July 21-23, 2016
By Jeff Mozey
Photos by Jeff Mozey
Classic Rock Prevails At Moondance Jam
Moondance Jam was celebrating their 25th year this time around. From Chicago to Godsmack, The music offered something for everyone.
Moondance Jam was started by Bill and Kathy Bieloh in 1992 in Walker, Minnesota and featured regional acts. By 1995, the festival was attracting top national artists such as; Starship, Guess Who, and Kansas. Mix onsite camping with great music and Moondance Jam has become one of the longest running music events in the country. The festival has provided twenty-five years of entertainment for thousands of people. Unfortunately, Bill Bielo passed away in 2010, But Kathy is still carrying the torch for all people who look forward to the event each year.
During the pre-jam party on Wednesday, a storm with high winds hit the camping the area. Tents, and tarps were blown about and most of the area was out of electricity. That also included the Moondance Jam complex. Some fans that I talked with had been worried about how it would impact the first full day of the Jam. However, a few hours before showtime the power came back on in time for Firehouse to take the stage. Following Firehouse was Kix, Chevelle, Bush, and Godsmack. This was the day with the most variety. A great mix of classic and more modern acts.
The band Kix, was the greatest surprised for me personally. Singer, fifty nine year old Steve Whiteman made the show. He had more energy than most artists half his age. Remenisant of Iggy Pop, but with a more 80's rock look and influence. He is in very good physical shape and would randomly lift his shirt up at the crowd. Steve was constantly moving all over the stage.
Another highlight from the first day was the size of the audience and crowd participation for BUSH. The band was not the headliner for that night, but had the largest turnout for the day as well as the biggest reactions during many of their songs. About half way into the bands set, singer Gavin Rossdale surprised everyone by walking through the entire crowd while singing. I could see fans trying to get close as he strutted from side to side of the venue floor.
I have attended Moondance for a few years and I have never seen a band get a crowd going as much as Godsmack did during their performance. The audience got into a good sized circle pit and had close to everyone in the crowd jumping to the drum beat at the same time. At this point into the set, I was watching the show from the side of the stage. It was interesting to see the audience going all out from the bands usually perspective.
The following two days were definitly geared more to the classic rock fan. Foghat, Lover Boy, Chicago, Boston, Blues Traveler, and more. Before each band performed, Fans grabbed food from the food vendors, a drink , or some merchandise from the merchandise tent. I have attended various festivals in the past and sometimes finding that one food truck you are looking for can be difficult. But Moondance makes it easy. All the food and other vendors could be found along the edge of the concert grounds. That makes it really convenient for everyone who is attending the event.
The biggest stand out for me during the last two days were how tight and professional Chicago came off. They might have been the tightest band I have ever heard live. Founded in 1967, Chicago also had at least nine members of the group on stage at a time. So it was nice that the members kept switching positions from the front to the back as they performed. It really let people get a closer view of each member in the band and the audience showed their appreciation with continuous applause.
A band that deserves to be mentioned is the all-female AC/DC cover band ThundHerstruck who performed on the last day. For years, Moondance Jam has invited the California based band to come back over and over again. It is not a surprise why either. They are a very solid act and do AC/DC justice. Even lead guitar player Tina Wood has all the moves you would expect from Angus Young. Falling on to her back while shredding a solo or doing a Duck Walk, she can do it all.
Two unfortunate events did occur during Moondance Jam this year. Rick Springfield was scheduled to perform during the same day as Chicago. But he canceled just days before the festival. The other was during the final performance when Boston took the stage. During the bands set, lightning could be seen coming from behind the festival grounds. About twenty minutes into the bands set, Guitar player Tom Scholz was interrupted mid song and had to postpone the performance due to the rain and lightning that was close by. He said to the crowd "this has never happened before" and then walked off the stage. The Moondance jam Jumbotron stated that the show was going to be delayed and that they hoped to get the music back ASAP. Everyone at the festival was asked to get away from the stage. The majority of people seemed to take cover in the saloon bar room across the festival grounds. After waiting for the rain to pass, another announcement was made. The band had to cancel the rest of the show. All around me I could see the shock and disappointment in everyone's face.
During the next day, Boston made a post on Facebook that read "Many thanks to all of our fans that came to see us at the Moondance Jam in Walker, Minnesota. Just getting started and they shut us down due to an approaching electrical storm. Bummer! We had a very exciting show planned for the Jam, and we hope to get a chance to come back and do the whole thing!." I can only hope that Boston can come back soon to Minnesota for the fans that had to miss the rest of the performance. The band sounded great and at least we all got to hear "Peace of Mind" before the cancelation.
Moondance Jam was full of surprises this year. But that did not stop people from having a great time. At the end of the day, that is what live music is all about.
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