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Heavy lineup

| Thursday, July 29, 2004

Some things are best left alone. After a one-year detour to Pittsburgh, the Rolling Rock Town Fair is returning to the greener pastures of the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds in Mt. Pleasant.

Poor attendance plagued last year's festival at Heinz Field -- the crowd was announced at 25,000 -- despite a lineup featuring Blink-182, 311 and Def Leppard. Organizers expect the sylvan setting of the fairgrounds to revive the spirit of the first three Town Fairs, which attracted sellout crowds,

This year's band not to be missed is Velvet Revolver, featuring ex-Guns N' Roses players Slash, Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan, with former Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland.

The rest of the lineup has a definite heavy-rock vibe, with a few variants.

Here are the players:

Staind: Best known for singer Aaron Lewis' gut-wrenching vocals -- and being championed by Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit -- Staind's angst-ridden music found widespread favor with a single that was the musical antithesis of the heavy rock movement it was aligned with. "It's Been Awhile" was a relatively quiet moment for the band from Springfield, Mass., which managed to separate itself further from bands of the same ilk with the release of "14 Shades of Grey" in 2003.

Disturbed: A variation on the same vibe as Staind, but different, Disturbed has more of a heavy-metal sound. Think of Soundgarden distilled through Judas Priest. But don't let them next to Finch, another band playing the Town Fair; the bands have a longstanding war of words.

N.E.R.D.: They'll stand out by virtue of being the sole representatives of hip-hop on the bill, but expect N.E.R.D. to put on one of the most crowd-pleasing sets at Town Fair Five. Featuring Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of the production team the Neptunes, the band gives a likable irascibility -- not to mention groove -- to songs like "She Wants to Move" and "Fly or Die" that puts them in the same league with OutKast.

The Crystal Method: Another group that should be interesting by sound alone, the Crystal Method has been called the American version of the Chemical Brothers. Acknowledged pioneers in electronica, the Town Fair will be a rare live performance by the Los Angeles-based duo.

Hoobastank: The band with a Seussical name has emerged this year with a hit single, "The Reason," which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. By far the most pop-oriented band on the Town Fair roster.

Sevendust: Metal and ... soul• Well, not quite, but lead singer Lajon Witherspoon is more Otis Redding than Ozzy Osbourne.

Finch: No, they're not David Spade clones, but a heavy-rock band that has an avowed dislike for Disturbed. Hopefully, the mellow mood of the Town Fair will preclude any fireworks.

Three Days Grace: And now for a dollop of punk music. Three Days Grace, now based in Toronto by way of Norwood, Ontario, will bring a little bit of peace and love via songs such as "(I Hate) Everything About You" and "Burn."

Finger Eleven: Another band from Canada that's more metal than mellow, disproving the theory that all Canadians aspire to be Neil Young or Joni Mitchell.

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