From Switchfoot to Trevor Noah, our top San Diego County Fair concert picks


The San Diego County Fair doesn’t try to cater to every musical taste, as fans of jazz, death-metal, polka and other styles can attest. But there is still a good array of options to choose from at this year’s fair, including at least two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and several Grammy Award-winners.

Here is a look at eight of the best prospects. Unless otherwise indicated, all concerts are at 7:30 p.m. and are part of the Toyota Summer Concert Series on the Heineken Grandstand Stage.

Aloe Blacc

Saturday: One of the most gifted neo-soul singers of his generation, this Laguna Hills native and USC alum (real name: Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III) has a supple voice and well-honed songwriting skills. His fetching singing on Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Zedd’s remake of the 1972 Sammy Davis Jr. hit “The Candy Man” helped introduce Blacc - now 38 - to a broader audience.

Patti LaBelle

Wednesday: This tireless R&B legend probably won’t showcase many songs from her upcoming jazz debut album. Her reputation as a vocal powerhouse remains largely undiminished at 73, especially when she rips into “Lady Marmalade,” “2 Steps Away” and her soaring versions of “Over the Rainbow” and Al Green’s “Love and Happiness.

Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite

June 14: A 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Elvin Bishop is a no-nonsense guitarist and affable singer. Charlie Musselwhite is a harmonica dynamo and a similarly affable singer. Hearing either one of these veteran blues greats on stage is a reliable treat. Together, they should be doubly enjoyable. (8 p.m. Paddock concert)


June 21: This Grammy Award-winning band holds the record for most Grandstand Stage performances by a San Diego-based act. Switchfoot’s concerts are consistently uplifting affairs, thanks to surging songs whose inspirational messages provide ample food for thought.

Los Tucanes de Tijuana

June 23: After selling more than 20 million albums and performing at Dodger Stadium and the Astrodome, Los Tucanes de Tijuana might consider the fair’s sprawling Grandstand Stage a comparatively intimate venue. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, this accordion-fueled Norteño music group specializes in narcocorridos - songs that chronicle the exploits of Mexico’s deadly drug traffickers in a matter-of-fact manner.

Gospel Festival, featuring Hezekiah Walker and Tasha Cobbs

June 24: Even in gospel music - an idiom long noted for producing galvanizing singers - Atlanta-bred Tasha Cobbs is a force of almost superhuman nature. Her combustible vocals and charismatic stage presence should raise the roof off the Grandstand Stage (at least figuratively speaking, since it’s an outdoor venue).

Trevor Noah

June 27: The host of TV’s “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah is an unusually contemplative comedian. His distinctive world view stems from being the South African-born growing up as the son of a black mother and a white father during the horrific era of apartheid. The very fact of his mixed parentage, as Noah has noted, made his birth and existence illegal in his homeland.

Ivan & The Parazol

July 4: You only need one finger to count the garage-rock bands from Hungary performing at this year’s fair. Based in Budapest, the five-man Ivan & The Parazol sing in English, rock with vigor and sound like they just stepped out of a time machine, circa 1968.

2017 San Diego County Fair concerts

When: Friday through July 4 (concert times vary)

Where: San Diego County Fairgrounds, 2660 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar

Tickets: Most concerts are free with fair admission. Reserved seats and VIP dinner packages are available for some shows, while a few require separate paid admission.

Phone: (800) 745-3000


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