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Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair

We love you, Joan Jett.
We love you, Joan Jett.
Photo by Erik Hess

The Minnesota State Fair begins this week! End of summer and all that, sure. But it means the beginning of a barrage of outdoor shows, fireworks, and beer-flavored gelato. Between the Grandstand and the myriad free stages, there's enough entertainment to make a fan feel like she's consumed one too many orders of walleye mac & cheese. (We kid. That would be impossible.)

As a helpful service to the busy fair-going public, here's our top 10 shows at the 2014 get-together.

See also:
Minnesota State Fair: Cheap and free things to do

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Photo by Erik Hess

The 4onthefloor | Schell's Stage at Sunset | 7:30 p.m., August 29-30 | Free
For the celebratory spirits populating the Minnesota State Fair, the 4onthefloor's two free shows promise a welcome arena to kick up the late-August dust. Led by Gabriel Douglas, this rabble-rock group is known for their stompin' beats, bluesy riffs, and some of the area's heartiest fans. Their latest, Spirit of Minneapolis, was released last year. Lots more on that here.

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Photo by Tony Nelson

Journey and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts | Grandstand | 7 p.m., September 1 | $48/$58
Even if we're higher on Joan Jett, it'd be wrong to underestimate the Arnel Pineda-led Journey portion of this show. Neal Schon is a fierce man on the axe, and this band's catalog is deep with nostalgic songs that sound better with funnel cake in your nostrils and fireworks in the sky. As for Jett, she's a hard-rockin' treasure who still hasn't let off the throttle. Against punks young enough to be her grandkids at Riot Fest last year, Jett kept up her bad reputation.

Paramore's Hayley Williams
Paramore's Hayley Williams
Photo by Erik Hess

Fall Out Boy and Paramore | Grandstand | 7 p.m., August 28 | $41/$51
Speaking of punks, two of the most pop-oriented entities to ever grace the cover of Alternative Press will team up for this Grandstand show. After a four-year hiatus, Fall Out Boy triumphantly returned to stages last year with their mix of glam, soul, and emo in packages that are smart enough to keep parents in the audience engaged. Paramore have seen a lot of lineup upheaval, but Hayley Williams has the goods for infectious kiss-offs like "Ain't it Fun." 

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Publicity photo

Deke Dickerson with the Trashmen | Schell's Stage at Sunset | 7:30 p.m., August 27-28 | Free
This one's for garage and surf rock enthusiasts of all ages. The Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" -- bird is the word, etc. -- is one of the biggest hits ever created in Minnesota. Expect some extra rockabilly swagger with St. Louis's Deke Dickerson leading this merry troupe. They collaborated on a new album called Bringin' Back the Trash. A high probability of dancing.

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Photo by Nick Kozel

Sonny Knight & the Lakers | Bazaar After Dark | 7:30 p.m. & 8:45 p.m., August 29-30 | Free
There's a reason Sonny Knight has been on a local tear this year. The guy loves to perform, and his band of vintage soul lovers in the Lakers are right there with him. With Secret Stash's release of his first official album, I'm Still Here, there's reason to celebrate and make up for lost time. Now in his mid-60s, Knight has seen so many eras of music pass, and knows how to pull the timeless elements out for his own purpose. Potent, raw, and passionate songs like "Juicy Lucy" and "I'm Still Here Part 2" speak to a man with a creativity that he can't help but share. Lots more here.

 

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Publicity photo

Nikki Lane | MPR Booth - The Current Live Broadcast | 4:30 p.m., August 23 | Free
Don't sleep on this one happening over at the Current's booth. Nashville-based Nikki Lane is part of a new generation of country-rock badasses. Teamed with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach to create new album All Or Nothin', Lane nods to legends like Wanda and Loretta, while spending a good amount of time creating her own. More on MPR's activity during the Fair here.

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Photo by Tony Nelson

Chastity Brown | Schell's Stage at Sunset | 7:30 p.m., August 21-22 | Free 
After a resounding response to 2012's Back-Road Highways, roots-rocker Chastity Brown is finally returning with some new work next year. Set for release in the spring, the album will feature "Colorado," a wistful new song featuring her soulful voice recounting her travels. As she prepares to launch a Kickstarter to support the new release, here's a couple opportunities to catch up or reconnect with Brown's engrossing material.

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Photo by Mary Bell / OC Weekly

Dr. Dog | Bandshell Tonight! | 8:30 p.m., August 27-28 | Free
Dr. Dog's songwriting team of Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman is one thing -- and it's an impressive one. Over the past decade, they've created eight strong albums of hazy jams recalling the Band, the Beatles, and a wealth of psychedelic rock that never existed until they came along. Local radio staple "Broken Heart" off 2013's B-Room shows they're not afraid to glam it up. Live, they're all about engaging the audience and each other.    
 

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Photo by Erik Hess

MN Music On-A-Stick | Grandstand | 4 p.m., August 30 | $30
Bring together Brother Ali and Doomtree -- who are gearing up for the release of their next studio album -- and you've already got the most rap-heavy offering of the entire 2014 State Fair. The rest of the bill is a catch-all of local (or formerly local) talent. Bob Mould is always good for some spiky rock that's heavy on the hooks. Har Mar Superstar's got his soulfulness and shirtless contortions. Add the levity and lushness of Cloud Cult and the Cactus Blossoms' authentic country western songcraft, and it's a party that never stays in one place for long. 

Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair
Photo by Nick Wosika

Aretha Franklin and the Four Tops | Grandstand | 7:30 p.m., August 22 | $45
If you want a do-right woman, go see the queen. The 72-year-old Aretha Franklin has battled back from health issues the past couple of years but is returning to the stage. She's one of the most powerful and respected singers this country has ever seen, and she brings an unmatched style and grace to her performances. Add in the current lineup of the Four Tops, and we're talking the potential for rapid-fire soul hits all night long.

Read more on the entire Grandstand lineup, and free stages.

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Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list


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Minnesota State Fair Grandstand

1265 Snelling Ave. N.
St. Paul, MN 55108

651-288-4400

www.mnstatefair.org


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