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Feature Story

Do you love the ’90s?


Look inside to learn about the Iowa State Fair concerts including Vanilla Ice, Salt-N-Pepa, Color Me Badd and Tone Loc. Plus Kid Rock, John Mellencamp, Little Big Town, Alabama and more music than you can shake a corn dog at!

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Vanilla Ice poses for a portrait in the TV Guide Portrait Studio at the 3rd Annual Streamy Awards at Hollywood Palladium on February 17, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for TV Guide)

The Iowa State Fair isn’t just a place to eat fried food and giggle about giant pig testicles; it also has a lot of music. From rising stars to arena level acts to bands that were once arena level acts, you can see every stage of a musician’s career in one place, often for free.

Here’s a look at the many acts performing at this year’s fair. Some might be a star in a few years. Some were stars when you were in middle school. And one is Kid Rock.

The Grandstand

For King and Country

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 10

Prep Iowa

Cost: $30-$45

Opening act: Matt Maher

A Christian act has kicked off the Grandstand lineup for the last decade or so, with Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone and their band For King and Country taking the position this year. The band has had crossover success with the hit “The Proof of Your Love,” and Joel recently starred in the human trafficking drama “Priceless.”


When: 8 p.m. Aug. 11

Cost: $52-$72

Opening acts: Pop Evil and Shaman’s Harvest

Nickelback is the Schrodinger’s Cat of rock. They sell millions of albums, their concerts are huge, but seemingly everyone you know hates them. How can these two states of existence coexist? Find out by going to see the band live and see 10,000 people you’ve never met before, or discover you and all your friends are liars.

I Love the ’90s

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 12

Cost: $27-$45

Enjoy the music of your pre-high school days (or however old you were in the mid-1990s) with a smorgasbord of acts who once populated Teen Beat with embarrassing fashion choices. Vanilla Ice, Salt N Pepa, Color Me Badd, Tone Loc, Coolio and Young MC will fill the stage with a live mixtape of songs you loved, then hated and now feel nostalgic for.


When: 8 p.m. Aug. 13


Grammy award-winning vocal group Pentatonix returns to recreate classic songs with no instrumentation. Pentatonix rose to fame by winning the third season of NBC’s “The Sing Off” in 2011 and has a YouTube channel that has approximately all the views (2.4 billion). Memorable covers by the group include “Hallelujah,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Jolene” and a lot of Christmas songs that probably won’t be performed at an August concert.


When: 8 p.m. Aug. 14

Cost: $40-$60

Opening acts: XAmbassadors

Looking for a little pop rock with your corn dogs and hot beef sundaes? The Tennessee band Paramore will perform hits like “Misery Business,” “Crushcrushcrush” and “Still Into You” on the Grandstand. Paramore released its fifth album, “After Laughter,” earlier this year.

Flo Rida

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 15

Cost: $27-$45

Flo “Am I being considered a nostalgia act yet?” Rida brings his hip-hop stylings to the Grandstand. His hits include “Low,” “Right Round” and “Club Can’t Handle Me.” Flo Rida (the first of two Grandstand acts who derive their name from states), is touring in support of his latest single, “Cake,” which is off a yet-to-be-announced 2017 album.


When: 8 p.m. Aug. 17

Cost: $42-$57

Opening act: The Charlie Daniels Band

Wow, the Grandstand is surprisingly devoid of country acts this year. Southern rockers Alabama and opening act The Charlie Daniels Band will do their best to fill your country needs. The band’s hits include “Love in the First Degree,” “Take Me Down,” “The Closer You Get” and a few dozen others. Plus, you’ll get “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” from Charlie Daniels. That’s a tough bill to top.

Little Big TownLittle Big Town

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 18

Cost: $32-$52

Opening act: Seth Ennis

The Alabama country four-piece Little Big Town returns to the Iowa State Fair, this time in support of its 2017 album “The Breaker,” featuring the Taylor Swift-written single “Better Man.” The quartet’s other hits include “Girl Crush,” “Pontoon” and “Bring it On Home.”

John Mellencamp

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 19

Cost: $50-$85

Opening act: Carlene Carter

Mellencamp is arguably the biggest gun at this year’s Iowa State Fair, and his heartland rock feels like a perfect fit for the Grandstand. The Indiana everyman musician’s roster of hits includes “Pink Houses,” “R.O.C.K. in the USA,” “Jack & Diane” and so many others. Mellencamp’s 23rd album, “Sad Clowns & Hillbillies,” came out in April, featuring collaborations from Carlene Carter, who will open the concert.

Kid Rock

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 20

Cost: $62-$90

Opening act: Uncle Kracker

Potential senatorial candidate/tank top connoisseur Kid Rock will make a campaign stop to close out the 2017 Grandstand lineup. “Bawitdaba,” “American Bad Ass,” “Picture” and no doubt a strong emphasis on fiscal responsibility. Also, Uncle Kracker, for some reason.

MidAmerican Energy Stage

Merle Haggard’s Strangers featuring Ben and Noel Haggard, 8 p.m. Aug. 10

Country legend Merle Haggard passed away in 2016, but his band and sons are carrying on the tradition of his music.

The Nadas, 7 and 9 p.m. Aug. 11

Ready to feel old? Last year Iowa rockers The Nadas released “ICYMI,” a retrospective of the band’s first 20-plus years. Take a trip through the last quarter century of life with their two sets at the fair.

Think Floyd USA, 8 p.m. Aug. 12-13

It’s Pink Floyd, but not really. Get ready to enjoy classic songs and cool lights by not Roger Waters, not David Gilmour and maybe some not Syd Barrett material, if we’re lucky.

Casey Donahue Band, 8 p.m. Aug. 14

A country singer known for songs like “Double-Wide Dream” and “Whiskey Baby.” Primarily known in Texas, Donahue has started branching out to the rest of the country with tours.

Club Nouveau, 8 p.m. Aug. 15

An ’80s R&B act, best known for their cover of “Lean on Me,” “Jealous” and “Why You Treat Me So Bad.”

Jordan Fisher, 8 p.m. Aug. 16

An actor/singer whose career ranges from “Hamilton” and “Moana” to “Teen Beach 2” and “Liv and Maddie.” His self-titled debut album came out last year.

Green River Ordinance, 8 p.m. Aug. 17-18

A Texas pop rock act that has been recording for more than 15 years, making several Iowa State Fair stops in that time.

The Blue Band, 7 and 9 p.m. Aug. 19

Iowa music legends Bob Dorr and The Blue Band have played the Iowa State Fair for more than 30 years, but the group announced 2017 would serve as an extended farewell tour for the blues-rock act. Don’t miss out on its final fair shows.

Tiffany, 8 p.m. Aug. 20

No-last-name-necessary singer Tiffany closes out the MidAmerican Energy Stage with hits “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “I Saw Him Standing There” and “Could’ve Been.”

Anne and Bill Riley Stage

Tonic Sol-Fa, 7 and 9 p.m., Aug. 10-11

If you want a warm-up act for Pentatonix, Minneapolis’ Tonic Sol-Fa should fit the bill. The Emmy-nominated vocal group covers a number of hits, including “Learning to Fly” and “Eleanor Rigby.”

Matt’s Family Jam, 7 and 9 p.m. Aug. 18-19

A family band out of Branson, Missouri, performing covers of country, rock, top 40 and originals.

Zach Williams, 8 p.m. Aug. 20

A Christian rock singer, best known for the Grammy-winning hit “Chain Breaker.” The former lead singer of Zach Williams & The Reformation, Williams released his solo debut, “Chain Breaker,” in 2016.

Bud Light Stage

Kix, 8 p.m. Aug. 10

A Baltimore hard rock band from the 1980s, best known for “Cold Blood” and “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”

Steve Augeri, 8 p.m. Aug. 11

The former lead singer of Journey. No, not Steve Perry. And not Arnel Pineda. The guy who sang with them in the early 2000s. Don’t worry, he’ll probably still sing “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Bang Tango, 8 p.m. Aug. 12

California hard rockers, best known for having about a million members. Seriously, the band’s Wikipedia page lists 32 former members and says “This is a partial list.” They also had a hit in the late 1980s with “Someone Like You.”

Slaughter, 8 p.m. Aug. 13

A glam metal band whose best known hits are “Up All Night” and “Fly to the Angels.”

hairballHairball, 8 p.m. Aug. 14-15

The Iowa State Fair fixtures return to perform as pretty much every ’70s-’80s act ever. You want Prince, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Kiss and Queen in one show? Hairball has you covered.

Nelson, 8 p.m. Aug. 17

The twin sons of Ricky Nelson, Matthew and Gunnar, bring their hits “After the Rain” and “(Can’t Live Without) Your Love and Affection” to the fair. They’ll likely work in a few songs as tribute to their dad, as well.

Dokken, 8 p.m. Aug. 18

A California metal act, best known for hits “Alone Again,” “In My Dreams” and “Burning Like a Flame.”

Saliva, 8 p.m. Aug. 19

We’ve reached the nu metal era now, with “Click Click Boom”ers Saliva bringing a harder edge to the fair’s free stages.

Here Come the Mummies, 8 p.m. Aug. 20

An impressive funk rock band, but one that requires a “That dresses like mummies” qualifier. There’s a lot of talent behind this novelty act.

Susan Knapp Amphitheater

Jason Brown, 1 and 3 p.m. Aug. 10

Iowa’s favorite country son, Jason Brown, returns to the fair. He’s performed with some of the biggest names in country, including Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts and Little Big Town.

The Lacs, 8 p.m. Aug. 10

A country and rap duo known for songs like “Keep it Redneck” and “Let Your Country Hang Out.”

Waterloo Revival, 8 p.m. Aug. 11

The country singers behind “Hit the Road” and “Bad For You.”

Reverie Lane, 8 p.m. Aug. 12

This is a new country band by Presley Tucker (daughter of Tanya) and Spencer Bartoletti.

The Shadowboxers, 8 p.m. Aug. 13

Soulful pop from Atlanta, this group served as the backing band for Indigo Girls for more than two years.

Brett Young, 8 p.m. Aug. 14

A country singer best known for hits “Sleep Without You” and “In Case You Didn’t Know.”

Restless Heart, 8 p.m. Aug. 15

A country group whose 30-year career includes hits like “Wheels,” “The Bluest Eyes in Texas” and “A Tender Lie.”

Chris Lane, 8 p.m. Aug. 16

The country pop singer behind the hit “Fix.”

Drake White and the Big Fire, 8 p.m. Aug. 17

The “Livin’ the Dream” country singer who released his second album, “Spark,” in 2016.

Carly PearceCarly Pearce, 8 p.m. Aug. 18

A featured singer from the Josh Abbott Band who has found her own success with “Every Little Thing.”

Country Gold, 6 and 8 p.m. Aug. 19

Looking for classic country? This show features “Walk on By” singer LeRoy Van Dyke, original “Wind Beneath my Wings” singer Gary Morris and Rex Allen Jr., best known for “Lonely Street.”

Lanco, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20

A young Nashville quintet, probably best known for the song “Greatest Love Story.” ♦

Starting a new chapter with For King & Country

King and CountryBrothers Joel and Luke Smallbone of For King & Country were born in Australia, but moved to America when they were boys. Luke was just 5 when the Smallbone family flew into Los Angeles and took a train to Memphis, but the memory of that cross-country trip has stuck with him.

“It’s funny, because America is known in a roundabout way to the rest of the world from a lot of the movies the country produces,” Luke said during a phone interview. “My parents always told us America was a very dangerous place.

“So we were terrified all the time, then on the way to Memphis, our train somehow ran over a guy. The train stopped for hours and all of us were like ‘Mom and Dad, you were right! This is a scary place!’ So that was our first impression of America.”

Joel and Luke’s family came to America so their father could work as a music promoter. The brothers grew up going to shows their dad put on by acts like Amy Grant and Stryper. Their older sister, Rebecca St. James, is also a Christian singer, and the duo worked on her tours.

Luke didn’t set out to be a musician; he wanted to play basketball before a torn ACL benched that ambition. As he approached the end of high school, he was looking for something to do when Luke proposed they make music together. They’ve been doing that for over a decade now, but Luke is still considering what the next thing might be.

“Music might be a flash in the pan,” Luke said. “It’s working out right now, but who knows what the future might hold? With any form of art, people might like it currently, but tastes move and change. I often ask myself ‘If I wasn’t doing this, what would I do?’ I have yet to find an answer.”

The brothers are currently working on a follow up to 2014’s “Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.” It’s been nearly three years since that album came out, and Luke said whatever they record next will be focused on where the Smallbones are at in their life currently.

“One thing we’ve always tried to commit to is writing honestly and authentically,” Luke said. “Our last album was being made when my first son was born, Joel had just gotten married and I had walked through a crazy illness for a second.

“Now we’re at a point where that chapter has come to a close, that book has ended. Now there’s a new book beginning and our stories will change to what is going on in our lives now. Our songs are essentially our journals, for better or worse. I think I have an idea where it’s going, but that story is still unfolding.” ♦

Either/or with Tiffany

Photo cred Ron Davis“Tiffany or Debbie Gibson?” was practically the “Beatles or the Stones” for teens in the 1980s. The rivalry was pushed on the teen signers by their labels, and they’ve since gone on to become friends and tour mates. They even acted out the rivalry in the classic “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid,” which is the “Pet Sounds” of giant made up things fighting other giant made up things movies.

In that spirit, here’s Tiffany weighing in on some classic Iowa State Fair battles. If Debbie ever plays the fair, we’ll get her to answer them, too.

Corn dogs or cheese curds? “Corn dogs”

Ferris wheel or Tilt a Whirl? “Tilt a Whirl, I like that one.”

Big Boar or Super Bull? “Probably the Super Bull. I grew up going to rodeos all the time, so I was all about bull anything. Plus, my ex father-in-law was a matador. I don’t really agree with bull-fighting, but, you know.”

Deep fried Oreos or funnel cake? “Funnel cake.”

Vanilla Ice or Coolio? “They’re both my friends, so that’s a hard pick. I’ve done a lot of shows with Rob, he can really bring it. I’ve never actually watched Coolio, we’ve only done TV work together. Since I’ve never seen him live, I pick Coolio.”

John Mellencamp or Kid Rock? “I’m a big, big, big Mellencamp fan. I had a big crush on him, and one of my career highlights was sharing the stage with him at Farm Aid. I like Kid Rock, but John Mellencamp was on my wall.” ♦















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