Dwight Yoakam’s plane from Los Angeles touched down in Roseburg around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. His RV pulled into the Douglas County Fairgrounds by 7 p.m. — plenty of time for his 7:30 show. But his band, which played with him at the Oregon Jamboree in Sweet Home over the weekend, spent two days in Roseburg, hiking to the top of Mount Nebo and patronizing local establishments, including The Idle Hour and Yogee’s gentlemen’s club.
About 4,200 music lovers were on hand to watch Yoakam headline fair day number one. Though by the end many in the crowd were dancing, ticket-takers and vendors said Wednesday felt light even for a weekday at the fair. But on a mild, calm August evening, Yoakam and his bedazzled backing band were brisk and emphatic. He wore his trademark low-brimmed hat, stuck out his leg and twisted it at the hip, and sang his singular brand of country tinged with just about everything else.
Jennifer Jones of Roseburg was one of a dozen locals holding meet-and-greet passes entitling each to a quick one-on-one with Yoakam just before the show. She said she and the others were herded into a room behind the stage where their names were read to Yoakam, who shook hands and posed for photos as he walked down the receiving line.
Being his biggest fan “ever, ever, ever,” Jones remembered exactly what her favorite singer said to her just before she was hustled out of the room by handlers.
“Nice to meet you.”
Despite its brevity, Jones said she was thrilled by the moment and was the only person in the 1,500-person reserved seating section out of her seat and dancing to the opener, “Take Hold of My Hand” off Yoakam’s latest album, “3 Pears.” Several hundred more were to join her before the show was through.
“By the end there’s always a real connection with the audience,” Fair Director Harold Phillips said during the show near the side of the stage.
Yoakam earned huge cheers for saying “Oregon” during one song. By contract, he only had to play for 75 minutes, but asked to play 90. Phillips said he was told the singer wanted the extra time to pay back the fans who’d been asking him to come to Southern Oregon.
It was Yoakam’s first time playing the Douglas County Fair. Bringing him here cost $68,000, or about the average, according to Phillips.
On hand to announce the show’s sponsors was a trio of upbeat “fair ambassadors,” junior miss winners who will attend various fair functions all weekend.
“Now that the competition is over, we get to do the fun stuff,” said Miss Douglas County 2013 Brooke Painter, who took Miss Congeniality at the recent Miss Oregon competition.
During the performance, Greg Tressel and his band were doing a quiet sound check not far away at the Garden Park Stage. They were instructed to start their set as soon as Yoakam finished his, in keeping with Phillip’s goal of “constant entertainment.”
Tressel is back fronting his own country band 20 years after moving from Nashville to get a real job. The Grants Pass theater owner, now in his 50s, said he planned to start the set with the first song he’s written in this new chapter of his life: “If There’s a Bar Stool, She’s on It.”
Across a walkway from the amphitheater, Daisy, a pinkish 1-year-old Sufolk-Romney cross, was serene despite the booming acoustics of the livestock hall where she and the other lambs were being shown. Her handler, 13-year-old Willow Pearson of Roseburg, said loud live music and crowds really only bother the horses, not the other animals.
Country singer Clay Walker performs tonight, 3 Doors Down plays on Friday and Whitesnake on Saturday. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. at the fair amphitheater and are free with fair admission. Admission is $9.
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.