The Minnesota State Fair is something us Midwesterners look forward to each year as it’s an opportunity to bring loved ones together, get your “fair life” fix with endless amounts of fried food and Sweet Martha’s cookies, and possibly experience a show at the Grandstand. After last year being the first time I, myself, had been to the State Fair I was eager to return this year even knowing this was my only opportunity. Arriving to the fair grounds around 6:30, the entry process went a lot more smoothly than I had anticipated, but it was at that point in time I remembered it was a Tuesday evening. Since it was my significant other’s birthday we quickly weaved through the hundreds of people walking the grounds to find our favorite fair food (Fried Green Olives and a Gizmo) before making our way to the Grandstand for yet another evening that would soon go onto our list of nights to remember.
Brett Dennen started the evening around 7:30 p.m. with his unique, twangy, Cali-style tunes. Recording since 2004, Dennen has released 11 albums and/or EPs in total, making his career thus far impressive and something to remember. In February of this year Dennen released his album, “Let’s…”, under label “Downtown”. On this album fans will hear songs such as, “Already Gone”, “Let’s”, “Home Away from Home”, “Good Vibration”, and “Jenny and Jill”. As a chilly evening progressed, Dennen continued to warm it up by sharing an assortment of songs with the crowd, some of which being, “Cassidy”, “Here’s Looking at You, Kid”, “San Francisco”, “Ain’t No Reason”, and “Already Gone”. Overall, Dennen did a fantastic job, and complimented the upcoming set perfectly.
Jason Mraz soon began his set at 8:45 p.m., rain and all, preparing fans for the evening with, “Let’s See What the Night Can Do”, from album, “Know.”, that was released earlier this month. After his opening act, I knew that this night was going to be a memorable one as the amount of talent on the stage was incredible. For this tour Mraz is accompanied by rock-folk band, Raining Jane, who consists of four female musicians: Mai Bloomfield, Becky Gebhardt, Chaska Potter and Mona Tavakoli. Meeting Mraz in 2006, these musicians quickly formed a strong bond filled with friendship and amazing collaboration. For the first part of the evening “Living in the Moment” and “93 Million Miles” were played from, “Love Is A Four-Letter Word”. A mashup of older songs consisting of, “Geek in The Pink”, “Work in Progress”, “Curbside Prophet”, and “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” was shared with fans which provided a wonderful opportunity to see all the musicians on stage work together. Along with this, “Unfold”, and “Sleeping to Dream” were also played.
This concert was one of the more interactive shows I’ve seen in a while as everyone was dancing, enjoying each other’s company and Mraz was constantly encouraging everyone to participate thus making it very difficult not to. It was fun hearing everyone sing along, and at times letting the crowd take over completely instead of Mraz singing. Whenever this happens at a show it always gives me the chills, and I wonder what the artist must be thinking or feeling at that point in time. It must be an incredible feeling knowing that you have that much of a following; that people enjoy your creation that much. For the second part of their set the group played, “Lucky” and “Make It Mine”, from album, “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.” Along with “We Can Take the Long Way” and “Love Is Still the Answer”. During this time the group also paid tribute to Aretha Franklin by playing a mashup of “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Respect” all while singing into one microphone. This was one of my favorite parts of the evening as I’m a huge Aretha Franklin fan, and it was very moving to hear the vocal harmonies accompanied with this piece. After the tribute to Aretha Franklin, Becky Gebhardt, member of Raining Jane, performed a solo on the sitar accompanied by Mona Tavakoli playing “The MT Box” which is her own cajon she recently designed. I hadn’t heard a sitar been played before or if I had I clearly didn’t appreciate it enough at the time. It sounded incredible, and I soon learned that it’s a very challenging instrument to master.
As the group entered the last part of their set, the rain had finally come to a stop; crowd members drying off and warming up. Mraz played hits, “I Won’t Give Up” and “I’m Yours”, which you could tell many of the individuals in attendance had been eagerly waiting to hear. The crowd took away the evening during these two songs as the sing-along session occurred yet again. “3 Things” from album, “Yes!”, was also played during this time reminding those in attendance to keep a positive outlook on life, and always enjoy the experiences and opportunities it brings you as everything has a purpose. Mraz’s new album, “Know.”, was also focused on more thoroughly during this time as “Might as Well Dance”, “Unlonely” were played. In closing, Mraz played, “Have It All”, also from his new album, as fireworks went off overhead leaving the crowd in awe. I loved that the fair fireworks were the end to Mraz’s concert as it not only left the night with something beautiful, but also added to an already present feeling of excitement and encouragement to look forward to what was to come. Another check off my bucket list; I look forward to seeing Mraz perform again in the future. Well wishes to all on the remainder of your tour.