Artist Spotlight: Eli Young Band

October 09, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair, Uncategorized

When Mike Eli and James Young were “living the dream” in college their freshman year, I wonder if they ever envisioned turning those dreams into such a big reality on the country music scene.

Whether they thought it would ever happen or not, the pair has gradually built a strong following, touring with country stars such as Miranda Lambert and gaining national attention on CMT and GMT.  All the while, the band continued to focus on songwriting, which paid off with the No. 1 hit, “Crazy Girl,” in 2011 and the 2012 Academy of Country Music Award’s Song of the Year “Even if it Breaks Your Heart.” The band’s songs certainly connected with fans, as “Crazy Girl” was the most played song on country radio in 2011.

Eli Young Band’s country harmonies and easy-to-relate-to lyrics are consistent elements in all their songs, and set the right tone for the final night of the 2013 N.C. State Fair.

The band will perform Sunday, Oct. 27, in Dorton Arena at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, and the doors will open at 6:30.

Until the concert, check out their newest single, “Drunk Last Night.”



Artist Spotlight: Randy Houser

October 02, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair

If you have listened to country music for any time, you’ve probably heard some of Randy Houser’s lyrics or music. Before releasing his own album, Houser made a name for himself as a songwriter. Trace Adkins’ 2005 hit, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” was co-written by Houser.

But with his sights set on becoming a recording artist, Houser kept some songs for himself, and is now known for his recently popular single “How Country Feels.”

Being musically gifted wasn’t something that Houser had to work hard for; from a young age, he showed promise for performing and songwriting. His father was a professional musician, and by the age of 13, Houser had his own band. During his college years, he and his band called themselves the “10 lb. Biscuit” (I can’t imagine why he didn’t keep that name).

In 2002, Houser packed up and headed to Nashville to pursue a career in songwriting. The time he put into collaborating and writing lyrics was well-spent, and by the time “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” rose to the top of the charts, Houser was popular in the industry.

Luckily, he saved some of his songs for himself, and in 2008, Houser released his own album. The hit from the album, “Anything Goes,” reached the top of the charts in no time, and audiences soaked up the artist’s raw sound and distinctly country lyrics.

Houser’s ability to capture the ups and downs of life and turn them into an uptempo country anthem has only gotten better. His most recent album, “How Country Feels,” is full of the artist’s best work.

My personal favorite is the title track because of its catchy tune and story. No doubt about it, Houser is definitely speaking to hordes of his city-raised fans – including me – when he opens the song with, “You were raised on an asphalt farm / never heard a rooster crow,” and then sings “Let me show you how country feels.” Houser accomplishes his goal, and by the end of the song, I see myself riding in a pickup in the middle of nowhere without a care in the world.

Just listen to the song yourself, and I can guarantee you’ll want to see how country feels in Dorton Arena on Oct. 26. Tickets are $10 and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m.

Artist Spotlight: MercyMe

September 25, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair

Christian music powerhouse MercyMe will be returning to the N.C.  State Fair on Oct. 25.

MercyMe has been a longtime favorite among Christian music fans, but has also gathered widespread mainstream recognition with its 2002 hit “I Can Only Imagine.” The catchy lyrics illustrate what it might be like to finally meet God: “Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah; will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.”

The group was founded in 1994 and signed with a record label in 2001. Since then, MercyMe has released hit after hit, capturing audiences with thought-provoking lyrics and rock rhythms. The band’s website says its music “enlightens, entertains and invites community,” and after listening to a handful of their songs, it’s easy to agree.

Another popular hit is “Word of God Speak,” which was the No. 1 Billboard Magazine Christian Song of the Decade from 2000-2009. Attendees of contemporary worship services certainly recognize many of MercyMe’s hits, including “Word of God Speak” and “You Reign.” The group’s most recent album, “The Hurt and The Healer,” combines raw emotion and exciting rhythms, likely ensuring it becomes a staple on the Christian music scene.

Although Bart Millard, the band’s lead vocalist, is more inclined to produce lyrical, emotional ballads, his band encourages him to give listeners a variety of slow and uptempo songs. The product of this collaboration has been a huge success for MercyMe.

MercyMe will perform at Dorton Arena on Friday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and doors open at 6:30p.m.

Artist Spotlight: Who’s Bad, the Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band

September 18, 2013 By: Funhouse Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair, Uncategorized

Dust off your moon-walking shoes and glide on in to Dorton Arena on Thursday, Oct. 24, for Who’s Bad, the Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band. Who’s Bad is the longest-running Michael Jackson tribute band and the only one to predate Jackson’s untimely passing in 2009.

Although I might date myself to admit this, as a child I had a white glove keychain and listened to the new Michael Jackson “Thriller” album over and over on my pink cassette player. I liked the catchy lyrics and awesome beat. Even as a child, I knew Michael Jackson was a legend.

I think that jazz performance major and saxophonist Vamsi Tadepalli knew this, too, when he spearheaded the tribute group Who’s Bad while finishing up his degree at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2003. Since then the group has played more than 700 shows worldwide. According to its website, Who’s Bad pays “studious attention to Michael’s Jackson every original groove and gravity-defying dance move.” And from the video below, you can see that the performance has the energy and electricity that would impress fans of the “King of Pop.”

The group has performed for crowds numbering into the thousands and has shared the stage with Aretha Franklin, Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys and The Four Tops.  Who’s Bad will perform many of  MJ’s greatest hits, including “Bad,” “Beat it,” “Billie Jean,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Wanna be Startin’ Something,” “P.Y.T.” and “Smooth Criminal.”

You can see Who’s Bad perform in Dorton Arena on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. Thursday is also Food Lion Hunger Relief Day at the fair. Five cans of Food Lion brand food get you in the gate for free that day, and all donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

So, come out with your canned goods and concert tickets. You’ll get to see a high-energy show and help those less fortunate in our community. If you don’t have tickets yet, you can purchase them online at

Artist Spotlight: Dailey & Vincent

September 11, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair

I must admit, I’ve never been much of a bluegrass fan, but it’s safe to say that after listening to Dailey & Vincent, I’ve been converted. The band is clearly after more than popular, mainstream recognition; it seeks true artistry and authenticity in its music.

Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent founded the group in 2007 and have been entertaining with a unique blend of harmonic vocals and instrumentals ever since.

The pair is joined by four other band members to create an authentically bluegrass experience. This band is undoubtedly talented; each member is a gifted musician with a slew of awards to prove it. Dailey & Vincent is a two-time Grammy nominee and has been sweeping bluegrass awards since 2008. To add to it, the band also has four award-winning albums and international bluegrass recognition under its belt.

Listening to Dailey & Vincent further proves the point that these guys mean business when it comes to their music. Even if you think you don’t like bluegrass, listen. When I hear other songs on the radio, it normally feels like the instrumental music is a simple background for the singer’s vocals, and there isn’t interaction between the two. But here, the banjo and fiddle are not just frames for the voices; Dailey & Vincent bring the instruments to life and blend their vocals with the music.

The band will take the stage in Dorton Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

Dailey & Vincent have made it easy to enjoy bluegrass with their quality music and songs. See for yourself and watch their version of The Louvin Brothers’ “When I Stop Dreaming.”


Artist Spotlight: Scotty McCreery

September 04, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair

Country superstar and Garner native Scotty McCreery is no stranger to the N.C. State Fair. He played two sold-out concerts during the 2012 fair, and we are lucky to have him performing again this year on Oct. 21 and 22.

McCreery’s nationwide popularity started when he burst onto the country music scene after winning “American Idol” in 2011. Perhaps it was his dazzling smile and country-tinged vocals that America fell in love with while watching the show, but I know I was won over by his Southern charm. While on the show, McCreery performed songs by country legends Garth Brooks and Josh Turner to show his vocal range and talent.

In 2012, McCreery debuted  ”Clear As Day,” making him the youngest male vocalist to ever earn a chart-topping position with a debut album. The artist also won awards at the 2012 Academy of Country Music Awards and CMT Awards. It was easy to like McCreery when we first met him on “American Idol” as a talented musician, and it’s easy to like him now as a relatable college student. Despite his stardom and success, McCreery is a student at N.C. State University in an effort to live a “normal” life.

As a college student myself, I can’t imagine balancing my studies with a career like McCreery’s. As if the 19-year-old isn’t busy enough, he’s currently touring on his Weekend Roadtrip Tour and is expected to release his next album in October.

Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dorton Arena. Tickets are $25, and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Artist Spotlight: Joe Nichols

August 28, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair

Dorton Arena will be a little bit country as Joe Nichols brings his chart topping hits to the N.C. State Fair on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Nichols started his career as a musician in the fast lane with back-to-back No. 1 hit singles, “The Impossible” and “Brokenheartsville,” in 2002. Those songs earned the young artist a Grammy nomination and a slew of other awards.

In the midst of his insta-success, Nichols remained level-headed, never once forgetting that the music industry is about creating art, not just commercial sales. His raw and authentic talent for creating music has earned him an impressive repertoire of seven albums and several chart-topping singles.

But there’s more to Nichols’ music than his country melodies; his lyrics are genius, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Nichols is known in the industry as “one of country music’s best judges of material.” He manages to pick clever words that balance the good with the bad and the lighthearted with the sorrowful parts of life.

One of my favorites, “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,” uses clever lyrics and a softer tune to tell the story of getting to know someone more.

“My, oh, my, you’re so good looking;

Hold yourself together like a pair of bookends,

But I’ve not tasted all you’re cooking;

Who are you when I’m not looking”

And of course, not all of his music is so sentimental; Nichols does a great job of mixing romance with humor to create variety. His other popular hits are “Sunny and 75,” “Gimme That Girl” and “Size Matters.”

Nichols’ concert is in Dorton Arena at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Artist Spotlight: Francesca Battistelli and Building 429

August 21, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair

Francesca Battistelli and Building 429 will help to kick off the opening weekend of the fair with their pop-rock Christian tunes. The acts will perform Friday, Oct. 18.

Dove Award winner and Grammy nominee Battistelli seemed destined to be a perfomer. In 2004, at the age of 18, she released an independent album, “Just a Breath.” More success followed, and she signed to Fervent Records to release the chart-topping album, “My Paper Heart.” She recieved her first Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Gospel Performance with a single from the album titled “Free to Be Me.” Batistelli’s third album, “Hundred More Years,” also topped the charts and featured mainstream hits such as “This Is the Stuff.”

Listening to Battistelli’s hits like “This Is the Stuff” or “Beautiful, Beautiful,” it’s clear that she has been true to herself while achieving her goals. The authenticity and realism of her lyrics is what I enjoy most and is likely what also landed her music on TV shows such as ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” Her upbeat songs illustrate the joys and struggles of everyday life, making them relatable.

Similarly, Building 429 has found success by creating feel-good music with down-to-earth lyrics. The group of Fayetteville natives strives to use its popular lyrics to minister to people in the midst of hardship by reminding them that there is hope. Just listening to the lyrics of the popular hit “Where I Belong” leaves me feeling empowered and hopeful.

“So when the walls come falling down on me,

And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea,

I have this blessed assurance holding me;

All I know is I’m not home yet,

This is not where I belong”

“This record keeps coming back to the point that this is not what we were made for, that this is not our home. It is hitting people in the midst of a struggle, but it’s doing it in this pop kind of thing that makes you smile while you listen to it,” said Jason Roy, band founder and lead vocalist, on the band’s website.

Battistelli and Building 429 will be performing at 7:30 p.m. in Dorton Arena. Tickets are $10, and doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

Artist Spotlight: Sister Hazel

August 14, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair

Sister Hazel will kick off the 2013 State Fair concert series on Thursday, Oct. 17. The alternative rock band has been making music since 1993, and is best known for the song “All For You,” which topped the charts in 1997.

The band’s music has gotten better with age and grown stronger over time. Their dedication to creating good music with honest lyrics has required a close bond between members, and Sister Hazel is proud of their band family.

The tightness of this crew has evolved throughout their career, and they have never stopped short in their Southern pop-rock tunes. All five members of Sister Hazel play a role in creating their music, whether that means producing or writing music or lyrics.

Their most recent album, “Heartland Highway,” is full of songs true to Sister Hazel’s longtime rock roots. The album’s single, “Stay Awhile,” has the same alternative feel with hints of country twang that their music is known for.

Even if you aren’t familiar with “Stay Awhile,” I bet you’ve heard their all-time hit, “All for You.” It’s hard to have grown up here without hearing this song. If the song title doesn’t take you back, the chorus certainly will: “It’s hard to say what it is I see in you, I wonder if I’ll always be with you. But words can’t say, and I can’t do enough to prove it’s all for you.”

It’s a sentiment and sound that holds up well.

Sister Hazel performs at 7:30 p.m. in Dorton Arena. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $5.

Ready, Set, Buy! Advance ticket sales open Thursday

July 29, 2013 By: Jane Deere Category: 2013 N.C. State Fair

Advance tickets for the 2013 N.C. State Fair go on sale Aug. 1 at 10 a.m. Buying early is the best way to save if you want to stretch your dollar as far as you can on admission and ride tickets. And, if you’re looking for a front-row seat to one of the Dorton Arena concerts, you’re definitely going to want to be in front of a computer when tickets go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m.

We want your ticket-buying experience to be as smooth as possible, so here are some tips to have a stress-free experience:

  • BE PATIENT! Things may run a little slow, but your order won’t time-out.
  • You’ll see  “Buy Now” buttons when it’s time to go on sale. Note: It doesn’t matter what time it is on your computer. The tickets go on sale when the Etix server says it is 10 a.m., so it may be a few minutes earlier or a few minutes later than 10, based on your computer clock. But keep in mind that if you refresh too often, your computer may cache the page and not actually refresh. Check your browser settings to clear the cache if you don’t see the “Buy Now” buttons.
  • You’ll want to choose your concert tickets FIRST. Then go back and buy your admission and ride books.  (Admission is NOT included in the price of concert tickets.) And don’t forget about the Early Bird Special: if you buy at least $60 in purchases before convenience fees, you’ll earn a free admission ticket. (More information on the August Early Bird Special program here.)
  • If you aren’t happy with your seat selection, you can try to check back a little later as better seats MAY be released. This is because a seat selection is held for at least 5 minutes. If a purchase isn’t completed, or if a credit card transaction is not approved, those seats will be re-released into the general pool of tickets available for purchase. WARNING: You are not guaranteed better seats if you wait because it depends on whether or not people go through with their transactions or not, so try this tactic at your own risk!
  • Have your credit card ready- we can only accept MasterCard and Visa. Don’t type spaces or dashes as part of your credit card number. Also, you’ll need to know your credit card’s security code, so go ahead and identify that ahead of time.
  • There is no limit on the number of concert tickets you can purchase, except for the Scott McCreery and Florida Georgia Line concerts, which will have a 10-ticket limit. If you are buying more than 99 concert tickets for any other show, please contact us directly.
  • Lastly, everything is processed through our great ticket partner, Etix. So if you have problems, they are going to need to help you out. Here’s a link to their support page.
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