Local Current Blog

Get to know this year’s Minnesota State Fair Music-on-a-Stick performers: Phantogram, Lucius, and Now, Now

Sarah Barthel of Phantogram at the Palace Theatre on March 12, 2017. (Emma Roden for MPR)

The Minnesota State Fair is right around the corner, and with it comes deep-fried foods, friendly crowds, and a plethora of live music. The Current’s Music-on-a-Stick will be returning to the Grandstand again this year, with a melodically congruous line-up — Phantogram will be headlining the night, with Lucius and Now, Now supporting. All three acts lean towards accessible pop, but each have their own spin.

Music-on-a-Stick is not your only opportunity to enjoy music with The Current this year at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Visit us at the MPR booth to catch some live broadcasts or to just say hello. From the Grandstand shows to bandshell performances there will also be plenty of opportunities to see live music at the Minnesota State Fair this year. The highest-profile free (with Fair admission) music is at the Leinie Lodge’s Bandshell Tonight series boasting acts such as George Clinton, the Pointer Sisters, and Hippo Campus.

Here’s some more information on each of the three bands that will be performing as a part of the Music-on-a-Stick show at the Grandstand on Sept. 2.


The headlining duo, Phantogram, comprises middle-school friends Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter. Hailing from Greenwich, New York, the electronic rock duo got its start in 2007, originally going by the name Charlie Everywhere. With Barthel on keyboards and Carter on guitar, the two soon became known for their infectious fusion of electronica, rock, hip-hop beats, and dreamy pop vocals.

They’ve released three studio albums: Eyelid Movies (2010), Voices (2014), and Three (2016). The two have collaborated and performed with several big-name acts, including Big Boi, the Flaming Lips, and Alt-J, as well as performed at major music festivals including Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Bonnaroo. The duo have made several television appearances on late-night talk shows, and last year they were featured in an episode of the Showtime series Roadies performing their single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.”

Phantogram have visited The Current studio several times, including shortly after the release of their third album back in Oct. 2016. During this visit, Barthel shared some insight on what inspires Phantogram’s songwriting. “Josh and I, we have written [more] from sadness in our lives than happiness,” Barthels explained. “I mean, we don’t write ‘sunshine, today’s a wonderful day’ songs. We aren’t depressed people; it’s just what we gravitate towards when we write. It’s cathartic in that way. It’s kind of like our therapy.”


Dress-alike vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig are the frontwomen of the indie-pop group Lucius. Joined by Dan Molad, Pete Lalish and Andy Burri, the five-piece have enjoyed a whirlwind tale of success since forming in 2005. The group have released two studio albums, the first being Wildewoman (2013) with Good Grief following in 2016.

Lucius are a band that like to stay busy. Amidst recording and touring, the band managed to find time to write music for Zoe Lister-Jones’s 2017 film Band Aid. Wolfe and Laessig have also been lending their vocal talents to some big names in the music industry, including Roger Waters, John Legend, and Jeff Tweedy. This year their single “Million Dollar Secret” was featured on HBO’s Girls.

Although they’re from New York, Lucius are no stranger to Minnesota — they performed at Rock the Garden in 2015, in the newly renovated State Capitol rotunda for a micro show last spring, and even started their tour in support of Good Grief at First Avenue. At their third in-studio performance here at The Current, when asked about their connection to Minnesota, Wolfe said, “It feels like home for us, for sure.”

Now, Now

Formed in Blaine, Minnesota, the band Now, Now are the local act rounding out the Music-on-a-Stick line-up at the State Fair this year. Members KC Dalager and Bradley Hale met in their high school marching band when they were 16 years old and eventually began writing songs together. The duo originally went by the name Now, Now Every Children, but later shortened the name to Now, Now.

With the release of their second album, Threads, in 2012 the band gained national success which resulted in a tour with fun. and a television appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The success also led to overexertion, exhaustion, and an eventual hiatus. Five years after the success of Threads, Now, Now are back. They released a single, “SGL,” in May, with more new music in the works.

Lillian Speakman is a recent graduate from Hamline University.