And now for something completely different at the State Fair grandstand: the Queen of Soul and a rocker who just won an Oscar this year for his acting.
Aretha Franklin, who was ranked by Rolling Stone as the greatest rock singer ever, will make her State Fair debut, and Jared Leto, who earned a best-supporting actor Oscar for portraying a transgender woman in “Dallas Buyers Club,” will bring his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, to the grandstand. Fittingly, he’ll again play a supporting role, to headlining Linkin Park.
Here’s a preview of grandstand lineup:
• Toby Keith. Recently named by Forbes as the biggest earner in country music for the past year (his $65 million tops Taylor Swift by $1M), the Oklahoma maverick returns to the fair for “Drinks After Work,” which could be the anthem at his Toby Keith’s Bar and Grill in St. Louis Park. Rap-loving country dude Colt Ford opens. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, $59, $49.
• Aretha Franklin. When she’s in the mood, the 72-year-old Detroiter can still summon that grand voice. It usually happens when she sits down at the grand piano and let’s her gospel spirit take over. Her unbeatable repertoire includes “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “Think.” Opening is another Detroit institution, the Four Tops, who feature only one original member, Duke Fakir, but the same old songs, including “I Can’t Help Myself.” 7:30 p.m. Friday, $45.
• Kid Rock. Another Detroit hero, he’ll mix rock, country, hip-hop and a party attitude into an intoxicating recipe for a Saturday night. He proved his versatility last time through town, sharing a stage with Motor City icon Bob Seger. Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke open. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, $66.50, $51.50.
• DigiFest Minnesota. It’s a new concept for tweens and teens: A collection of rising young acts who have made their marks on YouTube, Vine and other social media. The lineup includes a band of brothers, Before You Exit; a sisters act, Cimorelli; a Nebraska duo known as Jack and Jack, and Ryan Beatty, the 17-year-old YouTube favorite. 6:30 p.m. Aug. 24, $30, $20.
• Happy Together Tour. The irrepressible Turtles, whose lead singer Howard Kaylan sounds better than ever, lead this annual nostaglia-inducing tour of oldies acts. Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night, showed impressive vocal power last year while Gary Lewis still has the “This Diamond Ring” spirit. And, of course, the lineup includes two Detroit-launched vocalists: Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad and “American Band” fame and Mitch Ryder of Detroit Wheels and “Devil with a Blue Dress” fame. 8 p.m. Aug. 25, $21.
• Linkin Park and Thirty Seconds to Mars. This year’s “The Hunting Party” album finds Linkin Park rocking hard and aggressive like they did in the early ‘00s. So don’t worry that frontman Chester Bennington is also singing with Stone Temple Pilots as a side project. In Thirty, the Leto brothers mix a little grunge, a little angst, a little electronica and a little prog rock. AFI opens. 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26, $81, $71, $51.
• Tim McGraw. He’s back on the radio big time with “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” a duet with wife Faith Hill. Not that McGraw has ever left the radio since he first played the State Fair in 1994 during his “Indian Outlaw” days. Expect him to preview his new album, “Sundown Heaven Town,” due Sept. 16. With newcomer Ryan Kinder. 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27, $71, $56.
• Fall Out Boy and Paramore. Chicago’s emo heroes Fall Out Boy have evolved into a more mainstream rock sound, as evidenced on last year’s reunion/comeback album, “Save Rock and Roll,” and the hit “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up).” Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams had to recruit some new members recently but that didn’t derail momentum, as the Nashville band’s biggest single, “Ain’t It Fun,” proved this year. Bad Suns open. 7 p.m. Aug. 28, $51, $41.
• “A Prairie Home Companion.” After eschewing the fair for the past two years in favor of “A Prairie Home Companion” cruise, Garrison Keillor returns to the grandstand to wax nostalgic about his youthful years at the fair, sample some new foods and deliver an extended version of his weekly radio show (it’s taped and edited for broadcast) that includes a giant singalong during the intermission. Having just celebrated its 40th anniversary this summer, “PHC” will feature the marvelous voices of Jearlyn and Jevetta Steele as well as Aoife O’Donovan, the Boston folk-bluegrass warbler who toured with Keillor last year. 7:45 p.m. Aug. 29, $32, $25.
• MN Music-on-a-Stick. The third annual Minnesota music showcase is heavy on thoughtful hip-hop with headliner Brother Ali and the captivating collective known as Doomtree. But other classic Minnesota sounds are well represented, too, with always electrifying rocker Bob Mould, adventurous and arty indie-rockers Cloud Cult, the cartoonish-turned-serious soul man Har Mar Superstar, and the those harmonizing country brothers known as the Cactus Blossoms. 4 p.m. Aug. 30, $30.
• Amateur Talent Show. It’s the finals of the 42nd State Fair talent contest, with winners determined in the preteen, teen and open competitions. 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31. No grandstand ticket required.
• Journey and Joan Jett. Reclusive Steve Perry may have surprisingly performed in St. Paul earlier this year with Eels, but it’ll be Arnel Pineda, who has more energy onstage than Perry ever did, belting “Don’t Stop Believin’” again at the grandstand. Jett keeps her rock ‘n’ roll less complicated so she can preserve her “Bad Reputation” and assert “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” 7 p.m. Sept. 1, $58, $48.
Some other recommended music around the fairgrounds: Aug. 21-22, the Minnesota soul of Chastity Brown (West End); Aug. 23-24, Grammy-winning folk-bluegrass kids’ music of Okee Dokee Brothers (Baldwin); Aug. 25-26, ’90s rock of Scott Stapp of Creed (Bandshell); Aug. 27-28, the groovy granola rock of Dr. Dog (Bandshell) and rockabilly guitar of Deke Dickerson (West End); Aug. 29-30, the Louisiana dance-party music of Buckwheat Zydeco (Bandshell) and the vintage soul of Sonny Knight & the Lakers (Bazaar); Aug. 31-Sept. 1, the country-oriented a cappella harmonies of “Sing-Off” champs Home Free (Bandshell) and the bayou piano of Marcia Ball (Bandshell).