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Published June 03, 2013, 11:40 PM

Bands and BBQ: Finding the best RibFest pairings

FARGO - There’s a lot for everyone to like at this year’s Happy Harry's RibFest when it kicks off on Wednesday. Whether it’s the ribs (and there are a lot, as always) or the other food options, the various side dishes or the music, there are plenty of reasons to head over to the Fargodome to check out the four-day event.

FARGO - There’s a lot for everyone to like at this year’s Happy Harry's RibFest when it kicks off on Wednesday.

Whether it’s the ribs (and there are a lot, as always) or the other food options, the various side dishes or the music, there are plenty of reasons to head over to the Fargodome to check out the four-day event.

But when you get right down to it, RibFest at heart is really only about two things: the bands and the BBQ.

Because this year’s musical lineup is as varied as ever, we wanted to find the best pairing of ribs for you to eat when you’re listening to live music each night.

After an examination of each participating rib cooker and what makes their sauces and spices unique, here are the band and BBQ combinations we came up with designed to optimize your RibFest experience:

Wednesday's band: Sugar ray

Wednesday's BBQ: Aussom Aussie’s BBQ

Pop rock band Sugar Ray is the sweetest of all the bands playing at RibFest this year. Take, for example, their reggae-inspired hits like 1997’s “Fly” and 1998’s “Every Morning.”

It only makes sense, then, to pair Sugar Ray with Aussom Aussie’s BBQ. The Pittsburgh-based company has been bringing an undeniably sweet taste to RibFest for the last few years.

In addition to having plenty of hot sauces available to try, Aussom Aussie’s also offers a milder Barbie sauce, which owner Paul Mackay says has apple, orange, pineapple and tomato.

Or, try the raspberry chipotle sauce, which has “sweet and tart raspberry flavors up front followed by the smoky and peppering zing of the chipotle pepper,” Mackay says.

Aussom Aussie’s won the People’s Choice Award at last year’s RibFest.

Thursday’s band: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Friday’s BBQ: Desperado’s BBQ and Ribs

It’s a little bit hard to pin down Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s sound in one word. Is it country? Is it folk? Is it both, with a little bit of elements of pop and rock as well?

However you’d describe it, the group has been around in some form since 1966, and has hit it big with songs like “Fishin’ in the Dark,” “Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper’s Dream”) and “Modern Day Romance.”

Desperado’s BBQ, from Hinckley Ohio, brings a similar sort of variety to their sauces and spices.

Owner Donna Rice says the Desperado’s cookers serve three different sauces, and allow customers to mix and match to come up with a unique blend.

Because the Nitty Gritty Dirty Band brings a combination of different sounds, and Desperado’s brings a combination of different tastes, both are the perfect match for each other.

Friday’s band: Blue Oyster cult

Thursday's BBQ: Rasta Joe’s BBQ

In its several decades of playing music, Blue Oyster Cult has been described as playing a “psychedelic” brand of classic rock. Look no further than the band’s hits “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and “Burnin’ For You” as evidence of their unique style.

That makes the band a good match for Rasta Joe’s BBQ, the colorful, Jamaican-themed company that has been a mainstay at RibFest for the past few years.

The Plymouth, Ind.-based cookers use cherry wood to smoke their ribs, according to owner Joe Alexander.

They’re then sauced and tossed with a combination of “tropical” spices and a splash of Jamaican rum to create their unique flavor, Alexander says.

Saturday's band: Gloriana

Saturday's BBQ: Cowboys Barbeque and Ribs Co.

Gloriana, the closer of this year’s RibFest, is a band on the rise. The Nashville, Tenn., trio was named top new vocal group at the 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards, and brings a sound with a definite country Western twang.

That makes it a perfect pairing with Cowboys Barbeque and Ribs Co.

The rib cookers hailing from Weatherford, Texas, are known for their smoky BBQ sauce and their Western-style Rio Grande rub. Cowboys won the Critic’s Choice Award at last year’s RibFest.

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