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Some familiar faces in State Fair concert lineup

  • Author: Chris Bieri
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published August 26, 2015

Zach Carothers' earliest memories of attending the Alaska State Fair include most of the usual trappings of youth – rides, carnival games and corn dogs.

But the real score for Carothers, bass player of the acclaimed rock band Portugal. The Man, was one that fed the musical hunger of a punk-inclined Wasilla teen.

"The only way I could ever get a band T-shirt was at the Subterranean tent at the fair," he said. "Agent Orange, the Dead Kennedys -- before the Internet it took everything a little longer to get to Alaska."

Only when Carothers tried to sneak an especially vulgar Dead Kennedys shirt out the front door on the way to school, his mother put an immediate stop to it.

"It's my favorite band. I'm trying to make a statement," he recalls telling his mom.

"You can't make that statement," she replied, sending Carothers back to his room for a change of wardrobe.

Fast-forward 20 years and Carothers and fellow Wasilla native John Gourley, co-founders of Portugal. The Man, find their band T-shirts hanging from vendor walls at the fair.

The band returns to the state to perform in the Kendall Toyota of Anchorage Borealis Theatre at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and Carothers is excited to relive some of the summer days of his adolescence.

"I'm definitely going to ride the Gravitron and eat a Husky Burger," he said.

More enticing and rewarding, though, is the opportunity to play in front of friends and family just a short drive from where he and Gourley grew up.

"We're playing for people we truly love," he said. "It's different when you do it for our moms and siblings and friends."

And playing an earlier show, certainly by Portugal's standards, will allow for some rare reunions.

"A lot of our friends have done the normal thing that humans do -- procreated," Carothers said. "They have kids and good jobs and a lot of times when we play, we go on at 11 at night. (For a show like this), everyone brings their kids. It's a lot easier for a lot of my family friends and I get to hang out with my friends' kids."

Portugal has certainly come a long way since their inception – when they relocated to Portland, Ore., and started on a shoestring budget.

The band has gone from "unplugging the soda machines at rest stops," in order to make dinner in their tiny rice cooker, to being on the Atlantic label with seven studio albums under their collective belt.

In the process, Portugal has played Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, opened for The Black Keys and worked with super-producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) on their 2013 release "Evil Friends."

"There's been so many (memorable moments)," Carothers said. "You're always trying to push yourself. There's been so many times I was like, 'We made it.' Even the first time we went on a tour to a state we've never been to and the kids (in the audience) were singing the songs."

Being incessantly on the road can have its drawbacks – Carothers recalls missing his brother's college graduation in 2011 while the band was at Bonnaroo. But in a serendipitous turn, he was able to spend an hour hanging out and listening to music with Neil Young, his dad's favorite artist.

"My dad was a proud father that day," he said.

This spring, the band worked with the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation on an initiative that placed $1 million worth of musical instruments in the hands of students, many living in impoverished areas.

The band is working on a number of new projects, most notably on songs being produced by Mike D of the Beastie Boys for an upcoming album.

"That's one of those crazy things," Carothers said. "I grew up on the Beastie Boys and now we're getting to hang out and make music with Mike D."

2015 lineup -- rock, country and a little something different

The fair's musical lineup opens up Thursday with Blood, Sweat & Tears featuring vocalist Bo Bice. The jazz-rock band rose to popularity in the 1970s with hits like chart-topper "Spinning Wheel."

Christian rock band Skillet takes the stage Friday. Their most recent album, "Rise," debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 charts in 2013.

Daughtry features frontman Chris Daughtry, who hit the national spotlight as a finalist on the fifth season of American Idol. The band, which performs Saturday, was nominated for four Grammys stemming from its self-titled debut album.

Country fans get their first chance to hit the dance floor Monday with the Bellamy Brothers. The duo has produced a plethora of No. 1 hits in their 40-year career, highlighted by crossover hit "Let Your Love Flow."

Tuesday's featured performer, David Nail, continues the string of country acts. Nail's hit "Let it Rain," rose to No. 1 on the country charts in early 2012.

3 Doors Down broke out in 2000 with the brooding hit "Kryptonite." The string of hits like "When I'm Gone" continued for the band, which plays Sept. 3.

Lee Brice cut his teeth co-writing hits for major artists like Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. Brice, who performs Sept. 5, is finding success on his own with a pair of Grammy nominations for his hit "I Drive Your Truck."

Jason Derulo is pulling pinch-hit duty for fair audiences with his Sept. 6 show, replacing Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, who were forced cancel tour dates after Giraldo suffered an injury. Derulo has had great success in his young career, crafting club and hip-hop hits and collaborating with Snoop Dogg and Sean Combs.

For those looking for something lighter on the ears, Garrison Keillor performs "A Prairie Home Companion" on Sunday. In his 41st and final year with the Minnesota-based radio troupe, Keillor serves up a Midwestern-sized helping of theater of the mind with the news from Lake Wobegon, the adventures of Guy Noir, Private Eye, and a bevy of musical guests.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan, curator of the legendary Hot Pockets routine, performs Sept. 4. Gaffigan has been featured in numerous film and television vehicles, but is best known as a stand-up comic who doesn't need to work blue to draw laughs.

Kacey Musgraves closes out the fair's main-stage performances on Sept. 7. She landed on the radar of country music fans by competing on "Nashville Star," but it didn't take her long to defy Nashville convention. Known for tackling progressive themes in some of her songs, Musgraves' second album "Pageant Material" has drawn raves.

Alaska State Fair

Fair hours: Noon-10 p.m. Mon.-Tues., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Labor Day

Location: Palmer Fairgrounds, 2075 Glenn Highway

Contact: 745-4827; for concert ticket prices and schedule, see

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