Opening night August 19 will feature Joan Jett, who has recently regained notoriety thanks to the film The Runaways, which is based on her band of the same name that she founded when she was all of 15. Of course, I'd be remiss not to mention her signature song I Love Rock and Roll, which always seemed like it was "borrowed" by Def Leppard for Pour Some Sugar on Me. But Jett also had eight other top 40 singles in the US, so she wasn't a one-hit wonder.
Friday August 20 will feature M.C. Hammer. Seriously, this is no misprint. The former Oakland A's batboy, who was a ubiquitous pop culture figure nearly two decades ago, will return to our local stage. For those in attendance, parachute pants are optional. All jokes aside, his album Hammer Don't Hurt ‘Em was the first rap album to hit #1 on the US pop charts. The entrepreneur, preacher, and reality TV personality, still takes the stage now and again, and the fair will be one of those times.
Saturday August 21 is unofficially Big Hair Night at the fair - but in a lot of ways, isn't every night Big Hair Night at the fair? Jackyl and Slaughter will be performing their hard rock anthems and representing the slew of late 80s and early 90s hair bands that boasted only one name: Anthrax, Autograph, Cinderella, Krokus, et al. For Generation X-ers who graduated high school between 1988-1992, this show may be of particular interest.
What would a Kentucky State Fair be without the Oak Ridge Boys? They are fair stalwarts, as expected by visitors as Freddy Farm Bureau, black concert t-shirts, and the midway itself. But there's a reason they keep getting invited back, and it's no coincidence, either. They are fan favorites. In what will be their 34th consecutive fair appearance on Sunday August 22, the crowd-pleasing country band is supporting their latest release The Boys are Back that features a version of The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. It's always been a small miracle that Oak Ridge Boy William Lee Golden never has gotten an elephant ear stuck in his ample beard during their stop at the fair. Popular bluegrass band The Grascals are the opening act.
Monday August 23 will feature MercyMe. Probably best known for their crossover single I Can Only Imagine, they are also one of Contemporary Christian's most respected bands, and they have albums like Almost There to back it up. Fellow Christian singer Francesca Battistelli will open the show.
The highlight of the series may be Tuesday's night Charlie Daniels show with opening act The Kentucky Headhunters. There's something hard not to like about Daniels, who lacks all the pretense of some other music stars. Plus, when you have a thirty-plus years of a catalog to choose from, it makes for no shortage of set list possibilities. Hopefully, The South's Gonna Do It Again will be included, really one of the fine singles of the 70s. Bluegrass natives The Kentucky Headhunters will no doubt play their most well known song Dumas Walker.
Wednesday's show is billed as the Endless Summer Beach Party. It features Al Jardine of Beach Boys' fame, Dean Torrence from Jan and Dean, and Gary Puckett from Union Gap. In addition, Louisville's own Monarchs, who have been entertaining local crowds for almost half a century, will also perform. Hopefully Jardine will do a version of Beach Boys' classics like I Know There's An Answer or Surf's Up and not visit the dreaded Kokomo.
Jake Owen with special guest The Eli Young Band will perform on Thursday, August 26. For fans of new country music, this may be one of the fair's most anticipated shows - free or otherwise. Owen has had hits with Startin' With Me and the 80s Dream Academy song Life in a Northern Town, which he covered with Sugarland and Little Big Town and was recorded live. Mike Eli and James Young formed The Eli Young Band at the University of North Texas - the same school that produced Norah Jones. They were recently nominated for Top New Vocal Group at the 2010 American Country Music Awards.
Edmonton, Kentucky, natives Black Stone Cherry will play Friday night August 27 with special guests Default and Cavo. These hard rockers recently toured with AC/DC, and they will play songs from their two studio albums. The Canadian band, Default, will open along with Cavo, who had a song in the film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen last summer.
The last free show will be Saturday August 28 featuring Billy Currington and special guest The Band Perry, a young sibling group who has charted a couple country hits in the past year. Followers of mainstream country are well aware of Currington whose last three albums have produced four #1 singles, including Must Be Doing Something Right and People Are Crazy.
The 106th Kentucky State Fair will be held August 19-29 at the Kentucky Exposition Center. In addition to the free concerts, chances are good that in either the East or South wing you can also pick up a gratis John Belski mask/fan from the WAVE 3 booth.