Local Current Blog

Free music at the Minnesota State Fair: Your complete A-Z guide

Chastity Brown performs at the MPR booth in 2012. Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR.

In addition to the high-profile Grandstand shows—including our own MN Music-on-a-Stick showcase on Aug. 30—the Minnesota State Fair is alive with free music. The Fair has posted complete schedules of performers at their free stages and other venues (booths, restaurants, etc.), and MPR will be hosting several performances at our own booth—but who are all these artists? We’ve compiled this handy A-Z guide to help you learn more about the dozens of groups and solo artists you can see for free once you’ve entered the State Fairgrounds.

This guide was compiled by Lilli Speakman, Selena Carlson, and Jay Gabler. In most cases, we provide brief descriptions of the artists and links to websites; in many cases, we’ve also provided videos to give you a sense of what these artists sound (and look) like. If you have more information on any of these artists that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in this guide, please e-mail jgabler@mpr.org. For a daily guide to music at the fair, subscribe to MPR’s free State Fair music e-newsletter!

Alex Rossi & Root City Band (Café Caribe): Alex Rossi is a singer/songwriter, guitarist, founder and front man of the funk-and-soul-influenced Root City Band.

Ali V (DNR Outdoors Stage)

Alumni Band (University of Minnesota Outdoor Stage): University of Minnesota alumni band.

Ancia Saxophone Quartet (MPR booth): Ainternational touring ensemble dedicated to the performance of traditional saxophone quartet repertoire and to the creation of new works for saxophone quartet.

Ast St John (Minnesota Farmers Union)

Axis Mundi World Jazz Quintet (International Bazaar): Its name translating to “the world tree,” Axis Mundi performs world-beat grooves combined with elements of jazz.

Barb Meyer (French Creperie): Soulful vocalist whose spiritually thoughtful lyrics create a connection between her and audience.

Benjamin Raye (French Creperie, Minnesota Farmers Union): A versatile singer-songwriter.

The Belfast Cowboys (International Bazaar): Nine-piece, horn-driven band specializing in the music of Van Morrison.

Best In Trees (Famous Dave’s): Minneapolis-based indie rock quartet. 

Big Bob Scoggin (Ramberg Senior Center): Midwestern blues and oldies performer.

The Bill and Tom Show (O’Gara’s): A guitar and piano duo performing 1970s Top 40 hits.

Bill Isles (Minnesota Farmers Union): Duluth-born artist who has become one of the better known singer/songwriters in the Minnesota acoustic scene.

Bill & Kate Isles (DNR Outdoor Stage): Acoustic singer/songwriter duo from Duluth.

Bitter Ridge (DNR Outdoor Stage): Minnesota bluegrass band.

Blood, Sweat & Tears featuring Bo Bice (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Rock-jazz group that beat out the Beatles’ Abbey Road for Album of the Year, now fronted by American Idol superstar Bo Bice.

BLT Band (DNR Outdoor Stage): Five-piece band from central Minnesota playing classic rock and country as well as today’s country hits.

Blue Collar Cocktail (Coasters): Country-western band playing contemporary country hits.

BluPrint Band (Dino’s Gyros): Twin Cities funk band that’s all about having a good time.

Bockfest Boys (West End Market Stage) Hailing from New Ulm, their all-encompassing polka, German folk, country, rock, and bluegrass style creates a “delicious Minnesota hotdish of music.”

Brian Peterson (Minnesota Farmers Union): Acclaimed vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter who has been a part of the Minnesota music scene for over 30 years.

Buckwheat Zydeco (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): New Orleans group bringing the unique sound of Louisiana zydeco music into the mainstream.

The Cactus Blossoms (MPR Booth): This popular duo bring evoke a classic country sound.

The California Honeydrops (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Dance-inducing New-Orleans-style trio.

Cash’d Out (West End Market Stage): San-Diego-based Johnny Cash tribute band priding themselves in their authentic homage.

Chad Brownlee (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Award-winning country music artist who recently toured with Dierks Bentley.

Chastity Brown (West End Market Stage, MPR booth): Tennessee native channeling an all-encompassing genre of gospel, roots, soul, blues, and country.

Charlie Worsham (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Rising Nashville singer-songwriter who has already landed on Billboard’s “Top 10 Country Albums.”

Chris Herriges (French Creperie): Versatile artist fronting a variety of themed bands including British Invasion, a Johnny Cash tribute and a beach/reggae band.

The Cleverlys (Leinie Lodge Bandshell) A family hailing from the mountains of Arkansas blending a jolly mix of bluegrass and comedy.

Critical Mass (Dino’s Gyros): High-energy, local Minnesota rock band playing the classics.

Dan Rumsey (Minnesota Farmers Union)

Darlene and The Boys (DNR Outdoor Stage): Five-piece country band from Cottage Grove that have performed on the Shotgun Red Variety Show in Nashville, Tenn.

De Capo Sax (Minnesota Farmers Union)

Deke Dickerson with The Trashmen (West End Market Stage): Minnesota garage-rock legends, creators of the 1960s mega-hit “Surfin’ Bird.”

Devon Worley Band (Giggles’ Campfire Band): Midwest country band made up of professional musicians, fronted by vocalist Devon Worley.

Dolce Wind Quintet (MPR booth): A seasoned quintet with an eclectic repertoire.

Doomtree (MPR booth): A world-renowned hip-hop collective based in Minnesota, Doomtree are performing as a group at our MN Music-on-a-Stick showcase (ticketed) and individually at the MPR booth (free).

Dr. Dog (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Indie-rock band from Pennsylvania inspired by the catchy sounds of 60s pop with rock, folk, and psychedelic influences.


DrunkNStupid (Giggles’ Campfire Grill): A true variety band playing classics from Sinatra to Elvis, the Beatles, and Johnny Cash.

E & E Band (Dino’s Gyros): Elijah Adam and Erin Lee are national touring and recording artists that have performed with many big name acts including Steve Miller, .38 Special, and KISS.

Echo Street (Minnesota Farmers Union): Acoustic rock, folk, bluegrass, roots, blues, and electric rock band playing covers and original tunes.

Ecuador Manta (Café Caribe) (DNR Outdoor Stage): Unique Andean band based in St. Paul, but originating from Ecuador.

The Elements (Famous Dave’s): Local Minneapolis/St. Paul band playing classic rock from the 1960s to today.

Ellis (West End Market Stage): Folk singer/songwriter with inspiring lyrics and catchy melodies.

The Ericksons (Carousel Park, MPR Day): A joyful sister duo performing accessible, evocative folk-pop.

The Farmer’s Daughters (Coasters): Female-fronted country band dedicated to providing a true honky-tonk experience for their fans.

Flash Mob (Coasters): A high-energy, Minneapolis-based cover band that’s all about cranking out hits from the 80s, 90s, and today.

The Flemming Fold (Ramberg Senior Center): Southern Minnesota family performing bluegrass, country, gospel, and folk music.

The 4onthefloor (West End Market Stage): Wildly popular Minneapolis classic rock group, known for both their soulful original compositions and their signature twist on covers.

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra (West End Market Stage): A fusion of jazz, classical, bluegrass, art-rock, Indian ragas, and a style as unique as their name.

Gary LaRue (Mancini’s): Singer and DJ who provides a professional and fun show for all ages.

GB Leighton (International Bazaar): One of the Twin Cities’ leading rock and country artists with more than 70,000 albums sold.


Gel (Coasters): The ultimate rock-and-roll variety band with just a splash of country.

George Hottinger Blues Band (Giggles’ Campfire Grill): Playing classic R&B covers, this band are annual favorites at St. Paul’s Nativity County Fair.

Georgia Clay (Coasters): Country/rock party band covering all the greats—including Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum, and Johnny Cash.

Gold Standard Show Choir (University of Minnesota Outdoor Stage): University of Minnesota’s student-run show choir.

Good for Gary (International Bazaar): Twin Cities Top 40 cover band guaranteed to make you sing along.

Good Time Willy (Famous Dave’s): Chicago-influenced blues band.

Granger Smith featuring Earl Dibbles Jr. (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Texas-born singer/songwriter performs in addition to his alter ego “country boy” Earl Dibbles Jr.

Greg Herriges (French Creperie): Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer who creates an eclectic style of music. 

Grupo Esplendor (International Bazaar): Spicy five-member Norteño band

Hammer Band (Giggles’ Campfire Grill): Local St. Paul cover band.

Hannah Grace (Minnesota Farmers Union)

Hanson & Hoyt (Minnesota Farmers Union): Twin Cities acoustic duo performing classics and hits from today.

Hey Lonesome (Ramberg Senior Center): Twin Cities bluegrass band.

High and Mighty (Dino’s Gyros): A big band with a big, dance-friendly sound.

High Octane (Giggles’ Campfire Grill): A band of professional musicians performing hits from the 80s, 90s, and today.

The High 48s (West End Market Stage): Upper Midwesterners performing classic bluegrass with a modern attitude.

Hitchville (International Bazaar): Seven-member Nashville country group packing harmonies with a punch.

Home Free (Leinie Lodge Bandshell) Mankato male a cappella group performing pop, jazz, classical, and country.

Holiday Ranch (French Creperie): Music duo that have been touring the U.S. since the early 90s.

The Irish Brigade (Ramberg Senior Center): Mike Wallace, credited with helping to spur the growth of Irish music and dance in the U.S., teams up with vocalist Joseph Smith.

Iron Horse (The Garden): Minnesota country band bringing the sounds of Nashville to the Midwest.

Jack Brass Band (International Bazaar): Feel-good New-Orleans-style group bringing the French Quarter to the Twin Cities since 1999.

Jim Berner’s Music Legends (Ramberg Senior Center): Pianist and singer performing great American pop tunes.

Jim Busta Polka Band featuring Mollie B. (International Bazaar): A Midwestern legacy of bringing polka to life for 35 years. 

Jim Pellinger (French Creperie): Independent singer/songwriter with a sound similar to that of Tom Petty.

Jim Price (Ramberg Senior Center): Violin and fiddle master who competed on America’s Got Talent and premiered work with the 3M Symphony Orchestra.

Joe Meyer Band (DNR Outdoor Stage): Founded in 1999, this band performs a variety of genres, including pop, folk-rock, reggae, blues, and R&B.

The Joey Johnson Band (Ramberg Senior Center): An eclectic bunch pulling material from Frankie Yankovic to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

John Devine and Scott Mateo Davies (Minnesota Wine Country): John Devine is a saxophonist who has been a part of the Twin Cities music community since the 1980s. Scott Mateo Davies has been playing the guitar since the age of nine and has performed internationally. 

Jonah & the Whales (Coasters): Long time rockin’ Twin Cities cover band inviting you to dive in and “feel the motion of the ocean.”

Karaoke by Mia Dorr’s Premier Entertainment (The Garden)

Kenny McMahon and Ali Grey (O’Gara’s)

Kevin Naquin & the Ossun Playboys (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): South Louisianan accordionist whose band grabs inspiration from the heart of Cajun country.

Kyle and Justin (Mancini’s)

Lamont Cranston (Giggles’ Campfire Grill): Local 1960s blues band originating from Hamel, Minn. They have opened for many well-known bands, including the Rolling Stones in 1981.

Lauren & Dawn (Mancini’s)

Lehamore-Hudson (Minnesota Farmers Union): Brother acoustic duo based in Minneapolis, performing Americana music.

Levi Lindeman (Minnesota Farmers Union)

Los Conocidos (International Bazaar): Minnesota Tejano band making audiences move and groove since 1972.

Marcia Ball (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Rhythm and blues pianist and singer/songwriter with an energetic stage presence.

Mark Grim (Minnesota Farmers Union): Twin Cities singer-songwriter known for his fingerpicking and coffeehouse gigs.

Mark Joseph Band (Café Caribe): Soulful artist performing funk, reggae, and R&B.

Mark Stary Duo (O’Gara’s): Has been performing in the Twin Cities for the past decade and has had several songs receive radio play.

Mark Stillman (Ramberg Senior Center): Minnesota-based accordion player who has been a featured soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra and A Prairie Home Companion.

Matt Yetter (Minnesota Farmers Union): Minneapolis blues artist who performs with just his National guitar and a harmonica.

The Mellow Fellows (Ramberg Senior Center): Twin Cities vocal ensemble made up of 18 men performing a variety of genres.

Michael Loonan (O’Gara’s): St. Paul composer, voice talent, singer, jingle writer, musician, and producer.

Mike Salovich & The Worldbeats (Minnesota Wine Country)

Members of the Minnesota Opera (MPR booth): Performers from Minnesota’s largest professional opera company.

MPR Choir (MPR booth): A choir made up of Minnesota Public Radio employees.

MN Songwriters (Minnesota Farmers Union): Minnesota Association of Songwriters.

Minnesota Boychoir (MPR booth): The oldest boychoir in the area, the Minnesota Boychoir has built a national reputation for excellence and education.

Monroe Crossing (West End Market Stage) Blugrass and gospel-blending band filling concert halls across the US and Canada.

Natalie Stovall and the Drive (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Country group led by the stirring vocals of Natalie Stovall.

Nick Nielson (Minnesota Farmers Union): Folk/Americana artist from Minneapolis.

Nightlights (Café Caribe)

Nikki Lane (MPR booth): A Nashville-based performer who “turns the vulnerable singer-songwriter stereotype on its ear.”

The Okee Dokee Brothers (Baldwin Park): Bluegrass duo and winners of 2012 Grammy for Best Children’s Album.

Old Soul (Minnesota Wine Country): Acoustic R&B band.

Overland Band (DNR Outdoors Stage): Twin Cities band that plays country and rock covers as well as some of their own songs.

Pat McCormick (O’Gara’s): Bagpiper.

Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): World music group inspired by the dance bands of New Orleans, African/Carribean combos, and R&B.

Paul’s Rock & Roll (Coasters)

Pavel Jany with Talking Strings (Minnesota Wine Country): Trio blending the traditions of a variation of international music styles. Some of these styles include jazz, classical, and East European gypsy music.

Peter Neuman and the Real Deal (DNR Outdoor Stage): Three piece blues band formed in 2010 in New Richmond, Wisc.

The Pistol Whippin’ Party Penguins (West End Market Stage): Minneapolis string band quintet combining a delicious sound of fiddle, upright bass, banjo, and four-part harmony.

PKG (Dino’s Gyros)

Playback (Coasters): Pop and dance music band playing covers of current artists and hits from the 80s and 90s.

Pop Wagner and Bob Bovee (Ramberg Senior Center): Lively performers of old-time cowboy anthems.

Preston Gunderson (Minnesota Farmers Union): An artist from the Iron Range, Gunderson was a casting finalist on The Voice; his The Recluse EP reached #25 in the world on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart.

The Railers (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Nashville country trio combining the air-tight harmonies and earthy instrumentation of Fleetwood Mac and Nickel Creek.

Ramm Band (International Bazaar): Soulful trio performing a mix of classic Motown, R&B, funk, rock, and the blues. 

Red Rock Swing Band (DNR Outdoor Stage): 17-piece big band performing swing and jazz classics from the 1940s.

The Retreads (Minnesota Farmers Union): Vocal/instrumental duo specializing in covers of classical pop songs.

Rhino (Coasters): Five-member Twin Cities band covering a variety of artists and genres from modern and alternative to classic rock—and even a bit of country.

Ring of Fire: The Life and Music of Johnny Cash from Plymouth Playhouse (DNR Outdoor Stage). Selections from the hit jukebox musical about the Man in Black.

Robinella (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Sweet serenades accompanied by bluegrass and jazz music.

The Rockin’ Pinecones (West End Market Stage): Rootsy New Orleans-style R&B group with a mission to invade the northlands with their soulful sound.

The River Breeze Band (Ramberg Senior Center): Lighthearted group playing polka, waltzes, country, Latin, and swing.

The Roe Family Singers (DNR Outdoor Stage): Old-fashioned hillbilly band from Kirkwood Hollow, Minn. The old-time music features instruments such as the banjo, washboard, saw, jug and fiddle.

Roxxy Hall Band (DNR Outdoor Stage): An all-female band playing fun, soulful pop.

Saana Ensemble (MPR booth): A vocal group performing Finnish music.

Salsabrosa (International Bazaar): A premier Midwestern salsa act with explosive Afro-Cuban rhythms.

Sam Kuusisto Band (Dino’s Gyros): Funk, rock, and R&B variety band.

Sarah Morris (West End Market Stage): Singer/songwriter mixing her classical training with Nashville roots, calling her style “a little twang, a lot of heart.”

Scott Stapp – The Voice of Creed (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Former lead vocalist of the successful 90s rock band.

7 Cats Swing (Minnesota Farmers Union): Four-horn swing band charming audiences with jazz and swing hits from the 30s to the 80s.

Sheltered Reality (Baldwin Park): Entertaining and energy-packed choreographed drumming group.

Six Appeal (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Award-winning a cappella group belting harmonies from oldies to trending chart-toppers.

Songblast – Dueling Guitars (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Guitar gurus Pat Balder and Glen Everhart create an audience-engaging experience.

Sonny Knight & The Lakers (International Bazaar) Mississippi native with a Minnesota soul brings retro R&B sound to his latest musical venture.

Soupbones (Coasters): “The hardest working live music duo in Minnesota,” playing their favorite rock and country hits for your delight.

Sourdough Slim with Robert Armstrong (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): A joyful duo reawakening the country blues, western classics, and vintage jazz.

Southside Aces (Ramberg Senior Center): Midwestern group showcasing New-Orleans-style jazz and pop tunes spanning 100 years.

Spotlight on UMD Music (University of Minnesota Outdoor Stage)

St. Mary’s Balalaika Orchestra (International Bazaar): Parishioners from Minneapolis showcasing their talents on Russian and Ukrainian instruments.

Steve Millar (Mancini’s)

Sundy Best (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Dynamic duo reimagining classic rock with influences of country and bluegrass.

Sweet Rhubarb (Minnesota Farmers Union): An trio performing a blend of folk, bluegrass, pop, and country.

Terry Grim Piano (Mancini’s)

Ticket to Brasil (International Bazaar): International ensemble highlighting classic and contemporary Brazilian music.

Tim Sigler (Giggles’ Campfire Grill): St. Paul country band playing about 200 shows a year.

The Todd Douglas Band (O’Gara’s): A band playing a blend of country, rock and pop hits.

Tom Dahill and Ginny Johnson (O’Gara’s): Irish folk duo complete with button accordion, concertina, and fiddle.

The Tommy Bentz Band (Famous Dave’s): Wisconsin native Bentz is an eclectic artist with a vast musical knowledge.

The 34th Infantry Division “Red Bull” Band (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Minnesota National Guard assembly performing throughout the region and worldwide.

Tonic Sol-Fa (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Minnesota a cappella ensemble with Emmy-Award-winning arrangements.

Touch of Rust (Giggles’ Campfire Grill):  Rock and roll band with a passion for the classics and a desire to jam.

Trandy Blue (Minnesota Farmers Union): Hudson-based rock-and-roll group who claim the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Janis Joplin as influences.

Twin Cities Jazz Cats (Minnesota Farmers Union): Twin Cities jazz and swing group playing standards and originals.

Twin Cities Labor Chorus (Minnesota Farmers Union): A nearly 30-member chorus with a mission to empower the labor movement.

UMD Marching Band (University of Minnesota Outdoor Stage): The University of Minnesota—Duluth marching band.

Uncle Chunk (Coasters): Five piece rock band covering hits from artist ranging from the Killers to Green Day and playing a few of their own originals.

Uncommon Roots (Giggles’ Campfire Grill): Three artists from the Pacific playing music with an island flair.

USAF Band of Mid-America Hot Brass (West End Market Stage): A subset of the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America performing pop music hits.

VocalEssence (Carousel Park, MPR Day): This acclaimed choir is at the heart of Minnesota’s rich choral music tradition.

Vocal U (University of Minnesota Outdoor Stage): University of Minnesota vocal group performing a variety of musical styles.

The Wendinger Polka Band (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Small-town Minnesota brothers playing happy tunes since 1976.

White Iron Band (West End Market Stage): Originally formed in Ely, now bringing their Americana talents to the Twin Cities.

Will Hoge (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Nashville singer-songwriter who has recently re-launched his musical career with enormous success.

The Willis Clan (Leinie Lodge Bandshell): Rooted in Irish tradition, Nashville parents Brenda and Toby and their 12 home-schooled children showcase their family’s renowned musical and dancing skills.

The Woodpicks (West End Market Stage): Five-member roots group from northern Minnesota who have been included in a collection of rural Americana for the Smithsonian.

Zacc Harris (Minnesota Wine Country): Jazz artist often called “the hardest working guitarist in Minnesota.”