That’s not without reason.
Each year, the fair brings in more than a dozen touring acts, most of which would be worth mention even if the concerts weren’t sandwiched into the fair’s tight two-week run. For music fans, it’s exciting to watch the schedule unfold. Some no doubt make a game of predicting which bands might be coming through. The lineups tend to have broad appeal. So, while there may not be a band playing that you absolutely love, there’s at least one that you could be enticed to see and no doubt enjoy.
The Paul Paul Theater concerts often overshadow the staggering number of free performances scheduled around the fairgrounds each year.
These bands don’t have the name recognition of The Cult, to choose a band from this year’s lineup, so the shows can fly under the radar. It’s too bad, because these shows can be prove to be treasures. Like the year Joan Jett and the Blackhearts played a free set-up against the Black Crows. I chose to see Jett and don’t regret it for a second.
This year, the fair seems to have doubled down on these performances, which are spread out on several stages throughout the grounds. There’s the Pavilion stage and a stage in The Save Mart Wine Garden with music starting at 8:30 p.m. each night. There are also smaller stages set among the exhibit buildings.
The artists fall into three general categories.
The list of homegrown musicians playing this year includes mostly familiar names: Pamela Henri and Big Boss Band, Q-Pop Radio, AC Myles Band, 51 Aces, The Marie Wilson Band, Chris Curtice and The Wild Horses, Déjà vu and Glen Delpit and the Subterraneans. And that’s not the full list.
Don’t miss: Saltwater, the bluesy-rock-folk group from Travis Brooks, Wess Hardin, Kyle Oakes and Chris Estep. The band plays natural fuzz-toned roots rock. Along with groups like Russian Money and Lance Canales and the Flood, they are establishing a bit of a scene for genre in the San Joaquin Valley.
This being a county fair, loading the stages with tribute bands makes sense. Also, Fresno loves its tribute bands. The list here is fairly long and leans heavy on ’70s and ’80s rock. There’s a Foo Fighter’s tribute called Faux Fighters and the Duran Duran tribute Planet Earth. There’s a tribute to Frank Sinatra from Josh Bravo and the local Doors tribute, the Double Doors, plus the Santana tribute Jungle Strut and Space Oddity, which is billed as the ultimate David Bowie experience.
Don’t miss: The Ramones tribute, Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! The band plays 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, on the Pavilion stage. Ramones tributes don’t come around often and this one seems legit. It won’t make up for not seeing the actual Ramones in Fresno when you had the chance, but what can you do?
The regional acts
There’s also a number of regional and niche acts making their way to the fair this year. That includes the old-school R&B group B.I.G. (or Brothers Igniting a Groove), the Hmong-language N.C.O. Band, Zydeco band Crawdaddios and the Los Angeles American folk group Gun Hill Royals.
Don’t miss: Metalachi, the world’s only (or so they say) heavy metal mariachi band. Metalachi could also be included in the tribute section, seeing as they play mariachi tributes to classic rock greats like Dio, Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses. The band plays 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, on the Pavilion stage.
For the most up-to-date information on what bands are playing when, check the fair’s website or ask for the daily schedules program.