It used to be that playing the state fair circuit meant you were a has-been, that your rock 'n' roll career had gone belly up (you know, like billed after the puppet show, Spinal Tap-style).
Maybe it's still like that most places, but the Arizona State Fair always manages to corral a decent-to-great lineup. Remember past years, when the Fair hosted Snoop-freaking-Dogg and Judas-freaking-Priest?
Acts headed to Veteran's Memorial Coliseum (which has got the most Almost Famous-like vibe of any venue in the Valley) in 2012 look to uphold the standards of previous years.
There's a little something for everyone, including American Idol rocker Adam Lambert (remember how much his fans hated us for suggesting he didn't make a good fit with Queen?), country superstar Billy Currington, on-the-rise pop duo Karmin, metal-gone-dubstep rockers Korn, and alt-rockers Sublime (with Rome), Weezer, and Jane's Addiction.
Here's a closer look at the lineup.
Currington's easy-going everyman appeal has earned him a CMT Award for "Hottest Video of the Year" and a couple Grammy nominations.
His song "Like My Dog" is an ambling, tongue-in-cheek (we're hoping) plea for his baby to "love him like his dog." (He gets a pretty bitter line in about calling his lady's sister a bitch, but who's going to fault the guy for going after a lazy canine pun?)
Something tells me the ladies find him hunky, too, what with those muscles, tousled hair, and piercing eyes.
I'm not going to say I haven't had my problems with the progression of The Weez (see my Pinkerton-level whiney 2010 screed "Weezer's Rivers Cuomo Gave the People What They Wanted -- But He Betrayed Me"), but 2010's Hurley did feature some pleasing pop gems, especially "Ruling Me," co-written by under-appreciated pop genius Dan Wilson (of Semisonic).
I've come around in my old age: I think that the strength of "Say it Ain't So" is enough to outweigh the stank of a couple dozen "Beverly Hills."
I'm just going to turn this one over to one of Up on the Sun's illustrious comment-leavers, Kerry Kolsch, who left this missive when we wrote about five people better suited to sing with Queen that Mr. Adam Lambert:
Like you, from the time I was a kid when my mom took me to concerts, I have seen everyone from Prince to Madonna, the Rolling Stones to Britney Spears, Paul McCartney to Billy Joel. You get my point. I have never seen a better live performer than Adam Lambert. He has the sex appeal of Elvis and a voice like no other. He is six foot one inches of handsome, strutting alpha male and he is getting ready to rock the world. The five guys listed here are no match for Adam Lambert on the best day of their lives.
Glamberts -- we offer our recommendation to go see Lambert at Veterans as an olive branch. We don't want to arouse your wrath again.
Do you know how many albums Jane's Addiction has? Four. That's four records in 27 years. But at least two of them are straight up classics, Nothing's Shocking (1988) and Ritual de lo Habitual (1990) and the others aren't terrible or anything (TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek added some cool textures to last year's The Great Escape Artist). In their own way, Jane's blended the bare chested nonsense of Los Angeles pop-metal with a wounded, mystic hippie aesthetic. Sure, "Jane Says" and "Been Caught Stealing" have been driven into the ground by modern rock radio, but tell me you don't can an urge to strut a little to "Mountain Song." (While you're at it, how about our video of Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks covering "Mountain Song?")
Karim, the pop duo of Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan met at the Berklee College of Music, and their musical education has gone to good use in covering all sorts of radio-dominating pop music, like Nicki Minaj's "Superbass," and Lil Wayne's "6 Foot 7 Foot." They've done alright with their own tunes, too: Their single "Brokenhearted" made it to number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club songs chart.
Ask your average crate-digging, vintage Levis-sporting alt-country fan what country music fan what the genre needs, and he might well respond with something like "more guts," or "to get in touch with its outlaw spirit," or "more pedal-steel." Ask Jerrod Niemann and he'd likely respond "One More Drinking Song."
Niemann's hit has a little more in common with the slick Nashville modern sound than "tear in my beer" classics, but he's got chops, having penned hits for Garth Brooks, Neal McCoy, and the outlaw-minded Jamey Johnson.
Korn: Saturday, October 27 @ Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fair According to our own Benjamin Leatherman, "classic Korn" is gone, but the dubstep-leaning wobble wobble rock outfit in its place is plenty awesome in its own right.
"As much as Davis has brayed about reinventing rock 'n' roll with the hybridization of Korn's nu-metal swagger with the grimly powerful crunch of dubstep, the band's M.O. is crystal clear," Leatherman wrote in his review of Korn's last visit. " The Path of Totality was borne from the desire to avoid a path to obscurity."
Sublime with Rome is down to only one original Sublime member, bassist Eric Wilson. Drummer Bud Gaugh left the trio in 2011, after playing with Rome Ramirez and Wilson since 2009.
In an interview with Budz TV, Gaugh said, "In hindsight I would not have used the name. I didn't want to in the first place, I was talked into it and I would like to apologize to certain people and the fans for trying to justify or talk them into it as well. The recording was awkward; It felt rushed, felt like I was playing someone else's parts/songs."
But Wilson and Ramirez are still at it, with legendary session drummer Josh Freese sitting at the drum throne. With no lack of Sublime tribute bands out there, you might as well see the one featuring the guy who laid the bass down on those records in the first place.
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The Mavericks: Sunday, November 18 @ Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fair Miami isn't exactly the first place you'd expect to find country music, but that's where The Mavericks hail from, and it goes a long way in explaining the band's Latin flair (they're best known for their collaboration with accordionist Flaco Jiménez).
Songwriter Raul Malo embarked on a solo career as the band's fortuned waned, but they reunited this year, armed with a new album, Suited Up and Ready.