On July 19 the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles opened its biggest year yet of musical entertainment with performances by classic rockers Blue Öyster Cult and R&B icon Lionel Richie. The line-up over the 11-day fair included rockers Matchbox Twenty, Counting Crows, Kid Rock and John Mayer. EDM stars Chainsmokers lit up one weekend with their massive light and sound show. Country music is represented by Zac Brown and Keith Urban, and the fair culminated with two concerts by country music icon Garth Brooks.

Blue Öyster Cult was the first main act on the Frontier Stage. One of the most enduring bands in American rock, the group is celebrating their 45th anniversary this year. The band played two sets, mixing it up a bit with early songs and some from later albums. Both sets culminated with "Cities On Flame With Rock and Roll" - a classic metal song from their first self-titled album - "Godzilla", and finally the band's biggest hit, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper".

The main arena featured an opening night headline set by Lionel Richie, with the R&B star playing some of his greatest hits. The concert was the first in several months for the 68-year-old Richie, but from the moment he bolted on stage, the animated performer pranced about with the energy of a teenage artist. Richie launched into a hit parade from his vast catalogue of solo hits along with classic songs from his years in the Commodores.

With more than 50 years of pop music experience and five Grammys, Richie has no shortage of material. The 15 song set showcased not only his singing and songwriting prowess but also the enormous talent of his band of veteran musicians as well. The group would vacillate from heavy rock beats to R&B funk rhythms with skillful ease, at Richie’s behest.

The singer seemed in good spirits after his extended vacation, and jested with the audience throughout. After opening with the hit song Running With The Night, Richie joked about his first trip to Paso Robles, the beautiful agricultural hub nestled in the mountains of the Santa Lucia Coastal Range.

"I had a manager, Ken Kragen, who lives here," Richie told us. "I came to visit. I decided to walk around in the backyard of this beautiful ranch, and while I was walking around Ken just happened to mention: ‘Watch out Lionel, it’s rattlesnake season.’ I ain’t been back here ever since." The crowd erupted after that, with the entire floor standing for the rest of the show. Richie would also frequently sip a glass of what he said was local red wine, which he called "that good Paso juice".

The 15-song set ended with the classic party song "All Night Long", while a cool breeze blew across the stadium and a beautiful starry night enveloped the large stage. With a slew of those fine local beverages available the audience was in a jovial mood and ready to party all night long as well. It was a perfect opening night for one of the most American traditions, a trip to the summer fair.

Photos by L.Paul Mann

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