Saturday, October 25, 2014


Cover Story

Iowa State Fair Live Music Preview

8/6/2014

Come one, come all, for State Fair time is upon us once again. The mighty Iowa State Fair has a long and storied history of quality live music, and organizers have taken special pride in making sure that the fair has something for everyone. From the looks of things, 2014 will be no different.

In addition to the quality lineup on the grandstand, the fair boasts dozens of acts performing on free stages throughout the fairgrounds every day for the duration of the fair. Spotlighting each and every act would require a whole issue unto itself, but we’ve narrowed it down and are offering up just a glimpse of what you can expect on each of the fair’s stages. Enjoy.

Great White

Bud Light Stage

Friday Aug. 8

DM Art Center
Great White performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 8 on the free Bud Light Stage.

Great White performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 8 on the free Bud Light Stage.

Like any long-tenured band, Great White has had its ups and downs. There have been lineup changes, good albums, lousy albums, a rise to fame and a descent into relative obscurity.

Frustrated with lackluster sales, a feeling of stagnant creativity levels and front man Jack Russell’s off-stage behavior, Great White broke up in 2000. The full band reformed in 2006, but in 2010 Russell was once again replaced (this time for good) by XYZ vocalist Terry Ilous.

Ilous brings a different approach to Great White’s songs, and it’s one that longtime keyboardist and producer Michael Lardie thinks keeps the band fresh.

“With (lead guitarist Mark Kendall) and I being the primary writers, I felt like we still had something to say,” Lardie said. “There’s an incredible energy (with Terry). Jack, for whatever reason, doesn’t have the ability to perform with that energy. It’s apples and oranges, vocally, but we always said that we didn’t want to grab a (Jack Russell) clone to carry on.”

And carrying on is exactly what Great White is doing. Not content to just work the nostalgia circuit, Great White has continued to produce new music throughout the new century, including “Elation,” the band’s 2012 release, which was the first album to feature Ilous’ vocals.

“It seems that we get up every day and feel like we are songwriters and we still have something to play,” Lardie said. “We absolutely could just become a greatest hits band, but we don’t want to do that. We still feel vital. We still want to make new things. Stylistically, (“Elation”) is very interesting. It would slot very well between ‘Hooked’ (1991) and ‘Psycho City’ (1992). It’s an amalgam of how we’ve always tried to make records.”

Lardie describes Ilous’ vocals as being more in the vein of a David Coverdale-style rocker, whereas Russell was more of a “pure singer.” For people who grew up with Great White’s ‘80s and ‘90s hits, the difference is apparent, though obviously not unpleasant. But much like its namesake, Great White has to keep moving. And Ilous’ work is just taking the band on the next leg of a journey that leads to more music and even more fans.

“Even after all these years, for many people, it’s the first time they’ve seen us,” Lardie explained. “I think we as a group have been able to keep that spark and know that our intention is to go out and realize that it is fresh to that group of people. And we’re going to keep doing that until it’s not fun anymore.”

Other Bud Stage acts:

                  Winger, Thursday, Aug. 7

                  PopROCKS, Saturday, Aug. 9

                  Slaughter, Sunday, Aug. 10

                  Hairball, Aug. 11-12

                  Hotel California, Wednesday, Aug. 13

                  Ben Portsmouth, Thursday, Aug. 14

                  Yesterday, Aug. 15-16

                  Fastball, Sunday, Aug. 17

Alien Ant Farm

Fairview Stage

Saturday, Aug. 9

Alien Ant Farm has reunited its original members and will perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 9.

Alien Ant Farm has reunited its original members and will perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 9.

Despite more than 5 million units sold and nearly 20 years of experience under its belt, it can still be easy to write Alien Ant Farm off as a one-hit wonder. That’s because most casual listeners’ experience with the band begins and ends with its 2001 cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

But, after undergoing a couple of lineup changes and a short hiatus, Alien Ant Farm is back with its original lineup, and band members are working on a new album of music — their first in eight years.

“It’s been a process,” said guitarist Terry Corso of the new album titled “Always and Forever.” “It’s like pushing out a really big baby, you know? There’s a lot of relief involved in the outcome. We’ve gone outside of our box on the writing and stuff, which was a really cool and fun experience.”

“Always and Forever” returns Alien Ant Farm to some of their heavier roots. The band started out with more metal influences, but their two follow-up albums to 2001’s “Anthology” were both commercially depressed and critically ignored. But with “Always and Forever”, Alien Ant Farm has tried to recapture some of the magic by trying a few new tricks.

“The band has always written songs in a variety of genres,” said bassist Tye Zamora. “(So) that’s what we did while writing this album. But this time we explored the electronic disco thing that is so popular with kids today.”

“Writing this record, we also did co-writes for the first time,” Corso added. “Most of the people that we wrote with were all urban or hip-hop or R&B. We wanted to not write with rock producers too much, you know. We did, but it was cool to get really outside of our box and kind of just like, be in a writing relationship with someone who needs you for what you got and has what you need.”

The band hasn’t received a ton of label support since the early 2000s, so for “Always and Forever” band members followed the growing trend and turned to crowd sourcing. The band put a pre-order crowd-funding effort up on www.pledgemusic.com and has amassed one-and-a-half times its original goal.

“We have no choice at this point,” Zamora said of asking their fans for support. “We waited two years since being signed to record and put this album out. We can’t wait any longer. We want people to hear these songs, and the only way we can do that is by creating the financial backing to record an album that is up to Alien Ant Farm’s standards.”

Other Fairview Stage acts:

                  Los Lonely Boys, Thursday, Aug. 7

                  Vocal Trash, Aug. 7-17

                  The Nadas, Friday, Aug. 8

                  Savannah Jack, Aug. 10-11

                  Green River Ordinance, Tuesday, Aug. 12

                  The Romantics, Wednesday, Aug. 13

                  Trixter, Thursday, Aug. 14

                  Black Stone Cherry, Friday, Aug. 15

                  Bob Dorr and the Blue Band, Saturday, Aug. 16

                  Here Come the Mummies, Sunday, Aug. 17

Dustin Lynch

Susan Knapp Amphitheater

Monday, Aug. 11

Dustin Lynch will perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 11 on a free stage.

Dustin Lynch will perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 11 on a free stage.

Lynch really hit the ground running. His self-titled debut contained the hit single, “Cowboys and Angels,” a song Lynch co-wrote with Des Moines native Josh Leo (Crystle Gayle, LeAnn Rimes) and Tim Nichols (Tim McGraw, Faith Hill). The single went on to sell more than a million copies and was certified platinum.

For his follow-up “Where It’s At” (dropping Sept. 8), Lynch has looked to take his sound in a little different direction, a decision he attributes partially to a recent tour partner.

“I look at (‘Where It’s At’) as the second chapter, a blank page staring at me,” he said. “My life has changed so much in the past year. I’ve gotten to experience so many emotions, and I think all of that comes out in the music. I think the Keith Urban tour influenced this album a lot.”

“Those are invaluable lessons,” he continued, talking about being able to observe Urban from the wings. “Watching (Urban) every night and watching the energy that he puts out, he’s a master entertainer. You take that, and look at what’s different. For me, what was different was the energy. I love the feeling of having that rocking song. Having the success with “Cowboys and Angels” was awesome, but having this kind of up-tempo song that’s a hit completely changes the vibe.”

So far, the change in energy level seems to be paying off. The album’s title track was released as a single in March of this year, and has already moved nearly 400,000 units, putting it on pace to become the 29-year-old’s second platinum single in as many years.

“ ‘Cowboys and Angels’ was a slow climb, but this song has averaged 25,000 copies every week it’s been out,” said Lynch, who is confident about the song’s trending ability. “It’s going to continue. I’m happy that I took a chance on a track that was a different direction for me. It wasn’t a gamble, exactly, but it was definitely a little different than what people expected.”

The song’s success can be chalked up in equal parts to Lynch’s talent and to his name recognition coming off “Cowboys and Angels” success. But another advantage to growing a reputation as a young hit-maker was more unexpected.

“As I’ve gotten a little more street cred, I’ve had a bunch of writers writing songs specifically for me, and pitching those to me,” Lynch explained. “And honestly, a lot of them were better than what I’d written (for the album). That was kind of a bitter pill to swallow, but for me the music wins out. And the songwriting on this album is out of this world. It’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received, to have these Nashville songwriters competing to get on my album.”

This marks Lynch’s first trip to the Iowa State Fair, but he’s no stranger to the state or to the festival atmosphere.

“We’ve played festivals where you can’t even hear the mix in your ears, it’s so loud,” he said. “There’s nothing more American than a country music festival, there’s no doubt about that.”

Other Knapp Amphitheater acts:

                  Kristian Bush, Thursday, Aug. 7

                  Jon Pardi, Friday, Aug. 8

                  Dallas Smith, Saturday, Aug. 9

                  Trick Pony, Sunday, Aug. 10

                  Country Gold, Tuesday, Aug. 12

                  The Swon Brothers, Wednesday, Aug. 13

                  Farewell to Summer Dance Party, Thursday, Aug. 14

                  Eric Parslay, Friday, Aug. 15

                  Sundy Best, Saturday, Aug. 16

                  Charles Esten, Sunday, Aug. 17

Chuck Negron

Grandstand

Friday, Aug. 8

Chuck Negron will perform with the Happy Together Tour at 8 p.m. on Aug. 8

Chuck Negron will perform with the Happy Together Tour at 8 p.m. on Aug. 8

As a founding member of Three Dog Night, Chuck Negron was one of the voices of a generation. The band’s trio of singers — Negron, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells — were the voices behind some of the biggest hits in the ‘70s, including “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Black and White” and “Eli’s Comin’.” But some of the band’s biggest successes were the songs where Negron’s tenor takes center stage — songs like “One,” “The Show Must Go On” and “Joy to the World.”

Negron’s personal struggles with substance abuse, coupled with long years of infighting and ego within the band, led to his departure from Three Dog Night in 1991. After completing recovery and getting healthy again, Negron decided to stay away from Three Dog Night and set out on a solo career.

While Negron’s solo show features several Three Dog Night hits, he feels like being the only person doing the singing allows him to explore more.

“I can expand the styles in which I sing,” he said. “In Three Dog Night, the whole concept was three lead singers doing three different things. So we always had someone viable on the charts. I did “One,” “Easy To Be Hard.” Then Cory and Danny and I did “Eli’s Coming,” which was a whole other sound. So, I was kind of more or less expected to do a certain type of song. Then Danny was expected to do it, and then Cory was expected. As a solo artist, I can use my voice to its fullest. I can do all sorts of genres and songs. I can pick fast songs, funky songs, R&B songs. So I’m more pliable. I have the opportunity to do more.”

Negron has come through town a couple times in the past few years on his own, but starting in 2013 he joined up with the Happy Together Tour, which features The Turtles and a semi-rotating cast of classic acts.

“Six or seven years ago, I did a tour called Hippie Fest, and The Turtles were on that,” Negron explained. “That tour stimulated The Happy Together Tour. They’ve been doing it since, and now I’m on it and I’m hoping to stay on it for a couple of years.”

Florida Georgia Line

Grandstand

Tuesday, Aug. 12

Florida Georgia LineSince releasing its first single, the ubiquitous summertime jam “Cruise,” in 2012, Florida Georgia Line has pretty much owned the top of the country charts at will. Of its five subsequent charting singles, three in a row have joined “Cruise” at No. 1, and none of them has failed to finish outside of the top five. And while it may be true that nobody gets anywhere alone, there’s also no doubt that the lion’s share of the credit for that is placed firmly on the talented shoulders of the duo that comprise the band, Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard.

Hubbard and Kelley write or co-write the vast majority of their own material, and it is their infectious hooks and easy harmonies that keep fans singing along. The first single off their sophomore album, “Dirt,” takes the duo in a different direction. Whereas “Cruise” is all about the fun and energy of youth, “Dirt” is heavy with the themes of things ending and returning from whence they came.

“You hear a song like that, you’ve got to cut it,” Hubbard said. “For us it was definitely a no-brainer. We were just happy to be able to hear it and be able to cut it, and we think it’s gonna be a big one.”

So far, the track is doing that statement justice. “Dirt” became the duo’s fourth No. 1 single, and has sold 400,000 copies since it debuted in July.

But Florida Georgia Line’s aspirations range beyond the traditional country tropes. The pair has not been shy about collaborating with artists outside of their own genre: Shortly after “Cruise” hit the top of the country charts, a remix of the song featuring Nelly peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well.

“For us, country-wise, Ronnie Dunn and Garth Brooks would be at the top of our list,” Kelley said, speaking of future collaborations. “Drake, Rihanna and Wiz Khalifa outside of that would probably be fun.”

The duo now feels like they’re helping to dictate the direction that popular country takes in the future and feel like the genre is poised for another wave of crossover appeal.

“For some people, the phrase ‘country music’ can be a bad thing because they don’t know about it. They’ve been listening to one type of music. You know, it’s not what it used to be, and that’s not a bad thing. Music is evolving, no matter the genre. So I would say no matter whether it’s country music or pop or rap, there’s a lot of great music out there currently, so be open-minded and give it a chance. Crank our music up a little bit, and it might blow your speakers out!”

Other Grandstand acts:

                  Newsboys, Thursday, Aug. 7

                  Goo Goo Dolls and Daughtry, Saturday, Aug. 9

                  Stars of “Duck Dynasty,” Sunday, Aug. 10

                  Jake Owen, Thursday, Aug. 14

                  Chevelle and Halestorm, Friday, Aug. 15

                  Lady Antebellum, Saturday, Aug. 16

                  Foreigner and Styx, Sunday, Aug. 17 CV