You can't envy the guy who gets to book music for The Big Fresno Fair's annual concert series. It's a year-round hustle, trying to find 13 acts that can appeal to the diverse half-million-or-so people who come through the gates.
Scheduling is also an issue. Fresno's fair is late in the year. It's the last California fair on the circuit, and it creates a challenge finding artists who are still on the road, much less on the West Coast.
Then there's competition from the city's other venues, which can bring in big names. This week, the fair was up against Bon Jovi and Jason Aldean.
And the fair circuit tends to get a bad rap, anyway. It's the final resting place for has-been musicians — a fate only slightly better than casino shows. I know that's an unfair assessment, but I am not above it.
Weezer played the Fresno fair last year, and instead of being wowed by the opportunity to see a really great band that most of my friends count as musical idols, my first thought was: How the mighty have fallen.
So, when the fair says it "works hard to bring the best entertainment across a variety of genres at an affordable price," that's not just talk. What the fair manages to do is actually pretty impressive.
Here's a look at some of the stand-out acts booked this year:
Korn: While the band doesn't have the draw it would have during its "Freak on a Leash" days, its fans are hardcore.
And metal fans would have to really think back to remember when they last had an act of this caliber come through town. From a timing perspective, the show actually works really well. The Bakersfield band performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday and on Tuesday released its new studio album "The Paradigm Shift."
LL Cool J: LL Cool J is a hip-hop pioneer. He helped define the genre and style during the late 1980s and into the 1990s. His performance of "Mama Said Knock You Out" on "MTV Unplugged" is forever burned into the minds of those my age. Saturday night's show isn't exactly a must-see, but it's one you'll hate yourself for missing.
Neil Sedaka: These kind of nostalgia acts don't have large appeal with the youngsters. Hand this to any reader under 30 and they'll probably have no idea who Neil Sedaka is. Of course, you could be surprised.
I put Sedaka, who played Monday night, in the same category as Frankie Valli. And I saw Valli when he played the fair in 2007 and loved it! My review from the night: " … the guy's a true showman with a young, energetic band and has written lots of songs you probably don't even realize you love."
Darius Rucker: In my mind, Darius Rucker will always be Hootie — the singer for Hootie and the Blowfish.
As a solo artist, Rucker has managed to reinvent himself as a viable country star. He's probably the hottest name on the fair's lineup this year and sure to have a big crowd as the final act of the fair on Monday.
Tickets to the remaining shows are available at the fairgrounds box office, by phone at (559) 650-FAIR and online at fresnofair.com.
There are 200 free seats available for each concert (with the exception of the Sunday shows). It's first-come, first-served. Just look for the line at the back of the Paul Paul Theater.