This year, the Utah State Fair will offer something newer, something older ... and something local.
Disney Channel star Bridgit Mendler, veteran Southern rockers .38 Special and the American Fork-based Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band are just three of the highlights of the Grandstand Entertainment performers, which also include Amy Grant, Love and Theft, the Kahuna Beach Party, Ramon Ayala and the Texaco Country Showdown.
Also headlining will be two touring extensions of popular TV series with the American Pickers (airing on the History Channel) appearing Saturday night and “The Price is Right Live” scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12.
But the one-two-three punch of Mendler, .38 Special and Chapman’s super-talented high school-aged band should provide the most firepower at the Fair over three successive nights.
Mendler, Don Barnes of .38 Special and Chapman each talked to The Tribune about nearly everything, save for corn dogs.
Bridgit Mendler • The 20-year-old blonde is returning to the Beehive State to showcase her singing, after initially visiting Utah to film the feature-length Christmas Disney Channel movie based on the series “Good Luck Charlie” in March 2011.
“Good Luck Charlie” is a popular Disney Channel sitcom which is in the midst of its fourth and final season. Mendler stars as an older sister who films video diaries meant to impart advice to a younger sister and brother as they grow up.
With the series ending. Mendler is focusing her energies on launching a music career.
“I’m in a different space now,” Mendler said. “I’d like to try something more different.”
Singing is nothing new for Mendler — she played the role of Olivia in the 2011 Disney Channel musical film “Lemonade Mouth,” with two singles from the soundtrack featuring her singing landing on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She released her debut album “Hello My Name Is ...” last year and her first single, “Ready or Not,” charted as high as No. 49 on the Billboard singles chart.
Now a student at the University of Southern California studying jazz, Mendler’s first album is a demonstration of her command of different pop styles, with even a stab at Ke$sha-style rapping on “Hurricane.” On tour, she has been trotting out a cover of Utahn band Neon Trees’ “Animal.”
“I love [‘Animal’],” Mendler said. “It has great energy. People are familiar with it, especially for people in Utah.” As for rapping, she said she did it just to try it, but doesn’t envision herself as “transitioning to a full-on rapper.”
.38 Special • Guitarist Don Barnes, 60, remembers growing up in the Navy town of Jacksonville and going to the fair.
“I remember the bad foods, and the fennel cake,” he said. But, more importantly, it was “the first time I saw a live band. They were on the back of a flat-bed truck, That looked fun.”
So in 1974, he and neighborhood friend Donnie Van Zant — brother Ronnie Van Zant was the original lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd who died in a 1977 plane crash in Mississippi — created the band and enjoyed a solid measure of success in the early 1980s with hit singles “Hold On Loosely,” “Caught Up in You,” “If I’d Been the One,” “Back Where You Belong,” and “Teacher Teacher.” Since then, they have remained tour warriors, even though earlier this year Van Zant was sidelined because of health issues associated with inner-ear nerve damage. Barnes has taken over most of the vocal responsibilities.
“When we were kids, [Van Zant] told us to aim his amps toward us,” Barnes said. “He’s paying the price.”
Barnes said the show is “all hits top to bottom,” and that despite many of the hits being recorded more than three decades ago, the band still plays with passion. “If we were going through the motions, it would be boring,” he said. “This is a celebration of the brotherhood ... We were a neighborhood band, and I remember the cops being called on us for playing too loud.”
• Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band • Caleb Chapman is the founder and director of the award-winning Crescent Super Band, made up of high school-aged musicians who headlined and sold out Carnegie Hall in May. Even though Chapman was recently named director of the prestigious Jazz Band of America, following past directors Wynton Marsalis and Wayne Bergeron, he is looking forward to releasing the Cresent Super Band’s new album “Don’t Look Down” in November. The more contemporary sounds illustrate that the band isn’t just limited to performing slam-bang renditions of the Great American Songbook.
“They spend as much time listening to Maroon 5, Beyoncé, and Foo Fighters as Coltrane,” Chapman said. As a result, the album features a cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “Mercy,” with a guest solo from Dave Matthews Band member and long-time friend of the band Jeff Coffin, who recorded it when DMB recently performed in Utah. Other songs include Utah-born Imagine Dragons’ “On Top of the World,” Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope,” and The Black Keys’ “Gold on the Ceiling.”
This is the first time the Crescent Super Band has headlined the Grandstand at the Utah State Fair, but they are planning on playing alongside Stanley Clarke at the 2014 Telluride Jazz Festival and are the first high school-aged group to headline the Jazz Education Network’s national conference, which this year will be held in January in Dallas.
Joining Chapman and his band onstage at the Utah State Fair will be Grammy-winning Latin percussionst Poncho Sanchez, who first jammed with band three years ago and loved it, Chapman said.
Utah State Fair
Where • Utah State Fairpark, 266 N. 1000 West, Salt Lake City
When • Sept. 6-15
Hours • Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost • Adults $10, Seniors 62 and over $7, youth 6 -12 $7, children 5 and under free.
Online • http://www.utahstatefairpark.com/home
Thursday • Plain White T’s, 7:30 p.m., $20 in advance, $26 day of show.
Friday • Amy Grant, 7:30 p.m., $24 in advance, $29 day of show.
Saturday • American Pickers “Treasures of Trash,” 7:30, free; seating ticket required.
Sunday • Love and Theft, 7:30, free; seating ticket required.
Monday • Bridgit Mendler, 7:30 p.m., $22 advance purchase, $27 day of the show.
Tuesday • 38 Special, 7:30 p.m., $22 advanced purchase, $27 day of show.
Sept. 11 • Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band with special guest Poncho Sanchez, 7:30 p.m., free; seating ticket required.
Sept. 12 • The Price Is Right Live, 5 p.m., reserved seat tickets $22, $29, $37, $5 more the day of show.
Sept. 13 • Texaco Country Showdown, 7 p.m., free.
Sept. 14 • Kahuna Beach Party, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., $15 adults, kids 12 and under free with fair gate admission.
Sept. 15 • Ramon Ayala, 7:30 p.m., $22 advance, $27 day of show.