Music News & Reviews


Stardom doesn’t come without a price.

Most stars struggle for years—hitting the lowest of lows – before getting their big breaks. Others flame out after years of success, either because of drugs, ego or an inability to repeat what once worked so well.

With a slate of stars (some with more current star power than others) scheduled to appear at the Mid-State Fair, we’ve decided to share the highs and lows of selected acts.

311 (Friday, Main Grandstand Arena, $30 to $75)

High: 311 gets its name from the police code for indecent exposure in Omaha, Neb., and in 1995 the band enjoyed the best kind of exposure with its breakthrough album. Featuring the hit singles “Down” and “All Mixed Up,” the self-titled “311” landed the band gigs on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and “Late Show With David Letterman.”

Low: While touring in support of its major label debut, 1993’s “Music,” the band’s borrowed RV caught fire en route to a concert. The band members managed to escape, but flames destroyed all of their instruments, equipment and personal possessions. 311 later chronicled the experience in the song “Omaha Stylee.”

Sammy Hagar (Saturday, Main Grandstand Arena, $30 to $75)

High: Hagar was already a successful solo act who had fronted the band Montrose before he was chosen in 1985 to replace David Lee Roth in Van Halen. Though some Roth loyalists never took to the so-called “Van Hagar,” the band sold out stadiums and had a huge hit with the album “5150.”

Low: After parting with the band in 1996, Hagar toured with his old nemesis, Roth, in 2002, and it turned into a disaster, with the two bickering throughout. Hagar didn’t learn his lesson, reuniting with Van Halen in 2004 to more bickering and disastrous results.

Morris Day & The Time (Saturday, Fort Frontier stage, free)

High: A former high school buddy of R&B rocker Prince, he was tapped by his old pal to head The Time, a band Prince put together. But his real break came when he appeared as Prince’s pimp-looking nemesis in the smash movie “Purple Rain,” which helped make “Jungle Love” and “The Bird” hits.

Low: Day’s successful run was short-lived. By the late ’80s, his solo career was virtually unnoticed, and years later he was

doing TV commercials for a local Toyota dealership. ( “They gave me a Toyota,” he explained to one reporter.)

Aerosmith (Monday, Main Grandstand Arena, $55 to $115)

High: Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, Aerosmith remains one of the bestselling rock bands of all time, with record sales of 66.5 million. They’ve won four Grammy Awards.

Low: We’re not calling him a klutz, but Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler has undergone a series of painful injuries. In 1998, Tyler suffered a ligament injury when his mic stand crashed into his knee. He underwent throat surgery in 2006, had multiple foot and leg surgeries in 2008 and fell off a stage in 2009, breaking his shoulder. Is it any wonder that Tyler checked into rehab for painkiller addiction in December?

Blue Öyster Cult (Monday, Fort Frontier Stage, free)

High: The band that started the umlaut trend was considered a well-kept secret until the release of its song “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” — a cowbell classic about the inevitability of death. With the success of the song, which also appeared in the horror classic “Halloween,” the band suddenly graced rock magazines and headlined coliseum shows.

Low: While their breakout hit was about death, BOC refused to die, even well after its heyday. By the 1980s, the band was down to two original members (as it exists today), prompting some to jokingly call it “Two Oyster Cult.”

Toby Keith (Tuesday, Main Grandstand Arena, $50 to $100)

High: After several years as a musician, Toby Keith, already an unemployed oil worker and nearly 30, was ready to give up on his dream when a flight attendant dating his drummer presented a tape of Keith’s music to a Mercury Records executive. Keith was signed soon after, and his debut song, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” went No. 1 in 1993.

Low: While his post-9/11 song “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue” made him a superstar, it also branded him a jingoistic redneck who wrote the “boot-in-your-ass song.” A dispute over the song with the Dixie Chicks didn’t help.

Chubby Checker (Tuesday, Fort Frontier Stage, free)

High: When Checker saw that he had created a cultural phenomenon, he went all out. After his 1960 cover of “The Twist” became No. 1 (on two occasions, actually), the dance he created for it swept the nation, prompting other Twist-related songs ( “Twistin’ USA,” “Let’s Twist Again,” “Slow Twistin” “Twist It Up”) and Twist-related movies ( “Twist Around the Clock,” “Don’t Knock the Twist”).

Low: While his 1988 collaboration with the Fat Boys brought his biggest hit to a new generation, the image of the Fat Boys doing the Twist still burns in our memories.

Keith Urban (Wednesday, Main Grandstand Arena, $50 to $100)

High: Country star Keith Urban has enjoyed widespread success over the past decade or so, including three Grammy Awards, six studio albums and a string of No. 1 hits. He married Australian actress Nicole Kidman in 2006. The two welcomed their first child, Sunday Rose Kidman Urban, in 2008.

Low: Already a successful recording artist in his native Australia, Urban moved to Nashville in 1992. He worked with Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson, but the lifestyle soon caught up with him and Urban underwent treatment for cocaine addiction in 1998. A year later, Urban finally found his footing with his self-titled American debut.

Weezer (July 29, Main Grandstand Arena, $30 to $60)

High: Weezer burst onto the alternative rock scene in 1994 with its self-titled, triple-platinum-selling debut album, featuring the hit singles “Buddy Holly” and “Undone –The Sweater Song.” (It’s known to fans worldwide as “The Blue Album.”) The band’s most recent triumph came when the Internet-spoofing music video for “Pork and Beans” won a Grammy in 2008.

Low: Weezer took an experimental approach to its 2002 album, “Maladroit,” encouraging fans to download demos and pick their favorites. When radio stations started playing the as-yet-unreleased tracks, including lead single “Dope Nose,” Geffen Records issued a gag order requesting that Weezer return the “Maladroit” master tapes. (The band battled a lawsuit from former bassist Matt Sharp the same year.)

Sheena Easton (July 31, Fort Frontier Stage, free)

High: Scottish pop singer Sheena Easton rose to fame in the early 1980s with her hit songs “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” and “For Your Eyes Only,” the title track from the James Bond thriller. After winning her first Grammy in 1981, Easton swapped her sweet, innocent public image for that of a sexy siren for 1984’s “A Private Heaven.”

Low: Easton’s sexually suggestive song “Sugar Walls” landed her on the “Filthy Fifteen,” a list of explicit tunes compiled by Tipper Gore and the Parents’ Music Resource Council. Ironically, the song’s notoriety boosted record sales and it eventually reached No. 3 on Billboard’s R&B chart.

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