With The reopening of the Pacific Amphitheatre for this year's Orange County Fair (and how long before the shed is redubbed Wal-Mart Pavilion or Ace Hardware Arena?), something of a class divide has emerged between A-list Pac Amp acts who are charging up to $90 a ticket and the B-list acts playing for free on the fairgrounds proper—well, "free with your paid $7 fair admission." But a night-by-night comparison reveals, surprisingly, that the B-listers are often more highly recommended.
Our quickie scorecard for selected dates, with Pac Amp acts listed first:
July 11: Diana Krall vs. motocross. A choice between brain-numbing, mechanized white noise certain to leave you stupid—and motorcycles! July 13: Melissa Etheridge/Joan Osbourne vs. a demolition derby. The question here is, "What would the lesbians rather watch?" July 15: Crosby, Stills & Nash vs. the Little River Band. Please. July 16: Duran Duran vs. Blue Oyster Cult. The music of our teenage years against the music of our older brother's teenage years. "Don't Fear the Reaper" vs. "Union of the Snake" or "The Wild Boys"? Our big brother was wiser. July 17: The Funk Brothers vs. the Bangles. As much as we loved the Bangles' masterful pop hits, we have to go with the Funk Brothers because they're all still so sadly anonymous, despite their appearance on every Motown hit imaginable. July 22: Cake/Devo vs. Billy Bob Thornton. Go back to making movies, wanker. July 23: Steely Dan vs. Berlin. Steely Dan at least have a new album, a fact that makes less painful the museum-piece factor. July 27: Bob Dylan vs. Festival Latino. You'll need English translations for both. July 29: Alan Jackson vs. Ralph Stanley. Or: Stanley's kick-ass country bluegrass vs. Jackson's tired hat act. July 30: Kenny Loggins/Michael McDonald vs. the Fab Four. "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "Footloose"? "Hey Jude" or "I Keep Forgettin'"? You always go with the Beatles tribute act. July 31: 3 Doors Down/Our Lady Peace vs. Ziggy Marley. Two faceless, sterile bands—quick! Name their big hits!—pitted against the son of a music legend. Marley, if for no other reason than the scent of hundreds of burning spliffs battling it out with the sticky-sweet stink wafting over from the funnel cake stands. Aug. 1: Jethro Tull vs. Ozomatli. If you have to think about this longer than two seconds . . . Aug. 2: Roxy Music/David Lindley vs. bullriding and BR5-49. Why not combine these, and pay $87.50 to see prissy, self-absorbed old Bryan Ferry thrown off a bucking stud and into a pile of bull poo?