Hey music lovers, where do you go to hear the newest sounds? County fairs, right?
Well, if indie is your thing, maybe not. But if you're interested in the latest country acts out of Nashville, Wisconsin's county and regional fairs are on the cutting edge.
They're also lots of fun. If you seek wholesome, cheap entertainment this summer, hop in the car and head to a fair, where you can shmooze with the locals, eat fried food on a stick and hear live music by national acts.
True, some longstanding, still-charting country acts are hitting the fairs this year, including Dierks Bentley (Jefferson County Fair, July 13), Josh Turner (Rock County 4-H Fair, July 28; Outagamie County Fair, July 27), Montgomery Gentry (Washington County Fair, July 27; Outagamie County Fair, July 28) and Rodney Atkins (Wisconsin Valley Fair, Aug. 3). There are also country old-timers, like Mickey Gilley (Rock County 4-H Fair, July 26), the Oak Ridge Boys (Wisconsin Valley Fair, Aug. 1) and Wynonna (Walworth County Fair, Sept. 1).
But so many Nashville up-and-comers are on the circuit this summer, artists who've notched just a couple of hits, and maybe not even that many. There's the Eli Young Band (Northern Wisconsin State Fair, July 12; Dodge County Fair, Aug. 16), Katie Armiger (Jefferson County Fair, July 13) and Justin Moore (Sauk County Fair, July 13; Racine County Fair, July 28). There's Thompson Square (Rock County 4-H Fair, July 24; Wisconsin Valley Fair, July 31), and Josh Thompson (Winnebago County Fair, Aug. 11).
Did I mention Easton Corbin (Fond du Lac County Fair, July 19), Jake Owen (Dodge County Fair, Aug. 17) and Craig Morgan (Waukesha County Fair, July 22)? David Nail (Green County Fair, July 21)? Jerrod Niemann (Dodge County Fair, Aug. 18)? Chris Young (Walworth County Fair, Aug. 31)?
In the Young Nashvillians category, special mention goes to country-rap synthesist Colt Ford (Winnebago County Fair, Aug. 10), who used to play pro golf on the Nationwide Tour but now releases singles like "Chicken & Biscuits" and "No Trash in My Trailer."
Another staple of the summer-fair music scene is classic rock. There's no shortage this year. Try a dusting of Kansas at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair (July 13) and the Jefferson County Fair (July 14). The Foreigner guys make jukebox heroes of themselves at the Waukesha (July 20) and Fond du Lac (July 21) county fairs. Foghat takes a slow ride at the Jefferson County Fair (July 14), and REO Speedwagon keeps on loving you at the Washington County (July 26), Wisconsin Valley (Aug. 2) and Walworth County (Sept. 2) fairs.
Oh, and guess who? That's right, the Guess Who shares the land at the Central Wisconsin State Fair (Sept. 1). And for children of the 1980s, the Georgia Satellites (Head of the Lakes Fair, July 15) and Cinderella (Waukesha County Fair, July 21) will bring back some Reagan-era memories.
Finally, contemporary rock fans are in luck. This summer, Buckcherry (Fond du Lac County Fair, July 20), My Darkest Days (Waukesha County Fair, July 19), and Theory of a Deadman (Washington County Fair, July 28) all will be performing in close proximity to the summer fairs' signature prizewinning livestock.