Eastern New Mexico State Fair offers a wide variety of entertainment and live music
By Christina Stock
Flying people, robots, music and excitement — this and so much more awaits the public at this year’s Eastern New Mexico State Fair.
This year will be the fair’s 97th anniversary and, while staying true to its classic roots when it began as the Cotton Carnival in 1922, it has added entertainment for the entire family to enjoy.
Some of the new acts can be seen daily, such as the XPogo Stunt Team, who spread the love of extreme pogo throughout the world. Their love for the sport goes far, having had more than 10,000 live performances in 23 countries and holding 13 Guinness World Records. The team is so passionate about their sport that they were approved by the team of Guinness World Records to be the official record keepers for all extreme pogo world records. Recently, they performed in the Chinese New Year Night Parade in Hong Kong.
More entertainment awaits, a special magician will amaze his audience and Robot Ranger Johnny D will pose for kids and adults during the entire fair.
The music lineup this year offers something for everybody with Curtis Grimes performing in the evening on Monday; Grant Gilbert performs on Tuesday; The Piano Man on Wednesday; Legit Alpha on Thursday; and there are three performances on Friday with Shari Rowe, Radio Romance and headliner Jimmy Allen. The fair tunes down to the sounds of the Guitar Fellar on Saturday evening.
Some of the artists wanted to give a shout-out to everybody, such as Curtis Grimes. “I always enjoy coming to Roswell and am looking forward to our first opportunity to play at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair. See y’all soon,” he said.
To hear Grimes sing is to take a trip through the heart of country music. A Texas native, he was raised on a steady diet of George Strait and Alan Jackson, and he possesses the everyman charm of both his heroes, along with a refreshingly mature voice that — in an era of country raps and pop beats — truly stands out.
In 2018, Grimes was named “Male Vocalist of the Year” at the Texas Country Music Association Awards Show and also received the honors of winning “Country-Christian Artist of the Year” and “Country-Christian Song of the Year.” With seven No. 1 songs on the Texas Country Chart and a newly acquired No. 1 song on the Power Source Christian Country Music Chart, Grimes is proving to be a force on the scene.
Grant Gilbert is performing on Tuesday night. Gilbert has the quintessential Texas attitude — work hard, think big, don’t let anyone fence the music in.
The musician is a young, hustling frontman for a five-piece band, an ensemble that embodies the spirit of the Lubbock musicians who’ve preceded it. Like Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Josh Abbott Band and Dixie Chicks, Gilbert is ostensibly country, but really so much more. Classic rock, the blues, Southern rock and — yes, country — are all ingrained in an energetic, powerful package that’s become a major part of the club circuit. “Hey, Roswell. Can’t wait for the show at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair. Come see us,” he said. The band hopes that many of their fans will check out their new EP “Loud & Clear” — the link is available free of charge on its Facebook page — and when they perform, sing the lyrics back to them.
You just saw him performing at the Chile Cheese and Piñata Festival on Saturday, and just like this year’s theme: Come to the Chile Cheese and Piñata Festival, stay for the fair, The Piano Man — Anthony Torres — stayed. He performs on Wednesday night amazing the public with his abilities to impersonate legendary musicians. “I enjoy the live interaction with the fans,” Torres said. “I love to go where ever I can perform, that’s what I grew up with. My kids are millennials, but I am not. I enjoy the live stuff. I impersonate so many different people, so it is better live, like Elton John, I do a whole tribute to him. I do Ray Charles or the BeeGees, it’s more entertaining when you see that live.”
Friday night is the big music night with three bands, singers and songwriters performing.
Shari Rowe kicks the evening off, returning to perform at the fair. Rowe has earned a reputation for capturing simplistic beauty, crafting each lyric and melody with truth, sincerity and artistic integrity. This Southwestern troubadour has spent her career captivating audiences worldwide, from front porch concerts to the big stage, alongside Wynonna Judd, Three Dog Night, Aaron Carter and more. On stage, Rowe is nothing short of enchanting, but it’s her ability to translate the same intangible star-power into her recordings that sets her apart from the rest. With a voice that sounds like home, Rowe lives her life in the true spirit of country music, infusing her love of faith and family into everything she does, which ultimately led to her work with Celebrity Fight Night — along with Reba McEntire and Barry Manilow — the Scott Foundation and the Red Note Foundation.
Rowe has some news for her fans. “I made a couple of new singles since the last time I was in Roswell. I’ll be excited to share the new music with everybody and see the fans again. We loved last time so we are excited about it,” she said.
Asked what she enjoys the most, Rowe said, “I think I love New Mexico in general. We always had such a warm reception every time we come, but the crowd at the fair definitely was all in. Everybody was excited to have us there. The people who booked us, the fair board, everybody was so warm and welcoming. I feel like we made friends and we are coming back to see some friends.”
When Rowe talks about her art and her style, she tips her hat to true country music enthusiasts, “My style, I would say, is definitely a throwback to traditional country,” she said. “A lot of songs will have a fiddle in them. I love the traditional sound of country music, but of course, writing with some of the top writers in Nashville has really been key in helping me keep a modern sound as well.”
Asked about what her future plans are, Rowe said, “We are planning bigger and bigger shows these days and are looking forward to putting out even more music in the coming year — 2020 is going to be a big year with a lot of shows in new areas across the country and there is definitely more to come. Thank you for supporting us along the way. There are big things ahead.”
The country-pop quartet Radio Romance performs next. Their upbeat, harmonic and hook-friendly songs are influenced by acts like Alabama, Eric Church and Jason Aldean. The band was formed in 2011 by Sam Hayes (vocals), Josh Gramling (guitar) and Moises Padilla (drums). The trio became a quartet after recruiting permanent bassist Adam Smithwick.
Then the group released the singles “Secrets” and “Cheap Beer Years.” The quartet’s first EP together, Sounds of a Quiet Town (HYGB Records), arrived in 2017. That same year, Radio Romance received a big industry boost when they won the grand prize for the NASHNext competition, which included a deal with Big Machine Records, home to Taylor Swift, Midland and Sugarland. Their first single for the label, “Weekend,” was released in 2018. The video for their third single release for 2019, “Like The Moon,” was voted No. 1 for five weeks in a row on the CMT 12 Pack Countdown. Their current single “Sounds Like Us” is now available for streaming everywhere.
In a phone interview, Smithwick remembers the last time the band was in Roswell. “In 2017, we played the Eastern New Mexico State Fair, we opened up for Luke Cohen. It was definitely a great time,” he said.
Asked how they would describe their music, Gramling answered, “Upbeat, energetic, but also to the roots of traditional country in the lyrics. Overall, what we are trying to do is to sound like something that is not already out there, but still accessible to country listeners. To me, it’s the best time to be in the country music genre. You can truly be who you are now and that’s a very good thing.”
While other musicians are not as comfortable in social media or using the new technology available, Radio Romance is embracing it. “I think it is a great time right now to be in the music industry because the media levels the playing field and music — you have actually full control over what you are putting out and connecting to fans. It is easier than ever to connect to fans. All over it’s an amazing thing and it is going to keep getting better, I think, as technology progresses,” Gramling said.
With the band having put out new singles every month, Gramling said that there is much more ahead. For now, they are looking forward seeing their audience at the fair. “You will definitely be hearing a lot of new songs and a lot of our band favorites. It’s going to be awesome. I hope to see them there for good music. Follow us via our webpage radioromance.com you can connect on any social media outlet with us,” he said.
Headlining Friday night is Jimmie Allen. Allen is described as a breakthrough country artist, and this wording fits perfectly, having to overcome a multitude of challenges. His career began in a nightmare of bad breaks when Allen was forced to live in his car, working multiple jobs before finally saving enough for an apartment, but country music was still not ready for him.
“People were just trying to help,” he said. “But they wanted me to change my sound and told me I had to lose my boots. The turning point came when I stopped listening, and finally, let my music be a natural reflection of who I am.”
Since then Allen has been following his own compass, and it has lead him somewhere special. Now signed to BBR Music Group/BMG, his diligence is paying off. Kicking off 2018 being recognized on nearly every “one’s to watch” list, this year has proved to be a turning point in the singer’s career as he raced through milestones that most only dream of — earning a standing ovation while making his Grand Ole Opry debut, cracking the Top 20 with his first-ever single and checking off many major bucket list items in between.
“I don’t regret the hard times,” he explains about his trials. “I think each thing you go through adds a layer, whether it’s a layer of toughness, perseverance, motivation, or just a layer of wisdom. At the end of the day, you come back to what you know, and what’s embedded in you.”
Allen is going to share his hard-won dreams and songs at ENMSF with his fans, bringing with him his lucky charm, a scarf from his late grandmother. “To me, it serves as a constant reminder of where I came from, what it took to get me here, and my drive to keep pushing forward,” he said.
More information about ENMSF, schedules and events are available in the Roswell Daily Record’s State Fair tab, 40-page section, which is inserted in this edition of the Daily Record. It is available for free online at rdrnews.com/special-publications.