It's fall once again, and that means the Arizona State Fair will get into full swing shortly. This year's lineup of musical performers is enough to make us think your time at the fair would be better spent blowing chunks on the Tilt-a-Whirl.
Granted, there are a couple of decent shows planned (the Foo Fighters/Queens of the Stone Age double-header on Friday, October 20, being the best). But mostly, the state-fair circuit is reserved for big-time stars on that long plummet downward, and middle-level acts facing the reality that they will forever be relegated to the show-business ghetto. Nevertheless, here are some highlights.
On Friday, October 13, "Weird Al" Yankovic performs, proving that you can take a one-joke premise very far if no one is really paying attention. Actually, even Weird Al diehards will have a difficult time recognizing the "new look" Yankovic, as the comedy-song sensation has grown his locks out and shaved off just enough facial hair to make him a dead ringer for Alanis Morissette.
The next night, Don Henley is scheduled to perform a bunch of Eagles songs without Glenn Frey, and, of course, no one will care. Actually, Henley will have lots of his own material to choose from, as he put out a fourth solo effort, Inside Job, earlier this year. The release of yet another Henley album proves that he is a resilient, socially conscious artist, and that there is no God.
The Isley Brothers get their turn on Sunday, October 15, in an effort to show that once-legendary black artists can be just as embarrassing as white nostalgia acts like Paul Revere and Herman's Hermits.
On Tuesday, October 17, "comedian" Gallagher -- the man who wields the most powerful sledgehammer since John Henry -- takes his bow. Unlike other annoying comedians (see Jerry Lewis), Gallagher is a uniquely American phenomenon, the United States being the only country where smashing fruit could ever be considered entertainment. In our estimation, Gallagher is the most reprehensible entertainer since Pogo the Clown (a.k.a. John Wayne Gacy). We would certainly love to go on, but feel it a pointless argument, as his incredible success and popularity are surely the result of some Faustian bargain.
Boy George and Culture Club take the stage on Wednesday, October 18, proving that overtly gay, smack-addicted former pop stars don't die or fade away, they just hit the cattle-show circuit.
On Thursday, October 26, the fair hosts a '70s eazzzy rock extravaganza featuring Pure Prairie League, Poco, and Firefall. The three will perform on the same bill in an effort to see if the audience (or the band members themselves) can tell the groups apart.
The following day, the Moody Blues continue their determined quest to bore audiences the world over for a fifth consecutive decade.
And Hanson closes things out on Sunday, October 29, with a show in support of its much-maligned sophomore album, This Time Around. Following the multiplatinum success of the band's debut, Middle of Nowhere, which spawned the ubiquitous single "MMMBop" and a swell of anti-Hanson sentiment, including a couple dozen Web sites and organizations like PHLA (People for a Hanson-Less America), This Time's embarrassing sales figures prove that puberty is not always a good career move.
The Arizona State Fair runs from October 12 to 29.
Twice the Twang: Valley alt-country fans will get a chance to witness a fine double bill at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe this week, as local boys Truckers on Speed open a show for Denton, Texas, twangers Slobberbone. Slobberbone is making its first Valley appearance since the release of the band's brilliant new disc, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (see "In Town").
The Truckers, meanwhile, have been busy doing a little recording of their own. On the heels of this year's long player, No Sense in Runnin', the group recently put the finishing touches on a five-song disc of new material they're using as an updated calling card for press and labels. Featuring live-show faves such as "Parasites and Vampires," "Irish Speedball" and "Wastes My Time," this fresh batch of songs has a decidedly Stonesy feel about it. Unfortunately, the group has scrapped plans to make the disc available to the public. The band had originally discussed selling the tracks as part of a bonus EP that would be packaged with existing copies of Runnin'. Still, the material is likely to surface as part of the band's sophomore album, which should be ready by early next year.
The Truckers' slate this week is a busy one, as they will make a pair of in-store appearances at Zia Records. The first will be at 8 p.m. Friday, October 6, at the University Drive store in Tempe. The group will also perform at the Tucson/Oracle Zia on Saturday, October 7, at 3 p.m. The band will also perform on Sunday, October 8, at the Family Day Celebration held at the Phoenix Civic Plaza. Showtime is 2 p.m. And finally, Truckers on Speed will open Slobberbone's Nita's date, scheduled for Monday, October 9, at 9 p.m.
Smokey, You're Entering a World of Pain: Another Texas-based alt-country star, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, will perform this week as part of the annual two-day Verde Valley music festival in Sedona. The event, which is in its 10th year, was conceived and organized by singer/songwriter, activist and all-around softie Jackson Browne to benefit Sedona's Verde Valley School and its Native American Scholarship Fund.
Browne will again be pulling double-duty as host and performer for the event, which will also feature sets from Ben Harper, Indigo Girls, Indigenous, Trisha Yearwood, Bruce Cockburn, Ulali, Patty Griffin, Keb' Mo' and many others. Sedona resident/teen singer Michelle Branch and Flagstaff's Joel Rafael Band are also scheduled to bring some local flavor to the proceedings.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore -- best known to many as "Smokey," the pacifist bowler terrorized by John Goodman's crazed Vietnam vet character in The Big Lebowski -- will be performing on the festival's second day, and will no doubt be playing a number of songs off his latest effort, One Endless Night. The disc, released by folk imprint Rounder, is a stirring compendium of Texas songwriting -- featuring Gilmore's interpretations of cuts by Butch Hancock, Townes Van Zandt, Willis Alan Ramsey, Walter Hyatt and others, including John Hiatt and Kurt Weill.
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The event will be held on Saturday, October 7, and Sunday, October 8, at the Verde Valley School in Sedona. For further information on tickets and lineups, call Ticketmaster at 480-784-4444. For information on camping, call 1-800-288-7336, or check the school's Web site at www.verdevalleyschool.org.
Art Rock: Two of local music's finest, Pinewood Derby and the Loud Americans, will be on hand this weekend to perform as part of the latest opening at the ASU Art Museum.
The groups will play a reception for a new show titled "No Absolutes: Contemporary Art From the Region," a progressive exhibition of Southwestern-based talents including Bob Adams, Craig Smith, Luís Gutierrez and Joe Willie Smith.
The event is scheduled for Saturday, October 7, at the ASU Art Museum on 10th Street and Mill (the bands will play in the museum plaza) and will run from 7 to 10 p.m. Admission is free. For additional information, call 480-965-2787.