Free music stages are one of the taken-for-granted pleasures at the Minnesota State Fair. However, this year music lovers might be less likely to plan their Great Minnesota Get-Together visits around the free-music schedules because the lineups aren't as exciting as in many previous years.
Take the Leinie Lodge Bandshell Tonight series. Gaelic Storm, regular visitors to Irish Fair and the Minnesota Zoo, plies its Celtic folk-rock on Aug. 27-28. Terri Clark, a likable country singer who hasn't had a hit since 2004's charttopping "Girls Lie Too," is booked for Aug. 29-30, the nights that country superstars Carrie Underwood and Alan Jackson are at the grandstand.
Set for Aug.31 and Sept. 1, Andy Grammer, the charming L.A. singer and beat-boxer, is arguably the most contemporary performer in the lineup. His "Honey, I'm Good" was a modest pop hit last year. And, thanks to lots of airplay on KS95 radio, he's been a regular at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.
Trim two letters, add several years in age and a jukebox full of hits and you go from Grammer to Gramm, as in Lou Gramm, the voice of Foreigner (though he no longer tours with that still-touring band). On Sept. 2-3, he'll reprise such 1970s and '80s triumphs as "Cold as Ice," "Hot Blooded" and the volcanic "I Want To Know What Love Is."
The fair likes to have at least one act that will get folks dancing during the Bandshell Tonight. That falls on Sept. 4-5 to Reel Big Fish, the southern California ska-punk mainstays best remembered for 1997 hit "Sell Out."
Closing out the Bandshell Tonight series on Sept. 6-7 are hometown heroes Home Free, the a cappella country quintet that won the championship on Season 4 of NBC's "The Sing-Off" in 2013. Although they've yet to gain traction on country radio or land a big country tour, they'll wow you with their harmonies, humor and creative arrangements of country and pop songs.
The daytime lineup at the Bandshell includes bluesman Kenny Neal, rising Cajun stars the Pine Leaf Boys and singer/guitarist Jeff Dayton, a Minnesota native who spent many years as Glen Campbell's guitarist.
Plenty of our favorite Minnesota acts are booked for other free stages including Davina & the Vagabonds, Sonny Knight & the Lakers, Malamanya, the Cactus Blossoms, Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders, Haley Bonar and Charlie Parr.
The State Fair will be held from Aug 27 through Sept. 7.
For more information on the free stages, go to http://www.mnstatefair.org/entertainment/free_entertainment_15.html