Words & Deeds

Expo Idaho offers more than fair deal for grandstand concerts

When it comes to the music next week at the Western Idaho Fair, fans will be lovin' every minute of it.

And not just because Loverboy will cheese up the grandstand stage. For the first time in at least a decade, the headliners — Terri Clark (Tuesday), Shinedown (Wednesday) and Loverboy (Thursday) — won't cost anything more than the price of gate admission.

It's part of an improved philosophy about fair concerts.

After years of booking typical fair acts and asking fans to pay extra to see them, Western Idaho Fair organizers realized that the concept was bogus. Only 1 percent of the people who attended last year's fair took in a grandstand concert, marketing director Kathleen Kuebler says.

Two years ago, the Western Idaho Fair booked six acts that cost 20 bucks extra. Last year, organizers trimmed the bill down to three performers but continued to paw at our wallets.

In 2006, not only are the three gigs free — they're mid-week. Why? Because the Western Idaho Fair hopes the concerts will lure crowds.

"I don't need any more people on Friday or Saturday," Kuebler says. "But Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are our slowest nights." (The fair runs today through Sunday, Aug. 27.)

Making music free at the fair has two other side effects:

1) Without that extra ticket cash, the quality of acts may slip. We get Loverboy instead of Styx without its original singer.

2) We can't gleefully berate music at the fair anymore. How hard can you hammer on concerts that are free?

"To go see Terri Clark for free — I think that's a hell of a deal," says Paul Thornton, president of Boise-based promoter Bravo Entertainment.

Thornton says that Boiseans shouldn't expect miracles out of fair entertainment.

"A lot of the hot bands would rather call (us) and play their own arena show," he explains. "Because when you play a fair, there's a little stigma that goes along with that."

As the Treasure Valley grows, it's natural to expect better acts at the fair. But you won't see it happen. The larger Boise becomes, the harder life gets for the Western Idaho Fair — because of competition from promoters like Bravo and venues like the Idaho Center.

"When they bring Faith Hill the week before, you're going to spend your money on her," Kuebler says.

Which is why it makes perfect sense to keep concerts free — even if they include easily mocked acts like Loverboy.

"They really pack 'em in," Kuebler insists. "We always have success with the older rock bands."

Things are looking good for an Idaho Center concert by Brooks & Dunn, Jack Ingram and Sugarland. The target is Oct. 21, but a couple of other dates are being considered.

"I would suspect in the next few weeks we're going to be able to confirm that," Idaho Center General Manager Craig Baltzer says.

In a shamefully predictable scenario, audience members at Saturday's Nickel Creek concert blabbed to the point that mandolinist Chris Thile addressed the noisemakers. Nobody is asking The Big Easy to boot bigmouths, but perhaps they could ask them to take it upstairs to Bourbon Street Saloon?

Boise band Built To Spill is among the acts slated to play the second Vegoose festival Oct. 28-29 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Tickets go on sale Saturday. Details: Vegoose.com.

X-Fest will be Sept. 22 at Meridian Speedway and include Yellowcard, Papa Roach, Hawthorne Heights, Blue October, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and (hed) P.E. ... Metal muscleman Thor will play Sept. 12 at Neurolux. ... Rancid is coming to The Big Easy on Oct. 4 ... Marc Broussard has been added to the G. Love & Special Sauce gig Sept. 28 at the Big Easy.