The 2017 NYS Fair opened its gates Wednesday, August 23, and aside from the food, music, especially local, is arguably the biggest attraction at the New York State Fair. The main stage acts at Lakeview Amphitheater and Chevy Court draw the most attention, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a plethora of acts across the fairgrounds. From the various pavilions to the bars that set up camp at the fair, there is music of all types to be found.
The Empire Experience Stage features live performances three times a day, free with fair admission. The complete 13 day schedule can be found here.
Among the acts performing at the Empire Experience Stage are several tribute bands (Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Jimmy Buffet, Rush, David Bowie, AC/DC, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and Sublime); Latin music featuring Edgar Pagan’s Grupo Pagan, Alex Torres and his Latin Orchestra, Orquesta La Muralla, Afrikan2 and BombaRoc along with local polka legends, Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame honorees and SAMMY Hall of Fame inductees, Fritz’s Polka Band.
Aug. 28-31 features several original local acts presented by local rock station 95X. Oneonta’s Baked Potatoes kicks off the series Aug. 28 at 4 p.m., followed by Utica-area act Our Common Roots at 6:30 p.m. The Black River closes out the stage at 8:30 p.m.
Other artists included in the local showcase at the Empire Experience Stage include Oswego’s Ethernauts (Aug. 29 at 4 p.m.) along with Syracuse’s Professional Victims (Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m.), Spring Street Family Band (Aug. 29 at 8:30 p.m.), Ahnest! (Aug. 30 at 4 p.m.), Townhouse Warrior (Aug. 30 at 6:30 p.m.), Toronto’s Bleeker (Aug. 30 at 8:30 p.m.), Mattydale Music Collective (Aug. 31 at 4:30 p.m.), Stacy White Suite (Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m.) and Barroom Philosophers (Aug. 31 at 8:30 p.m.). Barroom Philosophers will also be performing at the West End Bar & Grille at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 3. SAMMY Award recipients, Americana band the Ripcords will also be performing the Empire Experience Stage (Sept. 1 at 4 p.m.).
In addition to the Empire Experience, there are several other stages to take in live music. The Pan-African Village is a cooperative effort between the NAACP and the New York State Fair. The village highlights New York’s African-American heritage and features vendors and performers with African and Caribbean roots. Performances are held several times per day throughout the fair’s run. Featured performers at the Pan-African stage include SAMMY Award Winner Bobby Green (Aug. 25 at 8 p.m), Matte Mase (Aug. 26 at 3:30 p.m.), Tanksley with two performances (Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m. and Aug. 28 at 8 p.m.), Modern Mudd (Aug. 26 at 8 p.m.), Five to Life (Aug. 27 at 2 p.m.), Steve Wolf performing twice (Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. and Aug. 31 at 6 p.m.), Colleen Kattau & Dos XX (Sept. 1 at 4 p.m.), Soft Spoken (Sept. 1 at 8 p.m.), Hev’n Ayn and Friends (Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.), Afrikan2 (Sept. 3 at 2 p.m.), and the Brownskin Band (Sept. 4. at 6 p.m.).
Some CNY favorites will take to the Dairyland Stage, appropriately located in the Dairy Building. Artists performing at this mini-stage-in-the-round include Just Joe on Aug. 31 (11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.). Joe will also be performing at the Courtside Grill Aug. 23-27 for two sets each day (12-1:30 p.m and 3:30-5 p.m.) Castle Creek for three half-hour sets on Sept. 2 (11 a.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m.) and Max Scialdone on Sept. 4 (11 a.m., 2 p.m and 5 p.m.).
Several bars take up residency during the fair and many also offer live music. The West End Bar & Grille is a NYS Fair institution. The bar is located just inside of gate six on the west side of the fairgrounds and offers live music every night of the fair. Solvay’s own Rhythm Method brings its blend of metal and classic rock to the West Side twice during the fair (Aug. 24 and Sept. 2, both shows begin at 7:30 p.m.). They will also perform at Bosco’s on Restaurant Row Aug. 28 and 29 at 6:30 p.m.
Syracuse R&B and soul group the Horndogs bring their horn-driven funk to the West Side on Aug. 25 and alt-country musician Steve Cali performs a Sunday set on Aug. 27. Other bands performing the West End include 3 Inch Fury, Brass, Inc., the PEP Band and Kat Tale. All shows at the West End begin at 7:30 p.m.
The Empire Room, one of the fair’s air conditioned venues, will host live music twice per day over the course of the fair’s thirteen day run. Utica-based harmonica player, Matt Lomeo will perform three days with a different partner joining him each day. On Aug. 24, Lomeo will be joined by guitarist Brian Mulkerne. On Aug. 27 Syracuse-based guitarist and leader of Morris and the Hepcats, Morris Tarbell joins Lomeo. Finally, on Aug. 29, Lomeo is accompanied by celebrated jazz saxophonist and pianist, Monk Rowe. All of Lomeo’s appearances at the Empire Room are 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Chris Eves will make two appearances at the Empire Room, one as a solo act on Aug. 25 at 3 p.m. and the other with his band, the New Normal for a Party on the Patio Aug. 27, also at 3 p.m.
Verona-based Opus Black String Quartet brings its unique take on classical meets contemporary to the Empire Room Patio Aug. 30 from 3-7 p.m.
Syracuse legend and SAMMY Hall of Fame inductee, Joe Whiting brings his exciting act to the Empire Room twice. On Aug. 31, Whiting will be joined by guitarist Loren Barrigar at 3 p.m. and hosts a Party on the Patio Sept. 2 at 3 p.m.
The Suds Factory Courtside Grille is yet another spot to catch some hot local talent throughout the fair’s run. Just Joe makes several appearances Aug. 25-27. Utica-area southern rock band the Swamp Drivers, renowned for their arsenal of homemade instruments, perform at the Grille Aug. 25-26. High energy Syracuse hard rock and metal aficionados, Scars n’ Stripes hit the Grille for two sets on Aug. 24 (6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.).
Boonville native Shawn “Big Sexy” Smith, a 2013 contestant on NBC’s The Voice brings his talents to the Grille for two sets Aug. 28 (3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.). Syracuse-area classic rock and blues band The Barndogs perform Aug. 28, 29 and Sept. 3 from 6-11 p.m. and Brian McArdell and Mark Westers perform acoustic classic rock Aug. 30 (12:30 and 3:30 p.m.).
Prior to and following Brett Michaels’ free show at Chevy Court, attendees can take in LaFayette country rockers Country Swagg. The band performs Aug. 30 from 6:30-8 p.m. and again following Michaels’ set. Syracuse funksters Skunk City close out the fair at the Grille Sept. 4 with two sets (4:30 and 9 p.m.). A regular at Funk n’ Waffles Downtown, this eclectic collective is sure to end the 2017 NYS Fair with a groove. For Courtside Grille set times for all of the above musicians and many others click here.
Finally, Bosco’s at the Fair and Shamrock’s host Syracuse-area country workhorses the TJ Sacco Band with both solo and full band performances. Sacco performs solo sets at Shamrock’s Aug. 24, 28, 29 and 30. He’ll be joined at Shamrock’s by the full band on Aug. 26, 27 and Sept. 2 and 3. All performances at Shamrock’s are at 5 p.m. Bosco’s will host the band Aug. 25 (7 p.m.) and Sacco solo Aug. 31 (7 p.m.). Solvay’s eight-piece funk outfit In Too Deep drops the beats at Bosco’s Sept. 2 at 6 p.m.
Bottom line: One can attend the NYS Fair each of its 13 days and spend the entire day taking in nothing but spectacular live local music. Check a few of them out and let them know you appreciate their efforts. They’ll remember it and when they hit the big stage you can brag that you saw them when. Remember, every band was local once.