Monday, August 15, 2022

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Feature Story

Iowa State Fair Concerts


Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Skillet, Brooks & Dunn, Nelly, Demi Lovato, Alanis Morissette, ZZ Top, John Crist, Kane Brown, Disturbed and more bring their music to Iowa State Fair attendees — and that’s just the Grandstand acts. Look inside for details on the full music scene. 

Skillet will perform the Grandstand on the first day of the Iowa State Fair. The band includes John Cooper (lead vocals, bass), Korey Cooper (backup vocals, keyboard, rhythm guitar), Jen Ledger (vocals, drums) and Seth Morrison (lead guitar). Photo by David Bitzan

John Cooper never thought he’d be able to play music for a living. But today, the band he formed in 1996 is a staple in the rock scene — and arguably the most successful Christian band of its generation. Listeners will recognize many of their decades-old hits including “Monster” and “Hero,” plus newer tunes like “Surviving the Game” and “Refuge.”

As the band’s lead singer, Cooper writes all of the group’s songs — many alongside his wife, Korey. Cooper said he values authenticity in his music, and as an outspoken Christian, realizes that he can’t please everyone.

“It’s always going to make some people upset,” he said. “In reality, that’s also part of what rock and roll is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be you telling your story, I guess you would say, without caring what someone else thinks. I mean, there’s nothing more rock and roll than that, kind of a rebellious attitude.”

Rapid fire questions with John Cooper

Favorite song to perform?
“Monster” is a great song to perform because everyone knows it. That always makes it easier.

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Favorite album of yours?

Favorite album by someone else?
Probably “Purple Rain” by Prince.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened on stage during this tour?
I just had a pretty major piece of my tooth chipped off. I banged my tooth on a microphone and a pretty decent chunk came out.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I love to read; not everybody knows that. It’s my favorite thing to do. I just read “Dialectic of Enlightenment” by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. I’m researching for a new book right now, and I finished that one just now. I’m no good at carpentry, but I love wood-working.

Ideal food deep-fried on a stick?
I love corn dogs. I mean, any meat on a stick is a win, but I love corn dogs. 

How do you maintain that magnificent beard?
Early on my wife was like, “You have to keep that thing shaped; you’re looking crazy.” So you really do have to trim it quite a lot — into a pattern. Also, I use wax in my beard to keep it shaped. And beard oil is nice, but once it gets to a certain length, you need something a little firmer. A lot of people don’t know: I actually have my own signature beard products. I’m one of the owners of the company. It’s called Hawk and Hatchet. ♦

The band’s latest release, “Dominion,” is their 12th studio album. Cooper has described it as a “positive rebellion” against the negativity prevalent in today’s world, especially during the pandemic.

“It’s very much a ‘don’t give up’ feeling,” he said.

Those who watch Skillet live at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand will experience that encouragement firsthand in what promises to be an energy-packed performance.

“It’s really quite an emotional show,” Cooper said. “People can relate to that message even if we come to different conclusions on lots of things. In other words, there could be someone next to you in the audience singing the same words, but not giving out that they might believe something completely different from you. And I think that’s what’s powerful about music, is that it crosses cultures, belief systems and things like that because there’s an element of music that is interpretation-based.”

Skillet is no stranger to Des Moines — they’ve stopped at Wells Fargo Arena often during the annual Winter Jam tour — but this will mark their first concert at the Fair. Dante Bowe, current Maverick City Music and past Bethel Music member, will open the concert.

While the Grandstand hosts internationally acclaimed acts, fairgoers also enjoy several stages of free entertainment that showcase local and rising artists.

To those still trying to break into the music industry, Cooper advised: “You have to be authentic, or people are going to smell that you’re a fake, and you’re trying to chase the affection of other people rather than being just true to who you are, And I think that’s really sad. It kind of creates art where you just lose a piece of yourself because you’re always dancing for the approval of others.

“Authentic art is usually the best art in my opinion.”

Skillet and Dante Bowe perform on opening night at the Fair: Thursday, Aug. 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $30-$55 and can be purchased at

Read on to learn more about the other Grandstand acts and free entertainment at the Susan Knapp Amphitheater, Anne and Bill Riley Stage, MidAmerican Energy Stage and across the fairgrounds.

Friday, Aug. 12, 8 p.m.
Opener: Alex Miller

Country musicians Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn may have announced their retirement more than a decade ago, but that couldn’t stop them from continuing their unshakeable legacy in country music — and hitting the road on their Reboot Tour. Melding rock and honky-tonk with mainstream country, the duo’s accomplishments are impressive: 23 career chart-toppers, 30 million albums sold, 80-plus industry awards and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Saturday, Aug. 13, 8 p.m.
Opener: Ginuwine

Early 2000s kids — dive into that nostalgia with “Dilemma,” “Ride Wit Me” and “Hot In Herre.” At 47 years old, the rapper-turned-hip-hop-superstar is still going strong, releasing his latest album “Heartland” in 2021. He’ll be preceded on stage by R&B artist Ginuwine. Just remember… while it may be hot at the Fair, please do not take off all your clothes.

Sunday, Aug. 14, 8 p.m.
Opener: TBD

The former Disney star (who also appeared on “Barney & Friends”) has come a long way from their bubblegum pop roots, but expect to hear some classics like “Cool for the Summer,” “Sorry Not Sorry,” “Skyscraper,” and the newest release “SKIN OF MY TEETH.” The Fair is the second stop on the tour promoting the new album “Holy Fvck” to be released later this month.

Monday, Aug. 15, 8 p.m.
Opener: Morgan Wade

Rain on your wedding day, a traffic jam when you’re already late — sound familiar? You may recognize Morissette’s iconic mezzo-soprano vocals in her 1995 classic hit “Ironic.” Her debut album “Jagged Little Pill” was recently performed as a jukebox musical that snagged a Grammy Award last year. The singer-songwriter has released 10 total records known for their lyrical honesty and grunge/rock influences.

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m.
Opener: Ann Wilson from Heart

The 50-year-old rock band from Texas makes its stop in Des Moines on their “Raw Whisky” tour, epic beards included. Audiences may recognize hits like “Tush,” “La Grange” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” Band members include Billy Gibbons on vocals and guitar and Frank Beard on Drums. Bass player and singer Dusty Hill passed away in 2021, but he is still featured on the band’s latest album, “Raw” that was released last month.

Wednesday, Aug. 17, 8 p.m.
Opener: Dusty Slay

Former Chick-fil-A employee, homeschooled pastor’s kid and brought up in the Deep South — that’s stand-up comedian John Crist in a nutshell. He first rose to fame with his pithy sketches on social media, with viral videos poking fun at millennials and his own Christian subculture, all with a classic Southern twang.

Thursday, Aug. 18, 8 p.m.
Opener: Jessie James Decker

This 28-year-old has been making a name for himself in the country music industry. A Tennessee native, the formerly independent artist found success through social media and has been deemed the “future of country” by Billboard. Popular anthems include “Worldwide Beautiful,” “Heaven” and “What Ifs.” Think Justin Beiber, but country. Swoon.

Friday, Aug. 19, 8 p.m.
Opener: Chevelle

If country and pop just aren’t your thing, try heavy metal. Disturbed has been making waves since the late 1990s with their boundary-breaking hits like “Down with the Sickness” and their popular cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” The Chicago-based musicians have achieved five consecutive No. 1 debuts on the Billboard Top 200, joining Metallica as the only other hard rock band to do so.


Saturday, Aug. 20, 8 p.m.
Opener: Ingrid Andress

Keith Urban’s “The Speed of Now” tour promises to be a thrilling experience that releases pent-up energy for the musician’s first world tour in four years. Fans might hear favorites including “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” “Somewhere In My Car,” “Somebody Like You,” his newest release, “Wild Hearts,” and smash hit “One Too Many” with P!NK. With that flowing hair and irresistible Australian accent, what’s not to like?

Sunday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.
Opener: Adam Sanders

Country superstar Carrie Underwood returns to the Fair after her last sold-out Grandstand performance in 2015. Most people know Underwood for her ubiquitous classics like “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats,” but her far-reaching career is impressive: 66 million records sold worldwide, 28 No. 1 singles, seven platinum and multi-platinum albums, and 100 major awards, including seven Grammys. This is one you won’t want to miss.

Susan Knapp Amphitheater

Thursday, Aug. 11, 8 p.m.
A self-proclaimed “progressive artist with an old soul,” Ian Munsick made his way from the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming to Nashville, Tennessee. With his self-titled EP released in 2017, debut album “Coyote Cry” in 2021, and two newly released singles, Munsick blends together the best of pop and country.

Friday, Aug. 12, 8 p.m.
Doleac’s hits include “Famous,” “Another” and “Whiskey’s Fine.” The rising country artist made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 2018. Popdust called him “the hero country needs.”

Saturday, Aug. 13, 8 p.m.
After serving as a police officer for 10 years, Frank Ray is now pursuing music — and successfully. With his Southwest-spice-infused vocals, this “Hispanic causin’ panic” has shared the stage with Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Walker Hayes and more.

Sunday, Aug. 14, 8 p.m.
You might know Kershaw from his chart-topping single “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” from 1993. With 16 studio albums, this honky-tonk balladeer from Louisiana is a certified country music original.

Monday, Aug. 15, 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Leroy Van Dyke, Kelly Lang and T.G. Sheppard will take their audience through a nostalgic tour of America’s golden music.

Tuesday – Wednesday, Aug. 16-17, 8 p.m.
As staples at the Iowa State Fair, Hairball knows how to put on a show. Have you ever wanted to see every classic rock and roll concert at once? Look no further. Hairball nails the sights and sounds of KISS, Queen, Journey, Aerosmith and more.

Thursday, Aug. 18, 8 p.m.
Featuring Nick Feldman and Jack Hues, this English new wave band charted six Top 40 hits in the United States in the 1980s, including “Dance Hall Days,” “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” and “Let’s Go!”

Friday, Aug. 19, 8 p.m.
You might know his breakout hit and collaboration with Walker Hayes, “Paying for It.” Singer-songwriter Levi Hummon has lived and breathed country since birth: His father, Marcus Hummon, wrote hits for artists like The Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts, including the Grammy-winning “Bless the Broken Road.”

Saturday, Aug. 20, 8 p.m.
This American glam metal band won acclaim with its 1990 album that included hit singles “Up All Night” and “Fly to the Angels.” Current members include Mark Slaughter, Dana Strum, Blas Elias and Jeff “Blando” Bland.

Sunday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.
Casey Donahew reached national acclaim with eight independent albums and 21 No. 1 singles over the past 18 years. Starting as a local favorite in the Texas music scene, Donahew’s 2019 hit “Let’s Make A Love Song” was the most played independent song on country radio in 2019.

Anne & Bill Riley Stage

Thursday – Friday, Aug. 11-12, 8 p .m.
Five-piece family rock/metal band

Saturday, Aug. 13, 7 p.m.
Annual competition between Iowa county queens

Sunday, Aug. 14, 7 p.m.
Latin music band from Des Moines and Colombia

Monday – Saturday, Aug. 15-20, 7 & 9 p.m.
Magician, illusionist, hypnotist

Sunday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.
Christian singer-songwriter

MidAmerican Energy Stage

Thursday, Aug. 11, 7 & 9 p.m.
Midwest country musician

Friday, Aug. 12, 7 & 9 p.m.
Iowa’s signature alt-rock-country band

Saturday, Aug. 13, 8 p.m.
Georgia-based country rapper

Sunday, Aug. 14, 8 p.m.
Heavy metal rock band from 1986

Monday, Aug. 15, 8 p.m.
Founder and lead singer of metal band RATT

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m.
Country singer-songwriter

Wednesday, Aug. 17, 8 p.m.
Rising 21-year-old artist-songwriter

Thursday, Aug. 18, 8 p.m.
Tribute to Journey

Friday, Aug. 19, 8 p.m.
Small town Tennessee boy

Saturday, Aug. 20, 7 & 9 p.m.
Featuring local music stars and favorites

Sunday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.
Rock & roll quartet

Other entertainment

For the kids in your life, the Fun Forest Stage will feature juggler, comedian and entertainer Fantastick Patrick, plus The Rubber Chicken Show with Greg Frisbee — daily! Scattered across the fairgrounds will be chainsaw artists Gary Keenan and TJ Jenkins (Country School area), Red Trouser Show (Expo Hill), Brian Sobaski’s straw art (near the giant slide), sandscapes (Thrill Ville fair entrance on Grand Avenue), Disc-Connected K-9’s (west lawn of Jacobson Building), Wheels of Agriculture (near Gate 15) and more. Still have questions? Visit ♦

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