Once content to revive the careers of Charo and The Village People, the Sonoma County Fair has revamped its musical strategy over the last few years.
Whereas other county fairs keep banking on corn-dog nostalgia, recycling bands like Tower of Power, Rick Springfield, Loverboy and the Marshall Tucker Band year after year, the Sonoma County Fair has filled the country-music void left behind by the demise of Konocti Harbor in 2009, going after current top-selling country acts and then mixing in a handful of rising Disney Channel stars and well-known Latino bands.
Last year, it was Martina McBride and Miranda Cosgrove. The year before, Trace Adkins.
This year, the twang rolls on with country phenom Hunter Hayes and the party boys in Florida Georgia Line.
Here's a quick run through the sounds of this year's fair:
<strong>Hunter Hayes:</strong> In a genre littered with singers only singing other people's songs, Hayes writes his own music and plays every instrument on his albums. At 21, he's a country whiz kid. Coming off a stellar 2012, where he was named Country Music Association's Best New Artist, Hayes has been burning his way across the country this summer, playing everything off his latest album, from "Storm Warning" to "Somebody's Heartbreak," and even covering the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." Endless touring and hard work to win over new fans kept his 2011 debut album on a steady trajectory to the top of the charts. It took the self-titled "Hunter Hayes" a record 89 weeks to hit No. 1 in June, breaking the previous slow-climb record of 51 weeks set by the Dixie Chicks for "Wide Open Spaces" in 1999. Then it was knocked off a few weeks later by fellow Sonoma County Fair musicians Florida Georgia Line. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6. $25-$40. <a href="http://www.sonomacountyfair.com/" target="_blank">sonomacountyfair.com</a>.
<strong>Florida Georgia Line:</strong> Just when you thought their massive No. 1 hit, "Cruise," was starting to fade away and slide down the charts, along comes the hip-hop remix by rapper Nelly and suddenly the lyrics, "Baby you a song, you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise," are taking over country summer radio all over again. For two country boys who grew up raising hell not far from this Southern state line, it's been a dream, and they're making the most of it out on tour with Luke Bryan and Taylor Swift this summer. But here's the catch. When they open for headliners, they only play 25 minutes a night. At the Sonoma County Fair, they'll get to stretch out and play a lot longer. With Pete Stringfellow opening. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7. $25-$35.
<em>WANT MORE? <a href="http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20130725/entertainment/130729759" target="_blank">Check out John Beck's interview with Florida Georgia Line</a></em>
<strong>Bridgit Mendler:</strong> Following in the footsteps of Disney stars turned singers like Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, the 20-year-old star of the Disney show "Good Luck Charlie" is out on the road with her debut album, "Hello, My Name Is ..." Mendler's latest single, "Hurricane" — not a cover of the Bob Dylan song, although she has claimed Dylan as an early influence — is an age-old tale of crazy love: "It's the story of a girl who's really into this guy but he creates so much drama in her life that she's trying to figure out if it's worth it to go through that roller coaster all the time with him," she told a recent interviewer. "He tricks her into feeling like everything's OK because she's so in love with him." 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8. $25-$35.