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Feature Story

Iowa State Fair Music


It’s time to turn up the volume and dance away the calories consumed in the fried Twinkie you enjoyed at the Iowa State Fair.

It’s August again, which means it is time to strap on your stretchy, funnel-cake-eatin’ pants and head on down to the Iowa State Fair for two weeks of glorious people watching, butter sculptures and more exhibits than you can shake a stick at. And don’t forget the music. From the big acts on the grandstand to the great free entertainment on the now-legendary Bud Light Stage, the State Fair has something for everyone. Don’t believe it? Then strap in, because we’re about to spell it out for you.duffy State Fair Music


The crown jewel in the State Fair’s rich treasury, the grandstand dominates the Midway and has provided fair goers with some of the best entertainment to come through the area, regardless of time of year. This year is no different, with a wide variety of entertainment options available for the discerning Fair attendee. Keep in mind that the grandstand is the only music option that is ticketed, so prices below are in addition to your fair admission.


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Thursday, Aug. 11, 8 p.m.


Founded in Australia in 1988, Newsboys broke on the scene with the release of its 1994 album, “Going Public.” Since then, the group has Topped the Christian rock charts 31 times, picking up five Dove Awards along the way and have had six albums certified Gold. The band’s last three albums, “Born Again,” “God’s Not Dead” and “Restart,” have all hit No. 1 on the Christian charts, selling nearly two million copies combined. Appearing with Francesca Battistelli.

Meghan Trainor

Friday, Aug. 12, 8 p.m.


Trainor, of “All About That Bass” fame, was originally scheduled to appear at last year’s fair before vocal issues forced her to cancel a large chunk of her tour dates. This year, however, she returns, fresh on the heels of her sophomore album, “Thank You.” Trainor’s debut effort, “Title,” sold nearly two million copies, being certified double platinum by the RIAA. The album featured four Top 15 singles, including the ubiquitous No. 1 summer hit, “All About That Bass.” “Thank You” peaked at No. 3 and has given Trainor two more Top 15 singles in “No” and “Me Too.” Appearing with Hailee Steinfeld and Common Kings.

Brett Eldredge

Saturday, Aug. 13, 8 p.m.


The Illinois native has two gold albums under his belt, with his 2013 debut “Bring You Back” and its 2015 follow-up, “Illinois.” Those two albums have produced five Top 10 singles, which have sold three million combined copies. The last two, “Drunk on Your Love” and “Lose My Mind,” went to No. 2 on the country charts, while Eldredge’s most recent single, “Wanna Be That Song,” debuted at No. 34. Appearing with Chris Janson.

Jason Derulo

Sunday, Aug. 14, 8 p.m.


Derulo has amassed more than 50 million singles sales, his videos have north of two billion views on YouTube, and he has written hits for some of the biggest names in pop, rap and rock. His 2014 album, “Talk Dirty,” spawned five platinum-selling singles all on its own, and he is a 13-time Teen Choice Award nominee. Appearing with Daya.

Dierks Bentley

Monday, Aug. 15, 8 p.m.


Do you like a little rock in your country? How about a whole lot of country in your rock? If the answer to either of those is “yes,” then Dierks Bentley is the act for you. His albums have racked up more than three million total sales, with nine of his singles being certified gold and two more going platinum. His 2014 album, “Riser,” produced three Top 10 singles, including the platinum-selling hits “I Hold On” and “Drunk on a Plane,” the latter of which is his third Top 40 hit about being wasted. Appearing with Tucker Beathard.


Friday, Aug. 19, 8 p.m.


Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the same year as Linda Ronstadt, KISS bassist Gene Simmons most recently made news for saying NWA did not deserve enshrinement because they weren’t rock. That aside, KISS is one of the most legendary arena acts of all time and stands as the longest-lasting testament to the glory of the glam-rock era. It would be a shorter list to rattle off the KISS songs you haven’t heard of, and the band has sold more than 100 million albums in its career. Appearing with The Dead Daisies.

Rock Hall Three For All

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m.


Some of the most popular shows the Fair brings in every year are the kind of super-tour shows that would have never come to town during during the bands’ heyday. The Rock Three For All is this year’s installment, giving Iowans the opportunity to check out three Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, including Heart, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Cheap Trick. The first is one of the greatest female duos of all time, the second produced two of the mJoan Jettost iconic rock anthems in history, and the third was responsible for one of the three greatest live albums ever. All in all, a pretty solid night of music.

Steven Tyler & The Loving Mary Band

Saturday, Aug. 20, 8 p.m.


Rolling Stone has called Steven Tyler one of the greatest front men of all time. Aerosmith has more than 150 million albums sold, with 12 multi-platinum album certifications under its belt. Tyler has picked up four Grammy Awards and six American Music Awards with the band and has since gone on to serve has a judge for American Idol. Now, having declared the world of rock n roll conquered, Tyler has released his debut country album, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere” this July on the Dot Records label.

Lady Antebellum

Sunday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.


Closing out the final night of grandstand entertainment will be Lady Antebellum, who has sold nearly 10 million albums worldwide, including the quadruple-platinum sophomore album, “Need You Now.” That album produced three straight No. 1 singles, including the title track, “American Honey” and “Our Kind of Love.” In total, a half dozen of the band’s singles have hit No. 1 on the U.S. Country charts, with six more cracking the Top 10. The band has won eight Grammy awards, but should perhaps be best remembered for ending Rascal Flatts’ six-year reign as winners of the Country Music Awards’ “Vocal Group of the Year” award in 2009. Appearing with Kelsea Ballerini.Lady Arntebellum


Free stages

It’s not just the grandstand that will be rocking on Fair days. As anyone who has been to the Fair in the past can attest, there is music coming from virtually every corner of the fairgrounds, all day long and well into the night. While events on the Bud Light Stage have become some of the biggest shows in the Fair’s run, other stages have been home to perennial fan favorites like The Blue Band and The Nadas. Check the schedule, find a sound that suits you, grab a turkey leg and a bench, and enjoy.

MidAmerican Energy Stage

Captiva – Aug. 11, 8 p.m.

Captiva is an indie pop four-piece out of Kansas City. Formed in 2013 and released a self-titled debut EP a year later. Festival veterans, with SXSW, Backwoods Music Festival and Middle of the Map Fest among its credits.

Captiva plays the MidAmerican Energy stage at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11 at 8 p.m.

Captiva plays the MidAmerican Energy stage at the Iowa
State Fair on Aug. 11 at 8 p.m.

Des Moines Symphony – Aug. 11, 6:30 p.m.

The Des Moines Symphony is central Iowa’s largest and most active year-round professional performing arts organization. The Symphony’s Iowa State Fair Concert is a family-friendly affair, filled with classics from the Great American Songbook and patriotic standards. This year’s show features Broadway baritone Hugh Panaro and a special composition, Peter Hamlin’s “Symphony on a Stick,” inspired by the Iowa State Fair itself.

Vocal Trash – Aug. 11-21, noon and 2 p.m.

Described as a mashup of “Glee” and “Stomp,” Vocal Trash is a seven-member performance group that combines dance with music performed on recycled and reclaimed materials. The group is a favorite with the kids, who will probably go home and dent your garbage cans immediately afterward.

The Nadas – Aug. 12, 7 and 9 p.m.

Perennial State Fair favorites the Nadas are back for something like its 9,000th Fair appearance. One of the best-selling indie artists to call the state home, The Nadas have sold nearly 100,000 copies of its albums through their own label, Authentic Records. With a long history that has featured some of the most talented artists in the state, The Nadas have been one of the most popular acts at the Fair for since the day the band started. Also, as an April Fool’s joke, they once convinced the entire state that they had been put on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Confederate Railroad – Aug. 13-14, 7 and 9 p.m.

Confederate Railroad has sold nearly 400,000 albums in its history, including its double-platinum 1992 self-titled debut album. This past July, the band released “Lucky to be Alive,” its first studio effort in nine years. Consisting of six dudes named Danny, Rusty, Wayne, Mark, Bobby and Mo, and with the bad guys from the Civil War in the band name, you are not likely to find a more authentically southern act.

Home Free – Aug. 15-16, 8 p.m.

Home Free is a country acapella act, which might be a first. A four-piece from Minnesota, Home Free won one of those singing/talent TV shows you probably did not watch, or even knew was a thing. They have released an impressive eight albums since 2007, including 2015’s “Country Evolution,” which peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. Country chart.

The Grass Roots – Aug. 17, 8 p.m.

The Grass Roots is a folk/psychedelic act that has been touring in some form or another for 50 years. Selling nearly 20 million albums in its storied history, The Grass Roots is best known for the 1967 single “Let’s Live For Today,” though 1971’s “Sooner or Later” is right up there as well. Also, Creed Bratton from “The Office” was their lead guitarist from 1967-1969. Fun fact.

Tim Stop – Aug. 18, 7 and 9 p.m.

Bettendorf native Tim Stop now lives in Chicago, but the pop/rock singer-songwriter, has previously toured with Chicago and REO Speedwagon and is currently releasing a different music video from his “Live at I.V. Labs” session each month this year.

Songblast: Dueling Guitars – Aug. 19, 7 and 9 p.m.

Pat Balder plays the electric guitar, and Glen Everhart plays the acoustic. Between the two of them, they play an up-tempo set of covers that have entertained crowds around the country.

The Blue Band – Aug. 20, 7 and 9 p.m.

There is archaeological evidence to suggest that the Iowa State Fair was actually built around The Blue Band, as there is no point in recorded history of them not actually being on one of the stages. Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees in 2007, the Blue Band has been one of the most consistent performers in the state for three decades now and are as much of a tradition as blue ribbons and type-2 diabetes.

Color Me Badd – Aug. 21, 8 p.m.

A quarter century after the release of its quintuple-platinum selling debut album, Color Me Badd probably still wants to sex you up. With more than 12 million albums sold, Color Me Badd boasts eight Top-20 singles, including back-to-back No. 1s in 1991. After breaking up in 2000, the group reunited in 2011 with one new member and has been touring ever since.

Anne & Bill Riley Stage

Heffron Drive

Heffron Drive plays Aug. 11 and 12 on the Anne & Bill Riley Stage at 8 p.m.

Heffron Drive – Aug. 11 and 12, 8 p.m.

Kendall Schmidt and Dustin Belt formed the pop/rock band Heffron Drive in Wichita, Kansas, before moving to Burbank, California. From 2009 to 2013, Schmidt was lead singer for Nickelodeon band Big Time Rush, but Heffron Drive was revived in 2013 and has gone on to release its debut album, “Happy Mistakes,” five singles and nine music videos.

Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans – Aug. 14 and 15,

7 and 9 p.m.

Formed more than 30 years ago by band leader Doreen Ketchens, Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans has performed with everyone from The Black Crows to Ellis Marsalis and Trombone Shorty. Doreeen’s husband, Lawrence, splits his playing time between the tuba, trombone and keys while also serving as the group’s producer.

Hawk Nelson – Aug. 21, 8 p.m.

Hawk Nelson is a Christian rock four-piece from Ontario, Canada. Winners of two Canadian GMA awards and nominees for a Juno Award, the band’s most recent album, “Made,” debuted at No. 2 on the iTunes Gospel chart, and the album’s lead single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Christian chart.

Susan Knapp Amphitheater

Deana Carter – Aug. 11, 8 p.m.

Daughter of guitarist Fred Carter, Deana Carter released her album “Did I Shave My Legs For This?” in 1996, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Country chart and went quintuple-platinum. She has gone on to release six more studio albums, adding up to more than six million albums sold.

Chase Bryant – Aug. 12, 8 p.m.

Country music is in Chase Bryant’s blood, as his father Jimmy was a long-time session guitarist, and his uncles Jeff and Junior founded the band Ricochet. He released his debut album in 2014, which saw the release of two Top 40 Country chart singles.

Emisunshine – Aug. 13, 8 p.m.

Emisunshine is an 11-year-old singer who got famous the way that every 11-year-old gets famous nowadays: YouTube. Successful videos led to a Today Show performance, which Emi and her family have parlayed into a touring schedule of 150 shows a year.

Canaan Smith – Aug. 14, 8 p.m.

Singer-songwriter Canaan Smith has toured with Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Florida Georga Line. He released his single, “Love You Like That,” in late 2014, which became one of the best-selling country singles of the following year. He released his debut full-length, “Bronco,” last July.

Cam – Aug. 15, 8 p.m.

Cam began her career as a songwriter for artists like Miley Cyrus and released her indie debut in 2010 and her debut major-label debut EP, “Welcome to Cam Country,” in early 2015 on Sony. Her single, “Burning House,” sold one million copies and received a Grammy nomination.

Ryan Kinder – Aug. 16, 8 p.m.

Alabama native Ryan Kinder released his debut single, “Kiss Me When I’m Down,” to heavy radio rotation. He recently released his “Deconstructed Studio Sessions” EP as a teaser for a full-length album, expected in mid-2017.

Marty Stuart – Aug. 17, 8 p.m.

A country music veteran who has shared the stage with Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, Stuart released his self-titled debut in 1986 and has gone on to release four Top-10 singles, including “Burn Me Down,” “Tempted” and “Hillbilly Rock.”

Russell Dickerson – Aug. 18, 8 p.m.

Russell Dickerson’s 2015 EP, “Yours,” reached No. 14 on the U.S. Country charts and No. 1 on the Heatseekers chart. The video for the title track has more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.

Lucy Angel – Aug. 19, 8 p.m.

The mother/daughter trio of Lucy Angel founded in 2003 and became the first Western/American group to perform at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in Bejing, China. The band released its self-titled debut in January of 2015, with the lead single, “Crazy Too” charting on the Country Airplay chart.

Sammy Arriaga – Aug. 20, 8 p.m.

Twenty-three-year-old Florida native Sammy Arriaga has opened for Cassadee, Chase Rice and Trace Adkins. He released his acoustic debut this year, “Banjos ‘n’ Bongos,” which is kind of fun to say fast.

Country Gold – Aug. 21, 5 and 7:30 p.m.

Leroy Van Dyke, Graham Brown and Johnny Lee. Van Dyke is a Country Music Association Hall of Famer who is best known for his hits “The Auctioneer” and “Walk on By.” Brown scored Top-10 hits with “Hell or High Water,” “I Wish I Could Hurt That Way Again” and “I Tell it Like it Used to Be.” Lee sang “Lookin’ For Love” on the “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack and has scored hits with songs like “Hey Bartender,” “The Yellow Rose” and “One in a Million.”

Bud Light Stage

Stryper – Aug. 11, 8 p.m.

Formed in 1983, Stryper went on to become the first visibly Christian heavy metal band to gain mainstream acceptance. Of its 11 studio albums, seven have cracked the Billboard Top 100, including 1986’s “To Hell With The Devil,” which was certified platinum and would remain the top-selling Christian metal album of all time until 2001. The band split up in 1993, reunited in 1999, split up again in 2001, and re-reunited in ‘03, releasing six albums since then.

Vixen – Aug. 12, 8 p.m.

Vixen is an all-female rock band that was founded in 1973 and currently consists of zero original members, though at least part of the current lineup has appeared on each Vixen album. The band has released four albums: “Vixen,” “Rev it Up,” “Tangerine” and “Live & Learn,” the first two of which spawned four Top-100 singles, including “Edge of a Broken Heart,” which peaked at No. 22.

The Temptations – Aug. 13, 8 p.m.

The Temptations are a legendary Motown act, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members and one of the most influential acts of the early 1960s. The act is currently touring with one original member, Otis Williams. The Temptations have four Billboard No. 1 singles, three Grammy Awards, and 19 Billboard R&B Top-10 albums, including eight in a row that reached No. 1.

Lynch Mob – Aug. 14, 8 p.m.

Formed by former Dokken members George Lynch and Mick Brown, Lynch Mob has released seven studio albums, including 2014’s “Sun Red Sun,” which peaked at No. 23 on the U.S. Rock charts. The band has broken up and reformed three times, with Lynch being the band’s only permanent member.

Hairball – Aug. 15-16, 7:30 p.m.

Hairball, the wildly popular glam rock tribute act from Minnesota, has more than 40 acts in its repertoire, including Guns ‘n’ Roses, Alice Cooper, KISS, Twisted Sister and Bon Jovi. Consistently one of the most popular State Fair acts, the group makes regular visits to Des Moines and plays to packed houses every time. One of the nation’s best tribute acts.

Bret Michaels – Aug 17, 8 p.m.

Bret Michaels, the blue-eyed demon and front man of Poison, has sold more than 50 million albums and is apparently still a thing. He has released five solo albums, including 2009’s “Custom Built,” which hit No. 1 on the U.S. Hard Rock and Indie charts. Winner of season nine of “Celebrity Apprentice,” and ostensible “winner” of three seasons of “Rock Of Love With Bret Michaels.”

RATT – Aug. 18, 8 p.m.

This heavy metal act was founded in 1976 as Mickey Ratt — unless you count the two previous years, which were spent as Buster Cherry. The band released four albums between 1984 and 1988, selling more than seven million combined copies. This version of the band features one original member, drummer Bobby Blotzer.

Femme Fatale – Aug. 19, 8 p.m.

Femme Fatale is an all-female act founded in 1987 by lead singer and lone original member Lorraine Lewis. It released its self-titled debut in 1988.

Holy White Hounds – Aug. 20, 7 and 9 p.m.

Local boys done good, Holy White Hounds is a Des Moines-based four piece that burst upon the larger scene thanks to its album “Sparkle Sparkle” and lead single “Switchblade.” The band signed with Razor and Tie Records in 2015, with a re-release of “Sparkle Sparkle” to follow. They toured with The Cult and stand as the only local act on the Bud Light Stage roster.

Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters — Aug. 21, 8 p.m.

Formed in 2007 by Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton, J.D. Andrew and Unknown Hinson, the act now generally tours as a five-piece and has released six universally shrugged-at albums since 2008, including its self-titled debut and its latest, 2016’s “Boys and Girls…and the World.” ■



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