Everyone loves a county fair. The sights, sounds and aromas of the annual community festival attracts “kids of all ages” to a memory-filled experience that brings together family and friends to enjoy a warm summer’s outing.
The 77th annual Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival, scheduled Aug. 21-30 is, arguably, the best buy in town as tens of thousands of visitors each day are expected to delight in fanciful amusements, the very best in pop/rock music and, of course, practically every type of fast food fare imaginable. There’ll be prizes aplenty on the midway, some of the most thrilling rides ever and, for the kids, lots of farm animals ready for riding and perfect for petting.
The low ticket price ($10 for adults 12 years and older, $8 for juniors 6 to 11 years, and for seniors 62 years and older) simply can’t be beat considering an amusement park pass could easily run $95 per person. If you’re an active member of the military (with a military photo ID), you get in for free. And parking? Just $8.
Of all the fairs taking place this summer around the Southland, the rural setting of the Antelope Valley Fair may be most picturesque. They all offer fun galore, but the Antelope Valley offering seems to have the right mix of city flair and good ‘ole country flavor. Perhaps the biggest attraction each year are the outstanding musical acts which take to the various stages each night. Some of these acts are household names; others are gaining traction in the pop/rock genre as evidenced by the assortment of tribute bands who will pay homage to long-time radio favorites like The Beach Boys, Joe Cocker, The Doobie Brothers, Tom Petty and Foreigner.
There are some rock and pop superstars scheduled to perform this year as part of the A.V. Fair/Palmdale Auto Mall Concert Series. These acts also include R&B, banda and country /western artists. Here’s a brief look at some of the famous names expected to “rock the night away” just a few hours after the first corn dog is munched and the last churro is crunched. Grandstand admission is free; additional seating closer to the stage ranges from $20 to $80.
Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds/Boyz II Men
First up at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 21 are Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Boyz II Men. Kenneth Edmonds reportedly received the “Babyface” moniker during his teenage years as a session musician. An outstanding guitarist, keyboardist, producer and arranger, Babyface is said to have innovated in the early 1980s the “jerk swing” style of R&B music having written and produced songs for Bobby Brown, Karyn White, Pebbles, Paula Abdul and Sheena Easton. He co-founded LaFace Records, the label which helped launch the careers of TLC, Usher and Toni Braxton.
The late Whitney Houston sought out Babyface to produce her hit “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” He wrote and produced a mega-smash for Boyz II Men (“End of the Road”) and also Madonna’s number-one hit “Take A Bow.” Babyface and guitar legend Eric Clapton shared billing on the chart-topping Grammy winner “Change the World.” He collaborated once again with Houston for “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” for the multi-platinum “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack in 1995.
Boyz II Men features one of the best harmonies in the music industry. They gained international acclaim as a quartet in 1992 with “End of the Road” which remained on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 13 weeks, surpassing Elvis Presley’s decades-long record for a hit song. Boyz II Men are top-ranking artists with regard to time spent at No. 1 in Billboard history, today ranking in the fourth spot with a total of 50 weeks, surpassed only by the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey.
Now a trio, Boyz II Men continues to perform around the world. One of their most popular and innovative releases was 2007’s “Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA” which featured classic songs from the Motown Records catalog. Randy Jackson of “American Idol” fame produced the album which included covers of “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” by The Temptations, and “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.
Pat Benatar/Dennis De Young
Pat Benatar and husband Neil Giraldo will perform some of their biggest hits beginning at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22. Dennis De Young, a founding member of the rock group Styx, will also perform that evening.
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo have been one of the most popular acts in rock ‘n roll for the past 35 years. During the 1980s, Benatar had two multi-platinum albums, five platinum albums, three gold albums and 19 Top 40 singles. Radio audiences in 1981 were introduced to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and heard Neil Giraldo’s scorching guitar solo and many became devoted followers. The two followed that hit with “Love Is A Battlefield,” “We Belong” and “Invincible”; each of the singles reached the Billboard Top 10.
Benatar was one of the most popular artists during the early days of MTV. Initially, however, she was a struggling bank teller who helped make ends meet by singing in local clubs on the East Coast. Her big break reportedly came in 1975 during an open-mic session at Catch A Rising Star in New York City. Her rendition of Judy Garland’s “Rock A Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” was a big hit with the audience. Also that year, Benatar landed the part of Zephyr in “The Zinger,” a play written by the late Harry Chapin which also featured Beverly D’Angelo and Christine Lahti.
She met guitarist extraordinaire Neil Giraldo in 1978 and the next year they released the album “In the Heat of the Night” which included the rock classic “Heartbreaker” and “We Live for Love.”
Dennis De Young formed his first band at age 14. Back then it was an early incarnation Styx, the Chicago-based band known for mega hits like “Babe,” “Mr. Robato,” “Lady” “Come Sail Away” and “Fooling Yourself.” The latter two songs came from the 1977 platinum-selling album “The Grand Illusion.”
De Young, self-taught on the keyboards, has had several tenures with Styx including from 1970-84, again from 1990-92 and once more from 1995-99. Along the way, he has had successful stints as a solo artist and also as an actor, appearing in 200 performances of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Last year De Young released a two-CD-plus-DVD package called “Dennis De Young … And the Music of Styx Live in Los Angeles.”
Banda MS, also known as Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizarraga, is a regional Mexican group from Mazatlan, Sinaloa. They’ll take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23.
Founded in 2003, the main component of Banda MS includes Oswaldo Silvas (vocals), Alan Ramirez (vocals), and Sergio Lizarraga on tuba. More than a dozen musicians comprise the group. Their first album was “No Podras” from 2004, and they have had a number of top selling releases since then, including “Mi Mayor” (2006), “La Raza Contenta” (2006), “Mi Mayor Anhelo (2006).
“Escuela de Rancho” was released in 2008. Their most successful album was the 2009 release “En Preparacion” which included the international smash hit “Sin Evidencias;” this release reached the Billboard Latin Songs Top 10 list. The song also reached the Top 5 of the Regional Mexican Songs chart.
Peter Frampton/Cheap Trick
In 1976, Peter Frampton released one of the most successful live rock albums ever. He will appear at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24. Cheap Trick is also on the bill that night.
“Frampton Comes Alive,” remained on the Billboard 200 chart for 97 weeks, 55 of which were in the Top 40 and another 10 as the world’s number-one selling rock album. Since then, the two-disc album has been certified six times platinum with the hit songs “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “Show Me the Way” and “Do You Feel Like I Do” remaining radio favorites some 40 years later.
Frampton received the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album (“Fingerprints”) in in 2007 ; a few years later he embarked on a 35th anniversary tour for “Frampton Comes Alive” which was originally recorded in the summer and fall of 1975 in the Bay Area and in New York.
Frampton is one of rock music’s best guitarists—excelling on the “talk box”—and in 2013 toured North America as part of “Frampton’s Guitar Circus” which featured the late B.B. King, Don Felder, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, David Hildalgo, Steve Lukather and Roger McGuinn. In February 2014, television viewers saw Frampton helping lead a Beatles tribute on “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles.” He released his 14th studio album, “Hummingbird in a Box,” last year.
Cheap Trick hails from Rockford, Ill., and includes among their biggest hits “Surrender,” “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police” and “The Flame.” Fans will know the band primarily from their successful 1979 album “Cheap Trick at Budokan,” which was recorded as part of their 1978 tour of Japan. The band had released three albums prior to that, but none had made the Top 40 in the United States. “Cheap Trick at Budokan” made them international stars, and the album went triple platinum in the U.S.
Rick Nielsen, lead guitarist, remains one of the most popular live acts and is known for having one of the world’s largest collections of rare and classic guitars (400 and counting). To date, Cheap Trick has performed live more than 5,000 times. Other hits include a remake of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame,” “Clock Strikes Ten” (number one in Japan in 1978), and “Need Your Love.”
Heart/Left of Centre
Heart will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25. The country/rock quartet Left of Centre will also perform that evening.
Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson did not originate the band Heart, but eventually helped them achieve international acclaim, after joining the group in the early 1970s. The group began performing in and around Seattle, Wash., and over the years has produced a string of hit records including “Crazy On You” and “Magic Man,” two releases which cracked the Billboard Top 40 list in 1976. They followed up with “Barracuda,” “Little Queen,” “Straight On” and “Even It Up.”
Heart’s cover of Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is” peaked at number eight on the Billboard Top 40 chart in 1981, and they’ve also recorded covers of the classic ballad “Unchained Melody,” Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” and an early Beatles hit, “I’m Down.” Among their other hits are “What About Love,” “Never,” and the chart-topping 1986 ballad “These Dreams.”
Left of Centre is based out of Reno, Nev., and is a popular act in Las Vegas serving as the house band at Toby Keith’s Bar and Grill. Their style of country-rock covers many of the favorite “Southern Rock” stylings of the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, etc., and they are prolific at writing their own material. The group’s second album is scheduled to be released next year. Bandmembers include Frank Garrett, lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Jerry Tomlinson, lead guitar and vocals; Greg Sadler, bass, keyboards and vocals; and Jesse Easter on drums and vocals.
Thomas Rhett/Frankie Ballard
Country star Thomas Rhett will perform at 7: 30 p.m. on Aug. 26 and will be joined by Frankie Ballard. Rhett debuted in 2012 with the single “Something to Do With My Hands” and followed later that year with “Beer With Jesus.” Each song made the Top 30 on the Hot Country Songs chart; his third single, “It Goes Like This” topped the Country Airplay chart and peaked at number two on Hot Country Songs.
Franke Ballard’s big break resulted from Kenny Chesney’s Next Big Star competition in 2008, and shortly after that he signed with Reprise Records. Ballard’s 2010 single “Tell Me You Get Lonely” reached number 33 on the Hot Country Songs chart; the 2014 song “Sunshine & Whiskey” was his first number-one hit.
The Antelope Valley Fairgrounds is located at 2551 W. Avenue H in Lancaster. For tickets or more information, call (661) 948-6060.