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State fair concerts are usually just ok and not something you expect to hear about three days later. Crowd enthusiam tends to be polite but not too energetic. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, however, changed all that Friday night, July 27 at Cal Expo. I finally bought a ticket to the state fair this year and it was worth the $12 admission ticket. In fact, it felt like it was worth a lot more. Joan Jett basically rocked the crowd in a way that was both magical and educational.
For a lady in her early 50s, who still looks like she did 30 years ago, there was no sense she was tired or over the hill. It was more the exact opposite as she tore down the myth that rock and roll has something to do with certain generations or age limits. It was an all ages packed crowd that showed enormous love for both rock and roll and the band.
From start to finish Joan's vocals and the songs were top notch. Even her new songs such as "Reality Mentality" easily won the crowd over with cheering support. The sound of the band was as clean, tight, rockin' and professional as any rock band that still knows how to rock. Even the sound system of the Gold Circle stage sounded way better than usual.
Everything about the show was impressive, including the audience. Of course, the excitement level was even more crazed whenever they did their big hits such as "I Love Rock and Roll," "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and "Do You Wanna Touch Me." Their classic covers such as "Crimson and Clover" and "Everyday People" also went over big. They also did a few songs from the Runaways, rock history's first all girl band, in which Joan was a founding member.
The magical part of the show was that the band had the crowd participating by singing and clapping along. The educational part of the show was that's what a rock band is supposed to do if they want to be great. So many rock bands have drifted toward speed, volume and an angry lost message that seems to go nowhere.
What Joan Jett & The Blackhearts did was bring Sacramento back to life with positive energy. For the past few years, as the recession has shut down a lot of Sacramento public establishments, bleakness has inevitably mixed in with the vibe. But somehow, Joan Jett revitalized the mood and raised the energy level, at least for the people at Cal Expo. Something about how she combines a casual attitude with wild energy makes her a special performer.
A casual relaxed focus with a sense of ambitious adventure is where Sacramento needs to go.
Before and after the show I had a chance to check out the state fair. It sure felt much better than last year, yet a lot of it appeared to be the same stuff. I don't know if it was mostly the concert that rocked me, but I also enjoyed a lot of the exhibits, which I found to be very artistic, including some of the county exhibits.
I've always liked the layout and design itself of Cal Expo, from the exhibit halls to the water fountain to the water tower. None of that I would change. I also like the monorail, which I rode and made a SacTV.com video for a virtual tour of the fair. I also like the lagoon, the water fountain, the Raging Waters park, the forest center, the big tent area and Buildings A, B,C and D.
The only thing I think that needs to change, for the good of society, is the over-priced junk food. It just sends a bad message during a recession when more and more people are trying to be more healthy. Organic foods have never been more popular. Even big grocery chains now have prominent sections for health food, which wasn't so widespread a decade ago. Yet, the state fair, which was orginally started to showcase agriculture, treats fresh produce like a hidden underground rumor and puts lots of fake unhealthy food in the spotlight. It would just be nice if the state fair lived up to its original purpose and made California's best fruits and vegetables a more visible attraction than all the deep fried trash that drains cash and doesn't really promote good health.
Overall I gave the 2012 state fair an A - but I'd raise it to an A+ if they did something about the food, which I completely avoided. I'd also love to see more emphasis on regional businesses and local talent. The entertainment was great, including the cover band on the Promenade stage called Pop Rocks. I appeciated Sun Maid's 100 year anniversary and security for doing a great job, as it was a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere.
At SacTV.com I've focused on the state fair all month to discuss the fair's history and what the fair could be. I've always believed fairs and festivals are powerful community events that potentially bring people closer together and have the potential to make people's lives better. One of the most powerful things a fair can do is create cultural time markers that stay in people's minds.
The fair is like a time machine that can take you back to great memories of earlier fairs. For me, the fair was a reminder that my very first job was selling buttons of my cartoon art at Cal Expo in 1976 at the age of 14. A few years earlier I saw radio station 1470 KNDE broadcast live at the fair, planting in my head the dream of being on the radio, which became my career for over 20 years.
To document this year's fair I created a slide show scrapbook on SacTV.com of the best photos I took. I also wrote a theme song about the fair called "State Fair Fun," for people who want to use it for their state fair videos.