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"We only had the county fair, and it was very small," says Jeremy Messersmith. It's hard to imagine the celebrated Twin Cities singer-songwriter raising pigs on a farm in Washington and taking part in 4-H, but this is how he grew up. The concept of a fair wasn't new to Messersmith, but his first Minnesota State Fair experience in 2005 exceeded everything he'd seen before.
"I just remember thinking, 'The parking lots here are as big as the entire fair that we had back home,'" he says. "The other thing was that you see everyone from Minnesota there. It really is the Minnesota get-together — be it race, class, whatever demographic it is — maybe it's for different reasons or maybe everyone is brought together by their love of deep-fried foods."
Though he's not hopping in the boiling grease himself, MPR darling Messersmith is set to play to a personal record crowd along with the Jayhawks, Semisonic, Dessa, and Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles for Friday's MN Music On-a-Stick show at the State Fair Grandstand.
Seating 17,000, the Grandstand can be daunting for any performer. Messersmith has never seen a show at the large venue before, which has him a little nervous. "I normally like to see a place before I play there. It's like a mental preparation to do some kind of imagining of how a show would go," he says. "I'm nervous before every show, so I'll try and do some jumping jacks or something to work off the nervous energy. Usually I don't get over it until the third song. Then, I'm like, 'Yeah, okay, I've done this before.' Before that, it's like, 'I wonder if the crowd is even listening to me.'"
Aside from this enormous performance, and probably a visit to the Miracle of Birth Center to watch baby pigs being born, Messersmith is looking forward to the food. He wants the honey ice cream with sunflower seeds, the deep-fried Twinkie, corn on the cob, and the apple freezies. ("That's the best thing you can buy with your money. They're a dollar, and they're delicious.") Admittedly, his vegetarian lifestyle means that he won't be getting any pork cheeks this year, and he's also learning portion control.
"I've done the whole Martha's Cookies thing with the bucket — then you drink all of the milk you can, but I don't really feel like throwing up this year," he says. "Most of the time with those cookies, it's a sociological thing, 'Hey, look at me. I'm the dude walking around with a pile of cookies — more than I could possibly eat.'"
For this MN Music On-a-Stick show, which comes ahead of Messersmith's Supper Club tour of willing people's yards and living rooms around the country, he'll perform old favorites with his eight-piece band and also songs from his upcoming album, which he just recorded, and has slated for 2013. There are some surprises in store for the Grandstand audience — maybe even a collaboration featuring all of the artists performing.
"There's been a slurry of emails between the bands over the last week," he says. "We will be getting together to do a song, although I have been basically selected to sing the line that no one else wants to sing. They're like, 'I don't really feel comfortable singing this. Jeremy, do you mind doing the line about the condoms?'"