayhawks. Forget the sighs, this finale was all smiles.