The Kern County Fair announced the slate of free concerts for this year's 12-day entertainment extravaganza, and it's a list replete with the four C's of the fair circuit: country, classic rock, Christian and contemporary.
The biggest names? Steppenwolf will give that magic carpet another ride, and three acts will bring country cred: LeAnn Rimes, Montgomery Gentry and up-and-comers Old Dominion, the fair's opener.
Prince protege and drumming dynamo Sheila E. is among the names, as is R&B/pop trio En Vogue. Rounding out the list are contemporary Christian act Chris August, '90s hitmakers Smash Mouth, jazz/funk/R&B collectives Tower of Power and War, and Latin act David Lee Garza, as well as Norteno legend Ramon Ayala.
The concerts are free with fair admission, which is $12 for adults this year, up from $10 last year. All concerts are at the Budweiser Pavilion at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
The fair begins Wednesday, Sept. 22, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 1.
Old Dominion, Wednesday, Sept. 20: Formed in 2014, this Nashville five-piece blends country, rock and — oh, what the heck! — hip-hop. The band's highest-charting singles are "Break Up With Him," "Snapback" and "Song for Another Time."
Tower of Power, Thursday, Sept. 21: This horn-tastic band, formed in 1968, has become a perennial attraction at the fair. Biggest hits: "You're Still a Young Man," "So Very Hard to Go," "Soul with a Capital S" and "Soul Vaccination" (do you get that they're soulful?).
Sheila E., Friday, Sept. 22: The E stands for Escovedo, but it could very well be short for "Egads, that gal can drum!" The singer/percussionist was close personally and professionally to the late Prince, but she's had plenty of success on her own, on the strength of hits like "The Glamorous Life" and "A Love Bizarre."
War, Saturday, Sept. 23: "Low. Ri. Der. Is a little higher ..." This funk band is no joke, with hits that make any feel-good party feel even better: "Spill the Wine," "The Cisco Kid," "Why Can't We be Friends?" and the aforementioned "Low Rider." Already humming that riff? Exactly.
Ramon Ayala, Sunday, Sept. 24: "The King of the Accordion" has the keys to entertainment when he launches into his Norteno/Conjunto hits, which include "Un Rinconcito En El Cielo" and "Chaparra de Mi Amor." This guy is a legend, mi amigo.
LeAnn Rimes, Monday, Sept. 25: Rimes first unleashed her heavenly soprano on the country charts when she was a mere 13, with the smash "Blue," complete with a signature yodel, and then went on to score with "How Do I Live?" It's been a few years since this Grammy Award winner's last hit, but that voice? Still heavenly.
Chris August, Tuesday, Sept. 26: This Dove Award nominee began his career as a secular artist before seeing the light and switching to contemporary Christian. His song "Starry Nights" topped Billboard's Christian chart in 2010-11.
En Vogue, Wednesday, Sept. 27: "Free your mind and the rest will follow ..." Those lyrics broke through in 1992 and, come to think of it, they're pretty relevant today. The funky girl group owned the charts in the early '90s with songs like "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)," "Hold On," "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" and "Free Your Mind." This act isn't the biggest name this year, but this show will be the one to see.
Montgomery Gentry, Thursday, Sept. 28: Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry are ... drumroll ... Montgomery Gentry! This Southern-rock-leaning country duo have a mantel's worth of awards and hits, like "Something to Be Proud Of," "Lucky Man," "My Town" and "Back When I Knew It All."
Smash Mouth, Friday, Sept. 29: This San Jose band is synonymous with the sunnier side of the '90s: "Walkin' on the Sun" and "All Star," followed up in 2001 with the boys' take on the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" from "Shrek."
Steppenwolf, Saturday, Sept. 30: Tough for a band from Canada to boast of being "Born to Be Wild," but Steppenwolf sure pulled it off. During its heyday, from 1967 to 1972, the band notched several hits that would come to be included in the classic rock canon: "Magic Carpet Ride," "Rock Me," "Born to be Wild" and "The Pusher."
Jorge Moreno (at 6 p.m.) and David Lee Garza, Sunday, Oct. 1:
Jorge Moreno is a native of Tulare who reveres both Tejano and country music, having recorded in both genres. His latest album is "Gone Country."
David Lee Garza, an accordionist who formed his band Los Musicales in Texas in the late 1980s, flirts with Tejano, Tex-Mex and country to get those boots scootin'. Among his hits are "Con El Tiempo," "Cuatros Caminos" and "Who's That Gringo," a song that if you don't know it — as I didn't, 30 seconds ago — you must listen to. As in right now.