Hansen: Insane fried foods and quirky tribute bands are OC Fair rituals

The OC Fair is gearing up for its July 15 opening — with all its quirky foods.

The OC Fair is gearing up for its July 15 opening — with all its quirky foods.

(David Hansen)

When it comes to the Orange County Fair, it’s unclear who would win in a reality-show celebrity challenge: the chefs who make the insane fried foods or the quirky tribute band musicians.

If the fair organizers ever wanted to drive more attendance for its July 15 opening, the pairing of these lovable misfits would surely fill some seats.

Imagine the creative talents behind the chocolate-covered pork rinds, deep-fried SlimFast bars and fried bacon pickles challenging the imitation ABBA singers to a Monster Truck Destruction Tour.

That is a thing, by the way.


Or Orange Crush Demolition Derby, Motor Home Madness Demolition Derby, Damsels of Destruction Demolition Derby or Emergency Pursuit Derby.

Those are all things too.

Apparently, it’s Demolition Summer at the fair.

My money, though, would be on the musicians. Consider this pool of tribute band aficionados. Chances are pretty good that at least one of these musical body doubles has already been on a reality show.


Queen, Oingo Boingo, Eagles, Journey, Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, U2, Pink Floyd, Bee Gees, Neil Diamond, Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Beatles.

Compare that lineup to the caviar Twinkie guy or the maker of the sticky Fireball whiskey doughnut.

I can’t even wrap my head around deep-fried coffee.

It is, alas, our nature to enable these summer rituals. Not only that, we encourage that the bar, such as it is, is raised — or lowered, depending on your point of view.


While we’re pondering this quasi-celebrity face-off, it’s worth asking: When did tribute bands become a thing anyway?

If you take the long view, the musical stunt-people phenomenon is relatively new. Most people say it started with the Beatles.

Of course it did. The Beatles started everything. Apparently there was a tribute band called The Buggs way back when.

Other people say Elvis impersonators deserve some credit. But the real bulk of tribute bands did not emerge until the 1990s.


Fans with cult-like adoration reveled in 1970s rock, which was fading. Then 1980s new wave had to continue — forever.

Thankfully, there are not too many 1990s tribute bands because no one really liked the ‘90s.

So now it’s al a carte nostalgia served lukewarm, just how we like it.

To be fair, these bands are fun. But they are also usually readily available at your local neighborhood bar, where we patrons sing every word, for better or worse, and try to remember how we felt 40 years ago.


What makes this year’s O.C. Fair lineup even more interesting is that there are legitimate, real bands playing opposite the tribute bands.

On opening night, July 15, for example, you’ve got a choice: Queen Nation tribute band in the Hangar or Styx in the Pacific Amphitheatre.

Honestly, I think I’d rather see Queen.

Google Queen Nation and you’ll see a YouTube video of Freddy Mercury (aka Gregory Finsley) singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” at The Roxy in Hollywood that has just the right amount of grace and bawdiness.


The following night, July 16, you can either see the top bill, Boston, or the virtual Dead Man’s Party, an Oingo Boingo tribute band.

Yes, please, give me Boingo. I’m only a lad but ain’t this the life?

You will have these dilemmas almost every night of the fair this summer. It’s not fair, we know, but you’ll have to decide.

Which brings us back to the original proposal — a celebrity face-off. Maybe the tribute bands should challenge the “real” bands to a contest.


And let the fried food chefs be the judges.


DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at



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