Music at the MN State Fair & More in Your Complete Concert Calendar: August 22-28
Pretty much all the live music you can catch in the Twin Cities this week
12:09 PM CDT on August 22, 2023
Yes, the State Fair is here, and its musical offerings are nothing to scoff at. There's a decent Grandstand lineup, as well as plenty of fine-to-excellent free shows scattered around the Fairgrounds. I've only listed the nighttime performances here, but there are also free acts worth checking out during the day, as you can see here. (The Strib compiled this nice cheat sheet for catching locals.)
Tuesday, August 22
- Bettye LaVette @ Dakota—LaVette did the near-impossible in 2018—released a full album of Dylan covers that was an instant classic of its kind. When's the last time anyone managed that trick? Her latest, LaVette!, is no Things Have Changed because the songwriter she's focused on, Randall Bramblett, is, while a solid craftsman, of course no Dylan. (He's also no Dennis Walker, whose material LaVette dug into on A Woman Like Me in 2003.) But I'm quibbling—LaVette! is a solid listen, like each of the soul singer's releases since her comeback at the start of the 2000s, Now 77, at an age where even legends are seeking ways to camouflage their waning voices and stumped for good material, LaVette belts as strongly as ever and never tires of discovering new songs.
Wednesday, August 23
- Jonatha Brooke @ Dakota—Local music got a ringer when established singer-songwriter Brooke relocated in Minneapolis in 2016. Since Brooke has arrived here, she's released The Sweetwater Sessions, a re-interpretation of her songbook that's as good a place to start with her as any. Tonight she'll perform a few new songs from her upcoming musical, Switched, and she'll be joined by local mainstays Aby Wolf and Linnea Mohn.
- Kari Faux with theMIND @ 7th St Entry—If Faux’s 2021 lively breakthrough album Lowkey Superstar (Deluxe) showcased her attraction to L.A. gloss, her latest, Real B*tches Don’t Die (asterisk hers), heads back to her home state of Arkansas and gets real, real country. “Peace to the Black babies born below the Mason-Dixon,” she drawls to start the low-ridin’ “White Caprice,” but she’s throwin’ bows more than she’s making nice here—“I don’t really like y’all” is one of her more polite volleys. The 808s rattle throughout, but the rhythms vary from hype to smooth: On “Me First” (“you know I come first,” and you know what she means) the bass booms, on “Turnin’ Heads,” with an assist from Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T., it pops. And for all Faux’s insinuating bad vibes, she’s not here just to holler; she’s content to speak softly as well, lolling vowels around her mouth and savoring every syllable.
Thursday, August 24
- Carly Pearce @ Target Field—Yes, you need to buy a ticket for the game, but if you happen to be at the ballpark Thursday night (or if you're kinda in the mood to see the Twins and need an extra nudge), Pearce is absolutely worth sticking around for. She called her 2021 EP 29 because that's how old she was when she married and divorced singer Michael Ray, an event that fired up her songwriting so much that she expanded the original seven songs to a full-length, 29: Written in Stone. While similar albums from unhitched young country women Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini are at least a little ambivalent about their busted marriages, let's just say that Ray does not come off well in Pearce's lyrics. A couple examples: a warning to the "Next Girl" he meets and "Liability," with an emphasis on the first syllable.
Friday, August 25
- Material Gworl: A Dance Party for Baddies @ Fine Line—Are you now or have you ever been a baddie? If you hafta ask what that means, you’re almost definitely not, but we believe in educating the masses at Racket, so here’s Ice Spice breaking it down for you. (We won’t insult your intelligence by explaining that “material gworl” is a Spicy Santana reference; that’s just household knowledge.) Local luminary, Beyoncé expert, and sometime Racket contributor Gigi Berry, aka DJ OMGIGI will be hitting you with the likes of Megan Thee Stallion, Doechii, and Flo Milli—you know, some of the baddest rap and dance music to hit your ears in recent years. (This playlist will give you a sample of what’s in store.) She’ll be joined by three remarkably named drag queens: Lady Cummeal Cassadine, Priscilla Es Yuicy, and Frozaen Pissás. And you don’t have to be a baddie or a material gworl to attend. However, I do hear that they are enforcing a strict “No Munches” policy.
- Ka Lia Universe @ Lake Harriet Bandshell—Each year the Strib curates a top-notch August concert/film lineup, and, each year, it’s woefully underpublicized. Five people have RSVP’d to this installment! And that’s no fault of Ka Lia Universe, the 26-year-old local musician who has taught herself songwriting, guitar, piano, ukulele, and sound engineering since she began recording as a teen. As I wrote of her June single, “One Last Fucc,” “St. Paul's Hmong pop star gets raw on this one, cooing singsong invitations over diaphanous synths and trap beats. And yes, the video is just as sexy.” (Speaking of sex, Racket’s Jerard Fagerberg spoke with Universe in 2021 about her work on OnlyFans.) Summer lovin’ will be in ample supply with Grease, the 1978 musical about a nice Australian girl who is inspired by a friend's pregnancy scare to slut it up for a local hoodlum.
- The Chicks with Wild Rivers @ State Fair Grandstand—Natalie Maines sounds plenty more pissed—and so, plenty more engaged—on the rechristened trio’s 2020 comeback, Gaslighter, than she did on Taking the Long Way in 2006, back when she, Martie Maguire, and Emily Strayer were nursing their wounds in the aftermath of a culture war against them. Thank (if that’s the right word) Maines’s ex-husband Adrian Pasdar, who was so worried by her breakup songs he wanted a court to determine if they violated the confidentiality clause in their prenup. (Good thing that never happened or we might not ever have gotten the lyric “My husband's girlfriend's husband just called me up/How messed up is that?” not to mention the very specific “Tights on My Boat.”) Sure you’ll probably show up for the oldies, but with much maligned, ubiquitous, and newly married producer Jack Antonoff contemporizing their sound, the new stuff holds its own.
Saturday, August 26
Sunday, August 27
- All-American Rejects with New Found Glory, the Starting Line, and the Get Up Kids @ Armory—Sorry, but it is a pop-punk travesty that the Get Up Kids are billed fourth here. Behind the Starting Line even??
- Boyz II Men and Chaka Khan with Nunnabove @ State Fair Grandstand—Nostalgia has a way of flattening the subtleties of history. Last long enough and you’re an oldies act, whether you’ve been around for 20 years or 50. So while a pairing of Boyz II Men and Chaka Khan might seem a little anachronistically wack—the group debuted a full 18 years after Khan’s first single with the group Rufus—the hits from each will blend into a joyful soundtrack of days gone by. Softening new jack swing with sweet harmonies, Boyz II Men made superstardom possible for the gentrifying white boy bands to follow. Ms. Khan is a queen who has proven herself equally comfortable with jazz, disco, R&B, pop, and funk, and I guess I gotta mention the local angle: Prince not only wrote her biggest hit, “I Feel for You,” but signed her to NPG Records for a bit and brought her on tour in 2000. You’ll excuse me for being corny enough to say that there ain’t nobody does it better. (You may not excuse me for perving out on main, but can we just...) Promising local newcomers Nunnabove will open.
Monday, August 28
- Happy Together Tour @ State Fair Grandstand—As always, the Turtles headline this nostalgia package tour, and, as always, fuck the Turtles. Flo and Eddie, the band's litigious core duo, tried their best to kill hip-hop in 1991, suing De La Soul and Tommy Boy Records over a looped sample from "You Showed Me." De La had used four bars from that old track on “Transmitting Live From Mars,” from their undisputed classic debut 3 Feet High and Rising. “This isn’t just a financial objection,” the Turtles' lawyer said at the time. “Flo and Eddie are genuinely upset with the way De La Soul chopped up and mutilated their song.” The two parties settled out of court for a reported $1.7 million, and that price tag helped scare hip-hop artists (and, more importantly, their labels) from using unlicensed sample, effectively ending the age of sample-heavy hip-hop collage albums. Trouble clearing samples for digital release also kept De La Soul's music off streaming services until this year; when they hit the web in March, fans old and new dove in to their peerless catalog. When's the last time you deliberately listened to a Turtles song?
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