Photo by Mike Madison

While the delicious fried delights and Midway rides might be what draws a lot of folks to the Fair, the Great Minnesota Get-Together is a reliably excellent place to see live music outdoors during some of the prettiest days of the summer.

While the schedule at The Grandstand is packed with all sorts of big names, you can see plenty of high quality artists performing for free on any given night of the Fair. We’re running down the best of the remaining free shows below:

If you love ’90s R&B Divas:
En Vogue at the Bandshell stage, 8/28, 8:30pm

Queens. Icons. Hitmakers. En Vouge! The trio of Cindy Herron-Braggs, Terry Ellis and Rhona Bennett will bring a catalog full of unforgettable bops like “Don’t Let Go,” “Free Your Mind, “ and “Hold On” along with a towering stage presence and their latest album Electric Café.

If you’re trying to worship at the altar of classic rock:
Steve Augeri (Former Lead Vocalist of Journey) 
at the Bandshell stage, 8/31 and 9/1, 8:30pm

I know what you’re probably thinking: “But Zach, I thought Steve Perry was the lead former vocalist of Journey!” Very astute reader! But you know who else sang lead vocals for Journey? This guy! Steve Augeri!

“OH! I remember him! That’s the Filipino guy that they made the documentary about, right?”

Sorry, still no, that’s Arnel Pineda, Journey’s current lead vocalist. But guess what guys? Steve Augeri still performs Journey songs. Get your lighters out and ROCK!

If you love ’90s alternative one-hit-wonders with cult followings:
Cowboy Mouth
at the Bandshell stage, 8/31 and 9/1, 3:30pm and 4:45pm

God bless the mid-to-late 1990s. Alternative rock dominated the charts, and all sorts of interesting regional bands were given a chance for mainstream success, provided they could find the right song to break through. For weirdo-jam-rockers Cowboy Mouth, that song was “Jane Says,”  a wildly unlikely hit for a band that continues to be a New Orleans live music staple to this day.

Photo by Mike Madison

If you’re in the mood for some local flavor:
Har Mar Superstar 
at the Bandshell stage, 9/2 and 9/3, 8:30pm

Minneapolis’ favorite son Sean Tillman, aka Har Mar Superstar, has been a standout of the local music scene since his first punk shows with Calvin Krime in the late ’90s. Fusing contemporary R&B and classic soul influences with an irreverent muse and passionate live performances, Har Mar Superstar is sure to tear the State Fair a new corn dog.

Photo by Mark Kartarik

If you wanna get your global groove on: 
Black Market Brass at the International Bazaar stage, 8/31 and 9/1, 10:45am, 12pm, 1:15pm

Locals Black Market Brass have been a reliable block party staple for the last five or so years thanks to their energetic, party-ready approach to the Afro-Funk sound made famous by Fela Kuti. Stocked with a who’s-who of talented local musicians, Black Market Brass will make even the most stoic Minnesotans want to cut a rug.

If you’d love a new twist on Roots and Americana
Chastity Brown 
at the Schilling Amphitheater, 8/31 and 9/1, 8:00pm

Based in Minneapolis but born amongst the musical traditions of rural Tennessee, Chastity Brown has been steadily stretching the boundaries of folk music with elements of gospel, soul and R&B since the turn of the century. Her stellar 2017 album Silhouette of Sirens finds the singer-songwriter following up her surprise hit “After You” with a suite of songs that ruminate on the personal and political heartbreaks off our current era.

2 thoughts on “State Fair: Forget the Grandstand shows, here’s the best free music at the Fair

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