Greg Peck: An inside look at country music at Rock County 4-H Fair
It was nice to see reporter Jake Magee’s story Tuesday explain the variable upcharges to sit in the grandstand and watch the main shows at this year’s Rock County 4-H Fair. For example, why did fairgoers pay $15 to see blues/rock star George Thorogood last night? Why are they paying $10 to see the country musicians tonight, Thursday and Saturday but get to see Lonestar, a popular country band, without any upcharge Friday night?
As fair officials explained in Tuesday’s Gazette, the extra fees on top of admission to the fairgrounds help the fair bring in quality acts that cost more every year. Some acts demand more than $50,000. So you’ll pay extra to sit and watch those shows and the fair’s general admission fees can remain reasonable at $8 per day and $5 for ages 7-12. The upcharges started coming three years ago and are quickly becoming an almost nightly payment for concert lovers.
But why no extra fee to see Lonestar on Friday night? Well, Friday is senior discount day. Fair officials figure that band will be attractive to older folks, so the fair board chose to keep the concert free to attract seniors.
Now that Thorogood thoroughly rocked the stage and neighborhood for blocks in last night’s sweltering heat, country music is the flavor the rest of the week. To learn what we can expect, I chatted Tuesday with Rob West, an announcer with the Bliss Communications FM station upstairs, Pure Country 99.9 WJVL. Rob, who handles the station’s 2 to 6 p.m. weekday slot, shared his thoughts on the country acts to come.
Best bargain? Scotty McCreery ($10 upcharge, Thursday night), West says. “He’s one of those who draws in all age groups. He’s just one of those hot young stars. From what I’m hearing in Nashville, he’s the hottest thing going at the fair.”
Biggest crowd? West believes it will be Danielle Bradbery and The Swon Brothers, costing $10 for both shows tonight. Both were in the fourth season of “The Voice,” West notes. Bradbery won the TV contest, and The Swon Brothers placed third. “I think having those two young acts coming off ‘The Voice’ is going to be a huge show,” West said.
Biggest surprise act for the casual country fan? Charles Esten and Clare Bowen, $10 for both shows Saturday night. Both are from the TV show “Nashville.” Said West: “I think people are going to see something different. If you watch ‘Nashville,’ you’ve seen them perform, but this one you’re going to see live, and I’ve heard good things from both of them, so I think it’s going to be a surprise for everybody.”
Biggest draw for young people? Again, Bradbery and The Swon Brothers, West believes. They’ll appeal to the young demographic.
Biggest draw for older people? Lonestar. “The nice thing about Lonestar is that all the original members are back together now,” West told me. “That’s going to be something that’s very cool, and a free show with all the hits they have, it’s just going to be unbelievable.”
At this point, I suggested to West that he sounded sold on the overall lineup at this year’s fair.
“I am sold on the lineup,” he said. “It’s a solid lineup.”
West admitted it doesn’t include an overwhelming attraction like last year’s Florida Georgia Line, a free show on opening day that set an all-time fair attendance record. But West suggests the new acts with budding stars that many people haven’t heard of and performers who will appeal to all age categories create a nice mix. Add local performer Zac Matthews in the free closing show at 7 p.m. Sunday, and West believes “it’s a great lineup.”
Of course, it might hurt the draw of regional music fans that Country Thunder in Twin Lakes also occurs this week. Usually, the fair and that event are different weeks, and West says it shocked people at WJVL to learn they would overlap this year. Country Thunder has stars including Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert and Brantley Gilbert. Thursday is WJVL Night at Country Thunder and features headliner Gary Allan. Announcers at WJVL will appear at the 4-H fair and Country Thunder.
West believes Friday night’s acts at the two events might attract crossover audiences—the young crowd gravitating to see Lambert at Country Thunder while older country music lovers head to the fair in Janesville for the free Lonestar show.
See you at the fair!