Smash Mouth with Sugar Ray and the Gin Blossoms at the Grandstand, 8/23/13

Erik Hess
Smash Mouth
Smash Mouth with Sugar Ray and the Gin Blossoms State Fair Grandstand Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday night State Fair goers took advantage of the perfect summer evening and stepped into a time machine for the Under the Sun tour with Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, and Gin Blossoms at the State Fair Grandstand, which as the tagline reads, definitely celebrated the golden age of '90s pop-rock. The last stop on this American tour, the night featured many songs about summertime, nostalgia, and odes to each band's wonder years.

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Photos: Smash Mouth at the State Fair, 8/23/13

With a tambourine constantly in hand, Gin Blossoms' lead singer, Robin Wilson opened up the night with a lesser-known song, "Lost Horizons." While the sparse crowd was still growing, Wilson tried his best to get them going. One surprise revealed early was that Smash Mouth's Paul De Lisle became a Blossom that night by stepping in on bass, and it wasn't long after that another Mouth, Sean Hurwitz, joined them on keyboards.The evening quickly gained momentum once Wilson climbed up on the barricade, gave his tambourine to a man in the crowd, and passionately began to belt out the lyrics to the 1992 anthem, "Found Out About You." Although Wilson definitely had more energy than over half of the audience, he continued to grace the stage like it was 1992. The Gin Blossoms ended their short-lived, four-song set with the hit, "Hey Jealousy."

Erik Hess
Gin Blossoms

One of the biggest surprises of the night was the release of Sugar Ray's first new song in over a decade, "Summertime's Coming," whose lyrics consisted of almost solely of that phrase with a refrain where it was not clear if lead singer Mark McGrath was belting out, "Your bitches in bikinis," or the less offensive, "your beaches and bikinis." Although it was obscenely catchy, the audience didn't start feeling the rays until "Someday" began. Aware that the band have surpassed their period of fame, McGrath was never short on the '90s jokes and constant reminders that yes, they had three number-one hits. Premising their song "Every Morning," McGrath demanded, "Let's have some nostalgia, let's reminisce, let's pretend we'll have T-shirts with our names on them at Urban Outfitters in 10 years." The crowd, not surprisingly, belted out all of the words to the songs with as much energy as McGrath himself, which was surprisingly hard as he was a constantly jumped around the stage, and attempted to make as many "MINNESOOOTA" references as he could with a fake accent.

Erik Hess
Sugar Ray
After playing "When It's Over," lead guitarist Rodney Sheppard quietly snuck in the beginning rifts of the Violent Femmes' 1983 hit, "Blister in the Sun," which quickly launched into a sea of dancing from the small crowd gracing the front barcade. Marked by immense energy from everyone on stage, at one point they staged a freeze-frame during the middle of the song. It was almost as if Sugar Ray could've written the hit themselves. After closing with their first hit, "Fly," they quickly exited the stage; however, that didn't mean the '90s jams and nostalgia left, too. The filler music overhead quickly filled the Grandstand with House of Pain's "Jump Around," which may have made more audience members jump and dance around than all of the live performances combined.

Smash Mouth closed off the night with a surprisingly jam-filled set. Their eight-song set consisted of the expected "I Can't Get Enough of You Baby," "C'mon, C'mon," and "I'm a Believer," with a few fillers brought in, including a sped-up cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me." During the cover, the band burst out into multiple guitar and drum solos, which allowed the Gin Blossoms' Robin Wilson, and his tambourine, and Sugar Ray's Mark McGarth to join the band onstage once more. Obviously all close friends, they all fed off each other's energy on stage, and if we weren't reminded of the modern era by our smart phones, the performance could've been identical to one performed 15 years ago. The night concluded with an eight-minute rendition of Smash Mouth's "All-Star." Muted by the audience's singing along, Smash Mouth kept everyone on their toes as they broke out into two more musical interludes, which elongated the show long enough to end right as the State Fair's nightly fireworks display started.

Critic's Notebook

Critic's Bias: The Gin Blossoms' second album came out the year I was born, and that makes just about everyone feel unexpectedly old.

The Crowd: Younger than expected.

Overheard in the Crowd: "You're an All-Star, Sean!" after Sean Hurwitz from Smash Mouth joined the Gin Blossoms on keyboards.

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