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Catfish Honeymoon, a D.C.-based alternative country band, plays Sunday.
Catfish Honeymoon, a D.C.-based alternative country band, plays Sunday. (Patrick Reed And Jayson Vance)

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Thursday, June 8, 2006

Some come for the rides, some for the food or crafts, but one major draw at the Celebrate Fairfax! festival is music -- six stages, more than 80 performers, and a mix of rock, blues, soul, country, jazz and more.

The three-day annual event in the Fair Oaks area offers national touring acts plus a fine sampling of local musicians, so put on your comfy shoes -- there's plenty of dancing to do, and walking (between stages).

Let's start with the bigger names.

Collective Soul headlines at 8 tomorrow night on the Bud Light Main Stage, returning to the music scene after a few years out of the spotlight. Collective Soul's star began to rise in the mid-'90s with a string of hits including the still-in-rotation "Shine," its radio breakthrough, "Gel," and the prom-ready ballad "The World I Know." The Georgia-based group released the album "Youth" in 2004 and issued a live concert on CD and DVD this year, simply titled "Home." Whatever modern radio's latest trends, this band's taut, melodic guitar rock never goes out of style.

On Saturday, Sister Hazel kicks off the Bud Light stage schedule at 3 p.m. Thanks to a strong relationship with fans, this band also neither lives nor dies by radio play, though it ruled the airwaves for a time in 1997 with a track called "All for You" and returned three years later with another pop-rock favorite, "Change Your Mind." The group's 2003 CD, "Chasing Daylight," didn't have quite the same impact as its predecessors, but the band kept its base happy by touring, working with charities and participating in Rock Boat events -- a week aboard a cruise ship with dozens of bands, fans and jams.

Sister Hazel's tender emotions and upbeat tempos should make a fine soundtrack for a sunny (we hope) afternoon.

Sugar Ray takes over the Bud Light stage that night at 8. Originally a hard-hitting funk-metal band whose first album elicited commercial yawns, Sugar Ray hit radio pay dirt with a series of summery singles in the late '90s, starting with the ubiquitous 1997 hit, "Fly," from its second CD, "Floored." In 1999, the band released its third album, "14:59" -- a self-deprecating reference to Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame. The album's first single, "Every Morning," climbed to No. 3 on the pop charts, and subsequent tunes "Someday" and "Falls Apart" helped the CD sell 3 million copies. The band's eponymous fourth album in 2001 entered the Top 10 with another infectious single, "When It's Over." Though Sugar Ray has sold 10 million albums thanks to breezy alternative pop songs with touches of funk, hip-hop and reggae, the band pushes the amps up when reaching into its deeper catalogue, so be prepared for some hard-rock candy under the sweet-rock pop wrapper.

Sunday afternoon at Celebrate Fairfax! is traditionally the classic rock spot, and this year is no exception, with the raucous '80s Southern rock of .38 Special headlining the Bud Light stage at 3:30 p.m. In the course of almost 30 years together, .38 Special had a million-selling album, "Wild-Eyed Southern Boys," and hit singles such as "Hold On Loosely" and "Caught Up in You." The group still plays about 100 shows each year.

Though it would be easy to settle down at the big stage and have a full meal of music, don't neglect the wonderful array of smaller shows throughout the grounds. A full schedule of the acts, including more than a dozen on the children's stage, is available at http://www.celebratefairfax.org , along with links to most of the bands' Web sites. Here are a few recommendations:

There will be some of the area's best local rockers with Getaway Car at 7:15 p.m. tomorrow, and Saturday presents Welbilt (2 p.m.), Northern Virginia quartet JunkFood (7 p.m.) and Shane Hines and The Trance (9:30 p.m.).

There will be plenty of good rocking and R&B tomorrow, too, including the power pop of Viki Nova (8:30 p.m.), followed by Baltimore's favorite "phat blues" dudes, the Kelly Bell Band (10 p.m.). On Saturday, the joint starts jumping with Plastic Sky (11:30 a.m.) and moves on through to the evening with "sparkle pop" thrush Jessi Canning and her band (6:35 p.m.), then winds up with Ska Face (10:30 p.m.). Come back on Sunday to catch the powerful duo called Mercy Creek (11:35 a.m.) and roots rockers Catfish Honeymoon (1:35 p.m.), among others.

The smooth-jazz stage won't limit itself strictly to jazz; it will have a variety of artists from the softer rock and folk scenes as well. The stage gets off to a fine start at 6 p.m. tomorrow with pop/jazz from Leah Morgan, and on Saturday offers Swing Speak (1 p.m.) and folk singer Dulcie Taylor (7 p.m.). Sunday includes area singer-songwriter Mike Holden (11:30 a.m.) and a capella sextet Cartoon Johnny (1 p.m.). And when you're looking for something completely different, there are the best of the community's international musicians and dancers, such as Troupe Arabesque (7 p.m. tomorrow). On Saturday, look for Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers (10:30 a.m.) and Aoibhneas an Rince Irish Dancers (6:15 p.m.); and, on Sunday, the Cardinal Cloggers (2:15 p.m.) and the Vienna-Falls Chorus (3:15 p.m.).

All that, and funnel cakes, too!

-- MARIANNE MEYER

The Fairfax Government Center is at 12000 Government Center Pkwy. Admission each day at the gate is $10 for people 11 and older, $8 for seniors and active military members with ID, $5 for children 3-10 and free for children 2 and younger. Admission includes all concerts, entertainment and exhibits; tickets for carnival rides are sold separately. Advance tickets are available at a discount through today at a dozen locations around the county. Information on tickets, parking and shuttle bus transportation is available athttp://www.celebratefairfax.org.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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