As a feat of State Fair endurance, this year I'm attending all 12 Grandstand shows. My interest in these shows ranges from mild to nonexistent. Make sure to check in each day as I lose more and more of myself to this misguided task.
Day 2: Sugarland
9:05 - Sugarland’s high-energy, low-calorie pop country has arrived at the State Fair.
9:10 - If Waylon Jennings is the king of outlaw country, Sugarland are the kings of the law-abiding suburban stuff. This is the kind of song you might hear coming out of a tinny grocery store speaker while shopping for detergent.
9:22 - Here’s a tedious song about self-empowerment with a message of not giving up on your dreams. But what if your dream is to not be at a Sugarland concert?
9:33 - As far as I can tell, the only thing that distinguishes one song from the next is tempo.
9:40 - This concert is being billed as part of the “Still the Same” tour. I swear I’m not making that up just to be an asshole.
9:54 - The State Fair is generally a time for me to get outside of my urban bubble and to experience the broader tastes of my Greater Minnesota brothers and sisters. To soak up the country, if you will. Sugarland are making me want to get a face tattoo and a job spinning signs on Lake Street.
10:10 - Here’s another factory-farmed, cookie-cut song about country stuff. I really want this nightmare to be over.
Day 3: The Current’s Music on a Stick Featuring Trampled by Turtles
9:20 - The Turtles open their set, but not before the Current takes an opportunity to celebrate … the Current.
9:24 - The Turts’ Midwestern-hillbilly string-diddling is in full effect early. These guys come out fiddles blazing.
9:28 - Some of the free condoms that event sponsors Planned Parenthood handed out before the concert have been blown up and repurposed into balloons that are now bouncing around the GA section. Shows you just how industrious Minnesotans are. I love this.
9:40 - Sometimes when I’m in the car listening to the Current I entertain myself by saying disturbing phrases in my Mark Wheat voice. “This is Mark Wheat. I’m going to fill up my tub with cockroaches and take a dip into it tonight. But first, here’s Caroline Smith on the Current.”
9:48 - An over-reliance on soloing is usually a fast path for me to disconnect from a concert. This is not the case with the Turtles. The solos here are plenty engaging.
9:55 - Trampled by Turtles are Phish for the Current set.
10:08 - [Mark Wheat voice] “There are more jars of petroleum jelly in my closet than there are stars in the universe. Here’s a new one from Mumford and Sons on the Current.”
10:18 - Trampled by Turtles are very earnest and proficient which makes them difficult to mock. Outside of the silly band name there isn’t a whole lot that’s funny about these guys. I’m salivating for John Stamos to get behind the kit at the Beach Boys concert on Monday.
10:37 - The Turtles close their set with bluegrass hit “Wait So Long.” This show was a vast improvement over the two stinkers that kicked off the Grandstand.
10:40 - [Mark Wheat voice] “This is Mark Wheat. I was raised in the sea by jellyfish and eels. You just heard Atmosphere on the Current.”
Earth, Wind and Fire
7:35 - Frank Sinatra played the Grandstand in 1968. Johnny Cash played the next two years and would return to the fair for multiple appearances in the ’70s. Neil Young played the Grandstand in ’85. A legend in his own right, Sinbad is now talking about things you don’t want to say to your wife on that same hallowed stage.
7:43 - Sinbad just made a goof about how hard it is to find a salad at the Minnesota State Fair. Lol. TRUTH.
7:55 - So far, no jokes about being in the witness protection program for the last 20 years.
8:01 - Sinbad is right: It does get pretty cold here in the winter.
8:26 - This just keeps happening.
8:41 - Sinbad has been on stage for over an hour. What is going on?
8:48 - The marathon set finally reaches its conclusion. Sinbad? More like Sinterrible.
9:03 - Earth, Wind and Fire set begins.
9:05 - The band are dressed like WWF villains from the ‘90s.
9:17 - Relentlessly funky bass.
9:23 - Audience is asked to give one more round of applause for Sinbad.
9:35 - Earth, Wind and Fire sound exactly like you’d imagine them sounding live in 2018. The influx of old guys and whippersnappers in the band produces an odd energy but it’s passably entertaining.
9:45 - I can’t believe I have to do this fucking bullshit for eight more days.
9:58 - I’m just going to assume “September” played after I left to get cheese curds. God bless.
This is Ryan’s second dispatch from the fair. Check out his first review here. He has just eight more Grandstand concerts to get through.