NC State Fair | NC State Fairgrounds | Special Events | Indy Week
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NC State Fair 

When: Oct. 15-25 2015

N.C. STATE FAIR

THURSDAY, OCT. 15–SUNDAY, OCT. 25

N.C. STATE FAIRGROUNDS, RALEIGH—The North Carolina State Fair—like many such events rooted in the culture of agriculture—has long been devoted to what's local. From the giant pumpkins and scorching peppers presiding with blue ribbons on long tables in the Expo Building to the tents of area celebrities like Greg Fishel signing autographs, and from the regional foods you can sample and the North Carolina livestock you can ogle, the event is an exhibition of some of the best things we have to offer.

But for decades, the fair's musical offerings less represented what the state produced than what a few people thought we might want to hear in an aging arena with bad acoustics. Some years, there were nice surprises from upwardly or downwardly mobile stars, though, for the last decade, bad choices cut deep into the event's otherwise sound bottom line. It was time to overhaul the system.

And the Department of Agriculture has done exactly that this year, hiring Raleigh's Deep South Entertainment to program three stages of Tar Heel-based acts, as if to coincide with the department's own "Got to be NC" initiative. It's a mixed, motley bag that offers some surreal opportunities. At 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16, for instance, MAKE—responsible for one of the year's most lithe, immersive doom metal LPs—plays the Waterfall Stage, usually the domain of genteel folk acts. The next day, the See Gulls get into their sharp, barbed pop-rock from the same platform. There's hip-hop on Sunday, Pam Saulsby on Monday, psychedelic rock and hard-line funk on Tuesday. It, of course, makes sense for the N.C. State Fair's entertainment to reflect the range of its roots and to invest in the state's culture. But it's also pretty surreal to see happen.

The same approach applies inside to free shows in Dorton Arena, once the home of has-been or never-quite-were country singers. That tactic doesn't disappear entirely, as Jason Michael Carroll headlines Saturday, but they've mixed it up with salsa extravaganza Orquesta GarDel Sunday, a Bollywood night Monday and the local return of Black Sheep on Tuesday. The final three days offer a vision of what this experiment could look like in the long term: The Love Language and Spider Bags split the bill Friday, Oct. 23, followed by the Charlie Daniels Band on Saturday and Nantucket on Sunday. As Spider Bags may put it from stage, "Que Viva El Rocanrol, y'all." For a complete schedule, see www.ncstatefair.org. —Grayson Haver Currin

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