Every year, the State Fair gives out ribbons in all kinds of fields -- crocheting, crop art, cows, you name it. So we're doing a little handicapping in an area that normally is ruled by applause, not ribbons. BEST OF SHOW

Dawes: Sort of the West Coast answer to the Hold Steady, this Los Angeles quartet has had Minnesota fans swooning for the past few years. It's impossible to resist frontman Taylor Goldsmith's unabashed enthusiasm and his band's soulful folk-rock. (8:30 p.m. Aug. 23-24, Bandshell, free.)


Bonnie Raitt: The Rock Hall of Famer will make her lucky seventh appearance at the fair, with strong new tunes from the excellent "Slipstream," her first album in seven years. Another Hall of Famer, the still-stirring Mavis Staples, opens. (7:30 p.m. Aug. 23, grandstand, $34.50 & $44.50)

JD McPherson: This former Oklahoma punk rocker creates short, new songs that sound like 1950s rockabilly delivered with a voice as soulful as Sam Cooke's. Brylcreem and poodle skirts aren't necessary to appreciate these timeless tunes. (6:30 & 7:45 p.m. Aug. 27-28, Heritage Square, free.)

Davina & the Vagabonds: With their New Orleans flavor and Davina Sowers' powerhouse voice and piano, this horn-flavored blues/jazz juggernaut has developed into one of the Twin Cities' most exciting live bands. (7:30 & 9 p.m. Aug. 27-28, Bazaar, free.)

Kiss/Mötley Crüe: These two bona fide headliners are better showmen than musicians. Kiss pulled surprises last time at the fair when singer Paul Stanley flew over the crowd on a cable. The Crüe has good tricks, too. Party with some of rock's most enduringly hedonistic stars. (7 p.m. Aug. 29, grandstand, $51-$81.)

Rascal Flatts: Last year at Xcel Center, the Nashville trio was focused, fresh and fun -- partly because it was filmed for a TV special. Flatts' hair and harmonies still rule country music, and they know how to work the grandstand. With Little Big Town, Eli Young and Edens Edge. (7 p.m. Aug. 30, grandstand, $43-$63.)

Minnesota Music on a Stick: They represent two generations of Minnesota musicmakers, but they all stand for quality -- 1990s pop hitmakers Semisonic and Americana faves the Jayhawks plus two newer stars: sweet-voiced popster Jeremy Messersmith and super-smart rapper Dessa. (5 p.m. Aug. 31, grandstand, $35.)

Hookers & Blow: Minnesota's best cover band will visit classic-rock and soul territory with several vocalists, strong musicianship and a can't-miss repertoire. Bring your dancin' shoes. (7:30 & 9 p.m. Aug. 31-Sept. 1, Bazaar, free.)

New Standards: This hipster Twin Cities trio takes famous pop songs -- by everyone from Britney Spears to the Replacements -- and reimagines them as lounge jazz. It's as musically entertaining as it is cheeky fun. (6:30 & 7:45 p.m. Aug. 31-Sept. 1, Heritage Square, free.)

Molly Maher & Erik Koskinen: She's the Lucinda Williams of the Twin Cities, and he may be the state's best pure country singer/songwriter. (6:30 & 7:45 p.m. Sept. 2-3, Heritage Square, free.)

Bettye LaVette: A 1960s R&B singer on the rebound, LaVette is not only one of the greatest interpretive singers of our time -- covering everything from the Beatles to Lucinda Williams -- but one of the most emotive and physical R&B singers around. (8:30 p.m. Sept. 2-3, Bandshell, free.)


Elizabeth Cook: This talented Nashville thrush favors traditional country with a fresh attitude that makes her seem left of center. She took a right turn on this year's "Gospel Plow," a mix of the spiritual and bluegrass. (1 & 2:30 p.m. Aug. 25-26, Bandshell, free.)

Happy Together Tour: The Turtles were unexpectedly wonderful last year at the grandstand. Their talents will offset whatever their tour mates -- '60s stars Gary Puckett, Micky Dolenz, the Grass Roots and the Buckinghams -- are missing. (8 p.m. Aug. 27, grandstand, $18.)

Demi Lovato: Of all the Disney-bred music stars, this "X Factor" judge-in-waiting rivals Nick Jonas as the most musically talented. She can sing, play instruments and command a stage. She will rock you. (7:30 p.m. Aug. 28, grandstand, $35.)

The Mavericks: One of the most exciting country acts of the '90s, these guys mixed traditional country with vintage rock 'n' roll. After disbanding in 2004, the band is back, fortified by frontman Raul Malo, a vocal force in many styles. (8:30 p.m. Aug. 29-30, Bandshell, free.)

Wanda Jackson: The 1950s queen of rockabilly still has the charm, tunes and fringe-covered outfits to thrill fans of all ages, as she proved opening for Adele last year and recording with Jack White. (1 & 2:30 p.m. Aug. 31-Sept. 1, Bandshell, free.)

Wiz Khalifa: Wiz ascended the charts by rapping on his own "Black and Yellow" and Maroon 5's "Payphone." With Mac Miller and Big K.R.I.T., this will be the first hip-hop show at the grandstand since Vanilla Ice in 1991 -- if that one counts. (6:30 p.m. Sept. 3, grandstand, $29 & $39.)

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719