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San Diego County Fair concerts will offer a few surprises amidst familiar fare

Smokey Robinson
Motown music legend Smokey Robinson will perform at the San Diego County Fair’s Grandstand Stage on June 15.
(Motown music legend Smokey Robinson will perform at the San Diego County Fair’s Grandstand Stage on June 15.)

The formula for the annual San Diego County Fair concerts has remained fairly constant over the years, as befits a series designed to attract as broad a mainstream audience as possible.

The following five shows stand out this year. The fair’s full Granstand Stage and Sold Gold concert series lineups appear at the conclusion of this article.

Justin Moore

Friday: This Arkansas troubadour is not a completely unyielding country-music traditionalist, as the radio-friendly use of drum loops on his 2016 album, “Kinda Don’t Care,” attests. But his twangy voice and earthy songs underscore his devotion to his roots.

In an era dominated by “bro-county” confectioners, Moore strikes a welcome chord for authenticity and heartfelt artistry whether he’s rocking out on “You Look Like I Need a Drink” or striking a more introspective tone on “Jesus and Jack Daniels” and “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home.” With any luck, his Friday concert will include a preview of his upcoming sixth studio album, “Late Nights and Longnecks.” ($31-$49; all-reserved seating.)

Smokey Robinson

June 15: A 1987 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, this Motown music pioneer is such a singular talent that Bob Dylan once hailed him as “our greatest living poet” and George Harrison wrote a song called “Pure Smokey” in his honor. No wonder Jennifer Lopez was so thrilled to duet with Robinson at the 2019 Grammy Awards.

Granted, this now 79-year-old vocal legend can no longer hit the high notes that came so effortlessly in his heyday. But that shouldn’t matter much when he leads his Grandstand Stage audience through a mass sing-along on such Robinson-penned classics as “Shop Around,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me,” “Ooh Baby Baby,” “Tracks of My Tears” and “The Tears of a Clown.” ($28-$54; all-reserved seating; dinner packages available.)

Gospel-music favorites the Clark Sisters have only two scheduled  performances for the rest of the year. One of them is at the San Diego County Fair.
Gospel-music favorites the Clark Sisters have only two scheduled performances for the rest of the year. One of them is at the San Diego County Fair.
(Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Fair)
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15th Annual Gospel Festival: The Walls Group and The Clark Sisters

June 22: How big an impact have the the Detroit-bred Clark Sisters — the top-selling female vocal group in gospel-music history — had?

Big enough that Jay-Z sampled their ebullient song “Ha Ya (Eternal Life)” on his 2017 album, “444" (and had Beyoncé sing the chorus on it).

Big enough that Kanye West included the sisters’ reggae-tinged 1981 hit, “You Brought the Sunshine,” in his April “Easter Service” performance at Coachella.

And big enough that the Clarks, who were kids when they made their 1973 recording debut, are the subjects of an upcoming Lifetime TV biopic co-produced by Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah.

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The sisters’ fair performance is one of only two they have scheduled anywhere this year. They did not record or perform between 1994 and 2006, when a reunion led to their only new album of this century, “Live: One Last Time.” (7 p.m.; $33-$44.)

Intocable

June 23: Led by charismatic singer and accordionist Ricky Muñoz, this top Tejano band shines whether playing cumbias, boleros, roots-rocking romps, pop ballads or Norteno-flavored polkas.

The 26-year-old group also likes surprises, as they demonstrate in their 2013 song, “Dímelo,” which concludes with an expertly performed heavy-metal coda worthy of Mastodon or Metallica. Intocable’s arresting new album, “Percepción,” was produced by Rolling Stones/Bob Dylan veteran Don Was and compares favorably with the work of such bands as The Mavericks and Los Lobos. ($32-$44.)

Rickie Lee Jones

June 27: An uncompromising album artist, Rickie Lee Jones has had just one Top 40 hit in her career, 1979’s “Chuck E’s in Love.” So it’s a mystery why this former Ocean Beach resident is booked in the fair’s Solid Gold series, which this year also includes Charo, The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals and a trio of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Jackie Wilson tribute singers.

Regardless, this may be the first time in Jones’ career that she is scheduled to perform a free show at 1 p.m., a time when many musicians are just waking up.

2019 San Diego County Fair concerts

When: Friday through July 4; all concerts are at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated

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

Tickets: Most concerts are free with fair admission. Paid reserved seating tickets are available for all Grandstand Stage shows. This year’s shows by Justin Moore, Smokey Robinson, Jim Gaffigan, Jeff Dunham, Jake Owen, Toby Keith, The Tenderloins and Pitbull require separate paid admission for all tickets (see below).

Phone: (858) 792-4252

Online: sdfair.com

Justin Moore will open the 2019 San Diego County Fair’s Grandstand Stage concert series with a Friday night performance.
Justin Moore will open the 2019 San Diego County Fair's Grandstand Stage concert series with a Friday night performance.
(Photo courtesy San Diego County Fair)

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Friday: Justin Moore, ticket prices are $31-$49

Saturday: Jim Gaffigan, ticket prices are $28-$69; dinner package available

Sunday: La Adictiva, General Admission levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $34-$49

Wednesday: Banda El Recodo, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $39-$54

Thursday, June 6: Fab Four, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $32-$44

Friday, June 7: Jeff Dunham, ticket prices are $29-$69; dinner package available

Saturday, June 8: Neil Sedaka, GA levels 3&5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $36-$49; dinner package available

Sunday, June 9: Christian Nodal, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $39-$57

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Wednesday, June 12: Jake Owen, ticket prices are $29-$54

Thursday, June 13: Creedence Clearwater Revisited, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $33-$44

Friday, June 14: Toby Keith, ticket prices are $44-$127; dinner package available

Saturday, June 15: Smokey Robinson, ticket prices are $28-$54; dinner package available

Sunday, June 16: Mariachi Del Sol at 6 p.m., GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $32-$44

Wednesday, June 19: Simple Plan, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $41-$57

Thursday, June 20: The Tenderloins/Impractical Jokers, ticket prices are $34-$84; dinner package available

Friday, June 21: AJR, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $51-$59

Saturday, June 22: 15th Annual Gospel Festival, featuring The Walls Group and The Clark Sisters, (7 p.m.) GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $33-$44

Sunday, June 23: Grupo Intocable, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $32-$44

Wednesday, June 26: POP 2000 Tour, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $41-$57

Thursday, June 27: Lindsey Stirling, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $49-$64; dinner package available

Friday, June 28: Air Supply, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $33-$44; dinner package available

A 2016 Grammy Award-winner, Pitbull (center) raps in English and Spanish.
A 2016 Grammy Award-winner, Pitbull (center) raps in English and Spanish.
((Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images) )

Saturday, June 29: Pitbull, ticket prices are $67-$89; dinner package available

Sunday, June 30: Los Tigres Del Norte, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $39-$54

Monday, July 1: KC and the Sunshine Band, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $41-$57

Tuesday, July 2: Trace Adkins, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $34-$49; dinner package available

Wednesday, July 3: Dionne Warwick, GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $38-$44; dinner package available

Thursday, July 4: Brad Upton, 9:30 p.m. (opening act at 7:30 p.m., fireworks at 9 p.m.), GA levels 3 & 5 included with Fair admission; reserved seats are $32-$44

Solid Gold concert series

Solid Gold Concerts begin at 1 p.m. Thursdays and are free with Fair admission. Performances are on the San Diego Showcase Stage. For more information, go to sdfair.com/solid-gold.

June 6: Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals

June 13: Charo, with John Davidson

June 20: Tribute to Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder & Jackie Wilson

June 27: Rickie Lee Jones

July 4: Micky Dolenz


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