Fringe Festival

Aug. 3-13: There's one place for theater lovers to be in the Twin Cities during August, and that's the Fringe Festival, Minnesota's annual celebration of the unexpected. Organized via a lottery system, which means everyone and their mother has a chance to put on a one-hour show, the Fringe is an experience of surprises and lots of fun. Led this year by new executive director Dawn Bentley, it's a great chance to meet people, see various performance venues around the city and try something new. (612-872-1212; Sheila Regan

Bruno Mars

Aug. 5: Bruno tearing down the Xcel has become a yearly tradition in St. Paul, but this year the 31-year-old pop-funk sensation has the momentum of a new album. "24K Magic" was released in November, and it's been propelling the four-time Grammy winner on a lengthy world tour that stops in Minnesota — just in time to baptize ravenous locals with a full night of exuberant hits and golden-era funk. (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul. $191-$2,805; Jerard Fagerberg

Father John Misty

Aug. 19: Father John Misty's sardonic anthems are hot in the music world, and Surly's sardonically branded beer is hot with Minnesotans — so it's only natural that the two insolent megapowers should join forces. After christening its Surly Brewing Festival Field last summer, the brewery will bring in Misty with his latest collection of mirth and pitch, "Pure Comedy." The new album pairs best with frothy cups of Surly's Xtra-Citra and #Merica! — and a wry sense of entertainment. (520 SE. Malcolm St., Mpls. $45; J.F.

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Aug. 19-Oct. 1: The Renaissance may have been 600 years ago, but RenFest keeps the magic alive in modern times. Kings, queens and even fairies and other magical creatures bring merriment to visiting commoners. Themed weekends such as "Silk Road," "Wine, Chocolate & Romance" and "Oktoberfest" feature special activities and attractions. Every weekend includes stage and street acts soliciting chuckles and banter. (12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee. $12.50-$20.95; Melissa Walker

Lady Gaga

Aug. 21: The ceaselessly Madonna-like transitions of Lady Gaga have made her Twin Cities stops distinct and unique. In 2009, she came to the Fine Line as a disco-rave debutante. A year later, she appeared at Xcel Energy Center as a lycra-clad dominatrix. In 2013, she took to the X as a blue-collar rock goddess, and a year after that, returned as a bizarre pop art mannequin. With the soaring "Joanne" to promote, Gaga's latest tour will be an emotional, operatic reimagining of the shapeshifting pop auteur. (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul. $48.50-$750; J.F.

Tim Mcgraw and Faith Hill

Aug. 25-26: Married for 21 years, country stars McGraw and Hill are in the midst of their third Soul2Soul Tour, but their first since 2006. They perform solo (her "Breathe," his "Live Like You Were Dying") but the real fun is when they share the stage. They'll preview their long-awaited duet album (due this year) and reprise earlier collaborations, including the intimate showstopper "I Need You." (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul. $79.50-$119.50; ticket­ Jon Bream

Minnesota State Fair

Aug. 24-Sept. 4: It's hard saying goodbye to summer, but the Great Minnesota Get-Together makes it a softer landing. The fair's original cheese curd stand looks to be closing this year (!), so expect longer lines at the remaining three curd stands. Fret not: The newest fair foods will be announced in June. The grandstand concert lineup includes Nickelback (Aug. 24), comic Jim Gaffigan (Aug. 26), Toby Keith (Aug. 27), John Mellen­camp (Aug. 29), Usher (Aug. 31), Sam Hunt (Labor Day) and more to be announced. ( Simon Peter Groebner