By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Last year's State Fair of Texas hosted a multitude of musical acts with sounds and styles as mottled as the food items subjected to deep-frying. Our absolute favorite was Cybertron Command Center: two dudes in shiny spandex bodysuits jumping around and playing synth pads and key-tars, creating the sonic equivalent of a disco robot gangbang.
This year we return to the fair hoping to get another dose of Cybertron Command Center's delicious android techno-funk. Alas, they were nowhere to be found. What we did find left us with a serious case of indigestion that could not be blamed on compulsive corny dog consumption.
Alpha Rev (Chevrolet Main Stage)
Do you like Coldplay but find their music a bit too cerebral? Then you will simply love Alpha Rev, the Austin whine-rock septet who inject cello and violin into the modern rock guitar/bass/drums/keyboard formula to create a sound that reminds me of my dead grandmother: lifeless and malodorous. These Capital City rockers emote like a mime trapped underwater. Who needs to write interesting and engaging music when you can simply mew and cry like a kitten with a crooked dick? If you like music that forgoes dynamics and strong songwriting for a bunch of pretty guys donning ridiculous hats and tiny T-shirts, then you will surely enjoy Alpha Rev.
BENTLI (Dreyer's Entertainment Stage)
Just like Winger and Bon Jovi, BENTLI is the name of the frontman and the name of the band. And for some reason that name is all uppercase. Part caveman, part Harlequin romance novel cover model and part post-grunge yowler, BENTLI (the man, not the band) puts equal effort into keeping both his tired, punchy radio rock and his flowing chestnut-colored mane luxuriously soft and unthreatening. When we saw the band they took an audience request and performed a cover of "Little Wing" that sounded a lot like the bridge to "Comfortably Numb." Matter of fact, nearly every song they played sounded like the bridge to "Comfortably Numb." So if you're a Pink Floyd fan, a Jimi Hendrix fan or a fan of the bridge to "Comfortably Numb," then do yourself a solid and check out BENTLI.
Vocal Trash (Toyota Truck Stage)
Remember that group of a cappella do-gooders who came to your high school and performed corny raps about how users were losers and smoking was for chumps? Now they're at the state fair keepin' it real, yo—real fucking lame. Had they actually done drugs it might have heightened their perception enough to realize just how truly awful it sounds when you combine the improvisational percussion of "Stomp" with white people beat-boxing "Hooked on a Feeling." If you are so hard of hearing that your home is rigged with a system of lights that flicker whenever someone is at the door or your telephone is ringing (that is to say, completely deaf), then you probably won't mind Vocal Trash.
While her brand of down-home, family-friendly, Top 40 chick country ain't exactly our cup of tea, she did play last year's fair and thus had the opportunity to hang out with Cybertron Command Center. So she gets a pass based on the scientific theory of "awesome by association." Kinda. If you wish someone would make a compilation album of music from every tampon commercial ever made, you gotta hear Shelley Laine and Random Act (Bud Light: "Always Worth It").
Hella Shrine Director's Staff (Kitchen Craft Starlight Parade)
One of the most exciting avant-garde acts at the fair; nothing can prepare you for the visceral emotion and raw unabated power of four guitars hammering out eight-bar blues from the back of a moving trailer. Akin to watching Slayer, Deicide and Morbid Angel jamming with Lucifer himself, the Shriners are reborn rock 'n' roll demons with veins that pump napalm and fingers that emit white lightning. If you like things that don't totally suck donkey ass then you must witness the Hella Shrine Director's Staff. Sorry, Cybertron Command Center. We have a new fair favorite.