By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist
April 8, 2014
The Missouri State Fair just announced the lineup for the Pepsi Grandstand and that means it is again time for me to hit up YouTube and familiarize myself with some of the artists and again prove that my knowledge of modern country and alternative rock is a little lacking.
Country is, like always, the most represented genre and second place is the sweet music of the tractor pull. I think it reflects badly that three different nights at the Missouri State Fair’s biggest venue feature pulling.
Scotty McCreery opens up the Grandstand on Thursday, Aug. 7 — I used to be a big fan of American Idol and McCreery was the winner of the 10th season, which happens to be the last season that I really watched. He was a superior choice over runner up Lauren Alaina, but No. 3 Haley Reinhart really should have ended up on top. No. 6 Casey Abrams led the rest of the pack in my mind, but a significant portion of the top 10 would have been ultimately preferable to either of the finalists.
But I had never heard any of his music after that. McCreery has an amazing voice, there’s no doubt about that, but his inflection is so reminiscent of all those other guys that twanged up the mid-90s pop country movement that it comes across as generic even if he is better than all of them, at least on a purely technical level. It’s pure karaoke prowess taken to its logical peak.
His first single, “I Love You This Big,” is the most offensive to the sensibilities and has the sort of lyrical content usually reserved for cartoon bears on Valentine’s Day cards. But he’s made progress since then.
Friday, Aug. 8 brings Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Black Stone Cherry. Of course, I might have heard of Black Stone Cherry, but I don’t think I’ve heard any of their songs. I listened to all of their singles and I’ve got to say that I think that as a band they peaked early in their career.
The singles from their first two albums are pretty listenable and reasonably unique. “Hell & High Water” is probably their best song. All their albums since have been packed with songs that sound like Nickleback’s leftovers. “White Trash Millionaire” definitely sounds more like the title of a country song.
Saturday, Aug. 9 features Boonville’s own Sara Evans — most of her catalog is technically proficient but it’s just not my kind of thing. I thought I wasn’t familiar with her work until I got to 2000’s “Born to Fly” and went “Ohhh! I know that song!”
It’s the kind of song that teaches us that a catchy chorus with a good hook can make for a memorable song, even if it fails to contain even a single set of rhyming words:
“Oh how do you wait for Heaven? And who has that much time?”
“And how do you keep your feet on the ground?”
“When you know that you were born, you were born, yeah.”
“You were born to fly.”
The Missouri State Fair should probably showcase Missouri artists whenever possible, she’s even got a song about missing her home state. On the other hand, my hatred for “Suds in the Bucket” knows no bounds.
Tuesday, Aug. 12 — Beatlemania Live: Since when does the Pepsi Grandstand feature cover bands? I’d rather see a relatively obscure local band than a cover band.
Wednesday, Aug. 13 — Florida Georgia Line: FGL makes easily digestible party country that occasionally crosses the line into rap territory and are probably one of the hottest acts in modern country music. The Grandstand will probably be packed, but I can’t stand it.
Saturday, Aug. 16 — A band with a name like Halestorm that features a lead singer with a name like “Lzzy” didn’t inspire much confidence. But, you know, I actually kind of like Halestorm. Halestorm is like a harder rock version of Heart, with a frontwoman that is breaking traditional gender barriers in modern rock music. Even the most generic Halestorm hits sound a little less generic because they aren’t being sung by a gravelly voiced guy. From Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” they’re not afraid to cover a wide variety of songs when they’re not making original hits like “Love Bites (So Do I).” My favorite cover is probably their take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman.”
Seriously though, three nights of tractor pulls? I think the Historic Half-Mile needs to host some racing events again. The crash at the end of the 2012 Fair was unexpected, unacceptable and tragic, but it will be even more sad if the State Fair Speedway never sees any serious speed ever again. Upgrade the fences and let the track live again if you just have to have so many non-musical grandstand acts.