There’s not much that compares to a day at the fair, which is why Denver has rejuvenated the tradition. Well, actually the city just started the tradition last year, but it was based on plans from more than 100 years earlier.
This weekend brings the second Denver County Fair to the National Western Complex, starting Friday, August 10 at 10am, and finishing up on Sunday night, August 12th at 6pm. In between, fairgoers will be presented with all of the typical homemade, crafty, tasty and exotic traditions that fairs across the nation – and the world – are famous for: pie-eating contests, food and gardening competitions, arts and craft displays and plenty of fair-cuisine (mostly of the fried beer and food truck variety, we’re told – but that’s certainly not all).
But the Denver County Fair planning committee intends to deliver all of this down-home, wholesome goodness in a uniquely Denver fashion – just like last year’s fair – focusing on some of Denver’s local celebrity with the hopes of bringing a uniquely comfortable, metropolitan feel to the atmosphere, and that includes the choices for the fair’s all-day everyday musical accompaniment.
In an inspired move, local artist, entrepreneur, musician, producer and eccentric connoisseur Andrew Novick was named this year’s Entertainment Director and Breakfast Boss, and Novick has done the position proud. Already locally famous for his involvement in the legendary local Warlock Pinchers, his yearly “X-Treme Pancake Breakfasts,” art-centric barbecues, Peeps-inspired art competitions (and his overall, bona-fide Peeps legal expertise) and food- inspired art shows, Novick brought a uniquely keen and provocative – but completely sensible – aesthetic to his management of this year’s music.
Of course, he’s also leading the charge for this year’s “X-Treme Pancake Breakfast” on Saturday morning from 10am – 1pm, magnificently popular enough last year that he had planned to do it for two days this yea. Instead, he’s planned an “X-Treme Breakfast Burritos” breakfast for Sunday – same time, different day – to better match the fair’s Latino-dedicated “Viva Denver Day.” Both breakfasts feature a veritable plethora of toppings and accompaniments for the all-you-can-eat fare each day: Saturday’s pancake breakfast will feature tables overflowing with different pancake toppings and butters, and Sunday’s will feature almost as many chili recipes and other accoutrements for some atypical – but surely delicious – breakfast burritos.
While last year’s “X-Treme Pancake Breakfast” was spectacular – constantly full, and with constant lines to get in – and the food was equally great, this year’s looks to be even more so.
“Last year’s X-Treme Pancake Breakfast featured over 60 toppings – y’know, some are more savory and a lot are sweet – and 20-plus butters,” said Novick. “This year’s will feature over 80 different toppings and more than 40 butters, so it’ll be bigger and better for sure!”
DenverThread took a little of Novick’s extremely valuable time to talk to him to guide us – and you – through this year’s musical plans and ideas, and he helped us out in giving you even more reason to salivate.
“It was based more on the idea that, while you’re walking through the fair and browsing through vendors, arts & crafts, and enjoying the overall experience, you’ll hear some familiar music in the background,” Novick said about his musical strategy.
Friday’s lineup includes “dark faerie a cappella music from the land of dream and myth” by Pandora Celtica, as well as happy music from B.Sue (fronted by Denver’s own fashion maven Brandi Shigley), a seven-piece folk/bluegrass/pop band (that specializes in songs about the Wild West, video games, heartbreak and spacetravel) called Fiction Is Fun, a Tiki Party and more.
“Fiction is Fun are a really cool group of kids in their 20s that sing a bluegrass-folky mix,” added Novick. “But they sing about things like UFOs, space travel, aliens – things like that. They’re really fun.”
Local ‘80s Tribute band Chadzilla and the Asteroids – anchored by the locally famous drummer – will help close out the night and begin to usher in what Novick is calling his “Tribute to Tribute Bands.”
“Instead of having a bunch of cover bands or local bands playing stuff most people might not be familiar with,” he says, “I thought, why not take advantage of the whole tribute idea?”
Tribute bands have always been a musical staple, but Novick used his unique slant to put together a listing of bands that should not only appeal to just about everyone visiting the fair, but also prick up a few ears to the local bands as well. One of last year’s popular shows was a B-52’s tribute, and there are currently many tribute bands floating around the Denver scene even now – including one dedicated to all things Pavement, and another of punk rock heroes The Replacements.
Saturday promises more fun, too, with local iconoclastic group Ukulele Loki & the Gadabout Orchestra, the Mile High Banjo Society, and more fantastic tribute teams: West of Costello (local band The West paying tribute to the more contemporary of the Elvi), and Journey Girls (a mother-daughter Journey tribute).
Yes, a mother-daughter Journey tribute. Had to say that again for clarification of downright – almost itchy – awesomeness (and we have not clamed in any way to like Journey, not since our middle school days, so this kind of awesome has got to be something special, right?).
“Journey Girls was one of the first bands to approach us to play the fair,” points out Novick, “and, at first, honestly, I was like ‘Uhhh…I don’t know….’ But the more I thought of it, the more comfortable I got with the idea.”
“I mean, what could be better than a mother-daughter Journey tribute band? Even Journey, with that new singer, is kind of a Journey tribute,” he adds. “I’d much rather see a mother/daughter Journey tribute that Journey! Wouldn’t you?”
Local rising bands Wheelchair Sportscamp and The Pirate Signal (for whom Novick is currently also producing a video – told you he was busy) will play before Jennifer’s Body, a Hole tribute band, will round out the night. “The Hole cover band is a few people from Night of Joy and whatever, and the Elvis Costello tribute group is actually The West,” said Novick. And, if you follow Westword’s Bree Davies on Twitter, you’ve no doubt been waiting to see Jennifer’s Body. If you haven’t, now’s your chance to do both.
“When [The West] asked us if they could play, I was more like, ‘Well – that depends on what you can do that’s kind of different.’ We didn’t need more local bands, really. It’s not a music –centered show or event,” added Novick. “I’m not trying to recreate the UMS. Just provide a little background soundtrack to make the fair another fun event of the summer, like last year’s was.”
Sunday is the County Fair’s official “Viva Denver Day,” dedicated to Denver’s valuable Latino community, and will feature all sorts of Hispanic-flavored fun, including a visit from Dora the Explorer and a “Best Frida KahloUnibrow” competition, a Pinata Bash and many other things.
“Y’know – about a third of Denver’s population is Latino,” said Novick, “and so we figured the fair ought to be a third Latino too.”
The day will start out with “X-treme Breakfast Burritos,” a Latino version of the famous pancake breakfast. “The X-treme Breakfast Burritos grew from the X-Treme Pancake Breakfast,” Novick explained, “because it was REALLY popular last year. I wanted this year to be longer, more pancakes, more toppings, so I was going to do it both days. When we decided to dedicate Sunday as ‘Viva Denver Day,’ I figured breakfast burritos would be perfect.”
“The X-Treme Breakfast Burrito will be basically an unlimited number of fillings, toppings and sauces for breakfast burritos,” he added. “There’ll be all kinds of green chilis, some more offbeat toppings – and plenty of spicy ones.”
“Casa Bonita is helping out quite a bit, and we’ve developed a competition called the ‘Sopapilla Toss’ using sopapillas from them. In fact, Casa Bonita will be pretty involved for the whole weekend. It’s going to be great!”
Sunday’s musical lineup is promising, too, featuring multiple sets from Mariachi Real del Monte, Mexican ventriloquist el Mago Saulin, Latino DJ sets from DJ Chupa mi Cabra and a performance from local Latino rock band iZCALLi.
Take a look at the complete schedule. Come out and pay tribute to one of Denver’s newest traditions, and celebrate the local community!