Editors Note: There is no way I could top last year’s article I wrote on Moondance Jam 15. Many people have shared with me that last year I described the Moondance experience perfectly. I so wanted to come up with something better – or at least as good. I struggled for days trying to find the right words. Eventually I realized I couldn’t outdo what I did last year so I will just reprint the paragraph below for those who may not have read the article:
"Moondance can actually sell you a ticket that will transport your mind and soul back 25 years for four days each July. The Jam is unique in that memories of youth come flooding back at the same time new memories are being made. Bill and Kathy Bieloh may just have in their possession what the legendary Ponce de Leon spent his entire lifetime seeking: The Fountain of Youth."
Suffice it to say that I still hold that to be true. I believe in what I call Moondance Magic. The Jam is a place where you can be the real you and not the person the world has forced you to become. Remember the movie Field of Dreams? Moondance Magic works along the same lines. There is a scene in Field of Dreams where Shoeless Joe Jackson looks around at the baseball field built in the middle of a cornfield and then up to the starlit sky and asks Kevin Costner, "Is this heaven?" To which Costner smiles and replies, "No, this is Iowa." While Shoeless Joe may have been in Iowa, I knew that I was not in Walker, Minnesota. That may be the name of the town on the highway sign but I knew where I was during those magical four days in July. I was in heaven.
Silver: Def Leppard
Magical Moondance Moment: Jackly’s guitarist asking Def Leppard’s Viv Campbell for an autograph.
Day I was bustling backstage as Def Leppard, Jackyl, Loverboy and Tesla all showed up early. The jam was starting and there was energy in the air. Aside from the usual Day I excitement, there is a new addition to the Moondance Jam grounds that adds to the festivities. The Lazy Moon Backstage Bar gives fans a chance to check out the bands as the busses drive into the backstage area. The bar’s entrance faces the campground. Once inside you can enjoy food and drink – we recommend the homemade potato chips – and listen to a local band. Or, if the main stage is rocking then you can watch the concert on television in the bar. There is a back patio that is screened in and allows visual access to the backstage area. Directly below the Lazy Moon are the band’s dressing rooms so fans can see their heroes walk down the ramp.
Def Leppard and Tesla had a reunion of sorts at Moondance Jam Sweet 16. Tesla opened for Def Lep on their In the Round tour in support of their debut album, Mechanical Resonance. The In the Round tour featured a rotating stage but the real attraction was underneath where it was rumored women were allowed to hang with the band but only if they were topless. I interviewed Tesla drummer Troy Lucckatta and Leppard drummer Rick Allen at the same time as they reminisced about the tour.
At one point, I approached Viv Campbell and we were talking about the last time we had seen each other, which was at the VH1 Rock Honors in 2006. I asked Viv how his solo blues album had sold and he smiled and said, "Just like you would think a blues album would sell." We laughed and then out of nowhere Jackyl’s Jeff Worley showed up with a copy of Viv’s album and a sharpie and said, "You are one of my favorite guitar players would you please sign this?" Viv smiled and signed the CD, asking the guitarist what his name was. Jeff obliged and told him that he was the guitar player for Jackyl and they were opening up for him. It was really a unique experience to see a musician be a fan. Jeff was as excited as a kid on the last day of school after meeting one of his heros.
We hung out and watched the VIP’s come back for a Meet & Greet with Tesla. The band is very gracious and signed anything that was thrust in front of them and posed for pictures. Frank Hannon proved he was a fan as well as once the meet and greet was over he headed toward the stage to check out Loverboy.
Moondance Sweet 16 became a reality as Minnesota natives Mountain Ash took the stage. The band are Moondance Jam staples and, once again, they did not disappoint. The highlights of their set were a killer cover version of Blue Oyster Cult’s ETI and a remake of the Tommy Bolin classic "Teaser." As guitarist Mark Kirchhoff told me from the side of the stage after the band’s performance, "We play songs that nobody else does. In fact, we play songs that nobody else knows!"
Set List Highlights: Push Comes to Shove / Mental Masturbation / Kill the Sunshine / Down on Me / I Stand Alone / When Will It Rain / Dirty Little Mind / Redneck Punk / She Loves my Cock / The Lumberjack Song
With the 3:00PM slot out of the way it was now time for the national acts to take over the stage. First up were Jackyl led by chainsaw wielding Jessie James Dupree. This is one loud, stinky, greasy, whiskey guzzling band. There are no choreographed dance numbers, no movement synched light show and no playing to backing tracks in Jackyl. The band took the stage and were ready to rock. A good portion of the Moondance crowd were still in the campground at the start of the set but Dupree’s inviting scowl and Jack Daniels swilling stage antics had the crowd cheering and the campers coming in droves to see what they were missing. Guitarist Jeff Worley did his best Rocky Balboa impression as he boxed his amp, teetering it to the point of nearly tipping over. His brother Chris manned the skins, showing too much skin in the process. The drummer was wearing only what looked like men’s blue bikini bottoms.
The crowd went ballistic when Dupree came out with his chainsaw and played the solo to "The Lumberjack Song" and then sawed a barstool in half. Between shooting off his rifle/microphone stand, cracking his whip and playing the chainsaw – and chugging JD, which he shared with fellow band members and the crowd – he stole the show. The crowd got off watching him and he got off being watched. The band pumped out "I Stand Alone," "Down on Me" and "Kill the Sunshine" and stood loud and proud during the entire set. Jackyl are a fun band and proved to be the right band to kick off day one.
Set List Highlights: Notorious / Lucky Ones / Take Me to the Top / The Kid is Hot Tonight / When It's Over / Hot Girls in Love / Turn Me Loose / Working for the Weekend
Loverboy did not go through normal channels to get the Moondance Jam. Instead of going through agents and signing complicated contracts, Loverboy was signed to play Sweet 16 on a cocktail napkin in a bar by Jam owner Kathy Bieloh after she saw the band play at a local gig. When vocalist Mike Reno did his interview with me for the jumbo-tron, I told him I knew about this. Mike, without breaking a smile, looked at me and stated that Kathy was a "very handsome woman and that he fancied himself a handsome man so it was natural that there was something going on between them." I told him that my career as the backstage interviewer may now be over. All kidding aside, Reno has a special relationship with Moondance as the band has played the show many times.
Loverboy sounds good and to rank them as the fourth best band of the day is somewhat unfair. It is also a testament to how damn good Day I of Sweet 16 was. "Turn Me Loose" and "The Kid is Hot Tonight" took everyone back to 1981. The band ended with their classic hit "Working for the Weekend." The response they received from the crowd assured their place at a future Moondance Jam, although it sounds like owner Bill Bieloh may have security keeping an eye on Reno at all times!
Set Highlights: Rock Bottom / Modern Day Cowboy / Song & Emotion / Love Song / What You Give / Heaven's Trail / Edison's Medicine / I Just Wanna Make Love to You/Signs
Tesla are an amazing live band. Too often people think of the band in the context of the era they came out instead of the great songs that they play. Tesla debuted in the thick of the Hair Band Era but they have the heart and soul of a 70's arena rock band and the chops to back it up. Guitarist Frank Hannon has to be one of the most underrated players in terms of name recognition. Hannon punishes the fret board with his aggressive lead style but also can turn on a dime and go from two-handed pull offs to a beautiful melodic solo. Vocalist Jeff Keith is a great showman and is also a versatile singer. Between the two they ensure Tesla is going to kick ass. Rhythm section Brian Wheat on bass and Troy Luccketta on drums keep the playing field even and direct the songs from fast to slow.
This marked Tesla’s second trip to the Moondance Jam but the first for new guitar player Dave Rude. Backstage Rude told me how he was discovered by Hannon via his MySpace page. One look and listen to the guitarist and it is easy to see what Frank saw in this youngster. Rude, who has huge shoes to fill replacing original member and fan favorite Tommy Skeoch, fits in well with his new band mates. He is a skilled lead player who is able to stand toe-to-toe with Hannon. He also looks like a rock star. Tall, lanky with long hair, the ladies love him. Tesla loves him too as his youthful energy seems to add a spark. There were a lot of smiles on stage at Moondance as the band cranked up their greatest hits, a few rare album cuts and a few surprises.
Tesla recently released Real to Reel, an album of cover songs that pays homage to their heros. They opened with UFO’s "Rock Bottom" and the crowd nearly flipped. Keith and Hannon stole the show with their vocal and instrumental skills on the classic track. "Rock Bottom" is a perfect example of what one can expect from the new Tesla album. It is by far the best remake album on the market. The songs were carefully chosen and the band plays them with amazing precision.
Before leaving the stage, everyone knew what was coming – the classic "Signs." Tesla fooled everyone by not playing the song when expected. Instead, the encore started with the Foghat classic "I Just Wanna Make Love to You." Just as the blues rock classic started to cook the band switched gears and went into "Signs." The crowd went crazy and what followed was a sing along with twenty thousand people. When the smoke cleared Tesla proved to be the best band of the night.
Set Highlights: Rocket / Animal / Foolin' / Mirror Mirror / Another Hit & Run / Love Bites / Rock On / Bringing On The Heartbreak/Switch 625 / Hysteria / Armageddon It / Photograph / Pour Some Sugar On Me / Rock Of Ages
Def Leppard brought their entire light show to Moondance and the result was the most amazing stage spectacular in the event’s 16 years history. Multiple video screens and a dazzling array of lights and effects took the energy in the place to the next level. Musically, Leppard performed at the top of their game and played a set full of smash hits while throwing a couple of songs in for the hard core fan base. It was awesome to see Def Leppard include three songs from their classic album High N’ Dry. The biggest surprise was "Mirror Mirror" as this song has not been performed on tour in ages. Also included were the hard rocking "Another Hit & Run" and the power ballad "Bringing on the Heartbreak." The rest of the show centered around Pyromania and Hysteria.
The biggest crowd in Moondance Jam history rocked out to one of the most successful hard rock acts of all time. Guitar players Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell are one of the best one-two punches on the road today. Campbell has not made a mistake since 1984 and Collen provides his unique sounding solo style that gives much of Def Lep their signature sound. Plus, he just looks like a rock star. The guy is nearly 50 years old yet he is in shape – and not afraid to show off the body either as he quickly sheds his shirt once on stage.
Drummer Rick Allen and bass player Rick Savage have been playing together so long that they handle the tempo changes with ease and never even have to glance at each other during the show. Vocalist Joe Elliot is a great showman. He is the leader of the band and all eyes fall on him. His range is not what it used to be and, truth be told, he seems to be two steps behind the rest of the band musically. This is not to say his was a bad performance but it is noticeable that he struggles at times. His vocals are acceptable but they are not exceptional anymore. Still, the band totally rock on stage and the band’s signature backing vocals on tracks like "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "Armageddon It" will bring chills up your spine.
In the end, Def Leppard’s show, both musically and visually, were outstanding. The band have both the look and sound to keep them in the forefront of the music world for a long time to come. They may be the biggest act to ever play the Moondance Jam. The crowd went away with smiles on their face, both grateful to have experienced day one and anticipating day two.
Gold: REO Speedwagon
Bronze: Cheap Trick
Copper: Big Head Todd & the Monsters
Magical Moondance Moment: Kevin Cronin and his Backstage Pass
After winning twenty bucks at the local casino I made my way over to the Jam site. I wanted to get there early so I could be ready for more backstage interviews. The site was calm and not much was going on. Eventually REO, Cheap Trick and Kansas filed in and I got down to business.
After the Kansas Meet & Greet with VIP’s I spoke with guitarist Richard Williams about the band’s latest offering, Works in Progress, which features songs from some of the groups more eclectic releases. We also spoke about an exciting solo project in the works titled Native Window featuring all of Kansas sans Steve Walsh.
My cameraman Paul, his daughter and I were hanging around backstage waiting for more people to interview when Kevin Cronin came walking out eating his dinner. We waited for him to get done and then approached him. Kevin was more than happy to talk with us. We discussed REO’s latest CD Find Your Own Way Home. The cover of the new album has what Cronin described as a moral compass on it. He said the band had the most unique backstage pass ever invented. He said we had to see one to totally understand what he was talking about. Our camera went on pause and Kevin went running around backstage trying to find one of the passes. After several moments he returned. The camera focused in on the pass which had a spinner and a circle. Around the edges of the circle were answers that were reminiscent of the Magic 8 Ball game. Kevin asked the moral compass if this was going to be the best Moondance Jam ever and then spun the spinner. The backstage pass answered with a resounding ‘yes.’ He then asked if Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander would be grabbed by the good-looking girl in the third row but, unfortunately for Robin, the moral compass told us it would not come to pass.
The next interview we did was with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen. The band has played several Moondance Jams over the years and when I asked if they even bother booking the show he told me that they don’t. Cheap Trick just shows up and plays. He also told me they don’t get paid anymore. He said they were paid in beer and since he no longer drinks everyone in the crowd could have his free beer. Once again, it looked as if my career as the Moondance Official Roving Reporter may be cut short.
Oddly enough, the rumor milling around was that Cheap Trick were having trouble with some demented fans and were even being stalked. This may have some truth to it as the band’s tour manager seemed bothered that I spoke to Rick even though it was Nielsen who said, "If Kevin Cronin talked to you then I had better talk to you too." Also, each member of the band was escorted to and from the stage by a bodyguard. We certainly hope that whatever is going on gets solved soon as Cheap Trick is too good a band to be bothered by people like this. To show our appreciation to Rick for talking to us I hooked him and the rest of the band up with the new Paul Rodgers DVD and CD Live in Glasgow as I had heard he was a fan of the singer.
With the interviews out of the way we made our way out front to check out the first band of the day, Kansas.
Set List Highlights: Sparks of the Tempest / Paradox / Miracles Out of Nowhere / Icarus II / Icarus: Borne on Wings of Steel / Eleanor Rigby / Song for America / Point of Know Return / Portrait / Dust in the Wind / Carry On Wayward Son
Kansas was slotted as the Day II opener and took the stage at 4:30. It would have made the day much better to have Big Head Todd take the opening spot and have Kansas, Cheap Trick and REO play back-to-back-to-back. The Moondance Jam crowd proved my theory correct as they filed in and filled the place, which is very rare for a 4:30 time slot. Kansas was actually returning to the Moondance after a long absence. The band played Moondance IV back in 1996.
Kansas is a musician’s band who happened to write some of classic rock’s most beloved anthems. "Point of Know Return," "Dust in the Wind" and "Carry On Wayward Son" are what the uninitiated come to see the band play but for the group’s biggest fans these could be dropped from the set list. Kansas is known for three things besides these famous songs: Extended complex musical passages, Steve Walsh’s unique vocals and the fact that they have a violin in the band. Manning the violin is David Ragsdale, who has replaced original member Robby Steinhardt. Rags is a trained virtuoso on the instrument which forces the rest of the band to take things to a higher level. Musically, a Kansas line up that includes Ragsdale is musically superior to one that does not. He also plays guitar and sings backing vocals.
Guitarist Rich Williams was the victim of technical trouble for a good portion of the set but he played around the guitar techs until he finally took things in his own hands and shooed them out of the way. The fans in the crowd didn’t notice as he blistered out crisp, precise solos and switched from electric to acoustic with grace. Steve Walsh sounded great on vocals and that is saying a lot considering how hard Kansas music is to sing. The reclusive vocalist even cracked a smile or two as the band pumped its music out to the near capacity crowd.
Bass player Billy Greer is the new front man with Steinhardt out of the band. Aside from emcee duties he also sings Robby’s parts. Drummer Phil Ehart may be the most underrated drummer in rock history. He draws all eyes to him and puts on a drum clinic of massive proportions. "Song For America" and "Miracles Out of Nowhere" showcase the multi-talented band’s strengths while the back-to-back performances of "Icarus II" and "Icarus: Borne on Wings of Steel" had the hard core Kansas Wheatheads in heaven.
Kansas threw a few surprise songs into the set but none was more well received than their Kansas-ized version of the Beatles classic "Eleanor Rigby." Walsh delivered a spectacular vocal on the famous tune. The band’s classic three followed and they left to a standing ovation.
Set List Highlights: Boom Boom Boom / Bittersweet
Big Head Todd are much more suited to play a Jam Band Fest than an event like the Moondance Jam. Aside from the John Lee Hooker cover "Boom, Boom, Boom" and their own hit single "Bittersweet" the band never really caught on. They have a core following who worships them but they did not at all seem at home at Moondance. It was odd to see a band slated at 7:00PM actually draw less people than the opening act but that was the case. It also had to be difficult to follow Kansas.
Big Head Todd put on a good enough show but the tunes were mostly mellow and the musicianship was well below the band who played before them. After watching several songs I retreated to the Lazy Moon Backstage Bar and watched them on TV while sipping a soda and eating some homemade potato chips. I was unimpressed with Big Head Todd’s guitar skills. He knows the pentatonic scales but seems more interested in flashy moves like sliding his hand up and down the neck than he does with actually playing anything interesting. The band was bland with no frills. They had few songs anyone had ever heard and they did nothing on stage, musically or visually, to stimulate much interest.
Set List Highlights: Big Eyes / If You Want My Love / Welcome to the World / Best Friend / I Want You to Want Me / I Know What I Want / Voices / The Flame / Surrender / Dream Police / Auf Wiedersehen
Cheap Trick are touring behind one of the best albums they have released in decades titled Rockford. The band played several cuts from the new record and the fans danced and cheered them on. In the day and age when new songs from classic rock bands are greeted with crowds going to get a beer or to the porta potty this is quite a compliment. It is no surprise to anyone that has heard Rockford, however. "Welcome to the World" and "Come On, Come On, Come On" each have the classic CT charm that can be found on In Color, Heaven Tonight and Dream Police.
Trick pulled out a good set list but the new tunes replaced some classics they played last time they performed at Moondance such as "California Man." They did perform the album cut "Auf Wiedersehen" from Heaven Tonight, which was a welcome surprise as well as the fan favorite "Big Eyes" from In Color. Of course any Cheap Trick concert would not be complete without "I Want You to Want Me," "Surrender" and "Dream Police."
While it was a good outing, it was not the best outing I have seen them play. They were much stronger and dynamic two years ago at Moondance Jam 14. Guitarist Rick Nielsen is still a terminal teenager, flinging picks in the audience, standing on a box and playing guitar and chatting with the crowd as if they were an old friend. Robin Zander looks cool as hell and sounds stronger than ever. Bun E. Carlos and Tom Petersson hold down the fort with ease. The band could just go though the motions at this stage of their career but the fact that they are still playing deep album cuts and coming up with new songs every bit as strong as their classics shows that Cheap Trick is a great band that is deserving of a Hall of Fame induction.
Set List Highlights: Find Your Own Way Home, / Take It on the Run / Music Man / Keep Pushin’ / Tough Guys / Back on the Road Again / Golden Country / Don't Let Him Go / Keep on Loving You / Roll with the Changes / Time for Me to Fly / Ridin’ the Storm Out / 157 Riverside Avenue
REO Speedwagon is a true meat and potatoes Midwestern rock band. No matter how many times you see them in concert you always walk away feeling good inside. They have performed "Time For Me To Fly," "Roll with the Changes" and "Ridin’ the Storm Out" thousands of times. They could play them with their eyes closed and still sound good. But instead of resting on their laurels the band performs them like it was their first time debuting the tracks. Leader Kevin Cronin has an energy about him that sets the tone for an REO show. Vocally, he sounds great and he continues to shine creatively as the songs performed tonight from their new album Find Your Own Way Home attest to. The best of the newbies was the title track although "Dangerous Combination" and "I Needed to Fall" were both received well.
Guitarist Dave Amato does Gary Richrath on guitar better than Gary Richrath making the hole left by the gifted guitar player more palatable. Bryan Hitt is so good on the drums it is scary and bass player Bruce Hall is as fun to watch as he is to listen to. In fact, when he bounces around the stage during his lead vocal on "Back on the Road Again" one can’t help but bounce along with him. The mainstay of the group is founding member and keyboard player Neal Doughty. Perched up on a riser he adds the flavor to many of Speedwagon’s best tracks including "Roll with the Changes" and "Don’t Let Him Go."
One of the major highlights of the set was "Golden Country." REO does not always pull this tune out but when they do you can rest assured it is spellbinding. Couple this with the classic tunes "Keep on Loving You" and "Take It on the Run" and you have yourself the perfect end to Day II of Sweet 16.
Gold: The New Cars
Silver: The Fixx
Bronze: Soul Asylum
Copper: Rick Derringer
Magical Moondance Moment: Black Maria
Day III of the Moondance Jam was more quiet backstage – at least initially. The New Cars stayed on their bus most of the time. No one knew what the Fixx or Soul Asylum looked like and Rick Derringer stayed to himself. The cages were rattled when a band arrived that would be performing four shows in only two days – three in the saloon and one on the main stage. ThundHerStruck is an all girl AC/DC Tribute band from California. Sweet 16 would be their second appearance at the Moondance Jam. They kicked so much ass during Jam 15 that they were invited back.
Moondance is and will always be about celebrating good times while seeing the best national classic rock acts perform on the big stage. But, suffice it to say that ThundHerStruck adds a new dimension to the party. For starters, the girls are all sexy as hell. More important, however, is the fact that they can freaking rock. The band were voted best tribute band by All Access Magazine. Guitarist Tina Woods has recently been featured in Guitar World magazine and won a ‘best gutiar player’ award from All Access as well. Vocalist Dyna Shirasaki is an award winning vocalist as is bass player Andrea Zermeno. Drummer Stephanie Leigh is a high energy drummer who is related to the Energizer Bunny — she keeps going and going and going. Rhythm guitar player Carin Toti is a cute little firecracker who plays the part of Malcolm Young and allows Tina to solo her ass off.
The girls have fun. The Moondance Jam is all about fun. This is a match made in heaven. I met up with them as soon as they came in and was soon in their dressing room hanging out. ThunderHerStruck’s biggest fan was also there sporting his new tattoo of the band’s logo. The girls were in awe that he would permanently advertise them on his body.
After carrying Carin’s guitar to the saloon, where they would be performing two sets, I walked backstage where I ran into friend of Classic Rock Revisited Kasim Sultan. Kasim is one of the hardest working men in the business, who aside from playing bass for Meat Loaf and being his musical director, also is the bass player for the New Cars. Sultan and New Cars member Todd Rundgren go way back. They both played on the classic Bat Out of Hell album by Meat Loaf (Rundgren produced the album as well) but also were in the Rundgren led Utopia. I spoke with Kasim for a time before disappearing back into the dressing room. Carin asked me who I was talking to and became very happy when I told her. She is big fan of Utopia and asked me to introducer her. We gingerly snuck down the hallway to the New Cars dressing room and peaked around the corner where Kasim was sitting on a couch smiling at us with his famous wide-toothed grin. I introduced them and they talked for a short time.
I checked the time and saw that Rick Derringer was about to go on. I made my way to the VIP tent where we gave away a few thousand dollars of CD’s, DVD’s and autographed photos in a raffle for the VIP ticket holders. This marked our third year of doing the VIP giveaway. It is a ton of fun to meet the Jammers up close and personal. If they enjoyed us half as much as we enjoyed them then we will be back to do it next year.
Set List Highlights: Still Alive & Well / Pride & Joy / Hang on Sloopy / Play Guitar / Rock n’ Roll Hootchie Coo / Guitars & Woman
Rick Derringer has had an amazing career. He first became known as the guitarist for the McCoys and their classic hit "Hang on Sloopy." Later, he played with both Edgar and Johnny Winter and was best known for Edgar’s hits "Free Ride" and "Frankenstein." Derringer seemed slightly out of place on the same bill as The Fixx, Soul Asylum and the New Cars but he did hold the promise of starting the day out with some bluesy hard rocking guitar.
Rick still has the chops and he still can play with flash. He has a set list of songs to satisfy. Unfortunately, his stage show diminishes his skills and takes away from the songs. Derringer gives a canned show complete with silly jokes, rehearsed responses from his bass player and snare drum/cymbal crashes to highlight the punch line. His shtick wears thin quickly. He comes off like a bad lounge act — not even a Vegas lounge act, more like something you might see in a small bar in Reno.
When he wasn’t making bad jokes, he was ranting on and on about his politics and the military. Remember, his is the 4:30 opening time slot. There is not a lot of time for him to be on stage. When he finally put his act to rest and used his voice to sing instead of praise, preach or be a comedian he was great. "Rock N’ Roll Hootchie Coo" and "Still Alive & Well" are great songs. Watching the man solo was fun as he is one of old school rock’s best. Unfortunately, he wasted a lot of time trying to make us guess which State made one of his songs the Official State song instead of just playing it. When he played, he was great, he just didn’t play enough.
Set List Highlights: Saved by Zero / Red Sky at Night / One Thing Leads to Another / Stand or Fall
The Fixx were the surprise band of the Jam. Going into the gig I could only remember the tune "One Thing Leads to Another" from the skinny tie band but after watching them perform a whole set I was quite impressed with both their line up and their musicianship. "Red Sky at Night" is a great song and the crowd enjoyed singing the oh oh oh’s. "Saved by Zero" is another New Wave classic as well.
Backstage the band’s dressing room was right next to ThundHerStruck. The band and I tried to get them to come over by singing "Red Sky at Night" as loud as we could. When we got no response, we peaked around the corner to find nothing but half empty wine bottles and half-eaten plates of food in the room. We just missed them.
The bottom line here is not to judge a book by it’s cover. At first glance I thought this might be one band I would skip. In the end, they surprised me and even impressed me. They are true to their 80's roots but they do what they do very well.
Set List Highlights: Somebody to Shove / Black Rain / Runaway Train
Soul Asylum were a last minute addition to the Moondance Jam roster. Smashmouth was supposed to play in this spot but cancelled. All things said this was a step in the right direction. However, other than the three songs listed above no one was very familiar with the band. They opened with "Somebody to Shove" which seemed odd since it was one of their biggest tunes. Die-hard fans of the band loved the performance as they are talented and can play well but most of the crowd would have rather seen someone else.
Set List Highlights: Let’s Go / Shake It Up / My Best Friends Girl / Dangerous Type / Moving In Stereo / All Mixed Up / Black Maria / You Might Think / Drive / Bang The Drum All Day / You’re All I’ve Got Tonight / Bye Bye Love / Just What I Needed / Let the Good Times Roll
The New Cars? How can a group of musicians’ get together and play songs by the Cars in a band that does not include original member, guitarist, vocalist and main songwriter Ric Ocasek? I will tell you how: Hire Todd Rundgren. What you get is 90% classic Cars with a few Rundgren classics thrown in for good measure. The result is an astonishing concert. Remember this: The Cars were not a good live band. In fact, they took a lot of beatings from rock critics on their failure to perform on the live stage. The New Cars, featuring original Cars members Elliot Easton on guitar and Greg Hawkes on keyboards, are joined on stage by three dynamic and talented musicians. Prairie Prince, most known as the drummer of the Tubes, is colorful and competent. Kasim Sultan plays bass and sings lead and background vocals and Todd Rundgren — well his talent speaks for itself. Rundgren is highly respected by the industry, fans and critics alike.
The New Cars have a wealth of songs to choose from but, much to this writers delight, they played several tracks from the Cars first two albums. The band cranked out huge hits such as "My Best Friends Girl," "Good Times Roll," "Just What I Needed" and "Lets Go" alongside album cuts and fan favorites "You’re All I’ve Got Tonight," "Bye Bye Love" and "Dangerous Type." Easton shines as a member of the New Cars as he was probably the best pure musician in the original band. The left-handed guitarist’s solo styling remains as crisp and pure as it was back in the day.
As good as the classics were, the best songs of the show were not what one would expect. "All Mixed Up" from the Cars debut album was one of the best musical moments of the entire jam. Other highlights included Rundgren’s classic "Bang the Drum All Day" – performed with acoustic instruments. The crowd enjoyed the change of pace and sang along during the acoustic segment before the band jumped back to their electric counterparts and rocked it home. The best song of the set, the night and the entire Moondance Jam, was Rundgren’s "Black Maria." Rundgren gave an amazing performance of the tune. Todd played a blistering gutiar solo that left all in attendance in awe.
The Cars ended Day III with a bang but the evening was not over for a couple thousand Jammers. As soon as "Good Times Roll" hit the final notes everyone scurried over to the Saloon to hear ThundHerStruck. They played a Bon Scott filled set of AC/DC classics to a packed house. Day III may have started with a whimper but it ended with a bang.
Silver: The Moody Blues
Copper: Rick Springfield
Magical Moondance Moment: The Crowd Leaving Moody Blues for ThundHerStruck
Day IV was quite backstage. All of the bands seemed content to stay in their dressing rooms. I got to say hello to Toto’s Steve Lukather and Simon Phillips during the VIP Meet & Greet but other than that it turned into just a time to hangout and talk with friends. Backstage Director Mark Kirchhoff and Stage Manager Kevin Abernathy were hanging out knowing they were only hours a way from the close of another successful Jam. Promoters Jack Jordan and Jack Thibault were backstage as well and seemed to be happy with the event’s success. It was great to have a chance to sit and talk to Mountain Ash’s Mark Juenemann and Brandon Fjetland and to shoot the breeze with the official Moondance Photographer Terry aka The Moondance Icon. I also was able to talk biz with 22nd Century Magazine Editor Robert Tuozzo.
The opening slot for Day IV was supposed to go to The Family Stone but they were a last minute cancellation. I don’t think anyone in the entire State of Minnesota was too disappointed by the cancellation – especially when it was announced ThundHerStruck was taking their place. What these girls do on stage is hard to put into words. Imagine going to see AC/DC except that instead of five short foreign dudes on stage you get five good-looking girls. Imagine that instead of just hearing the biggest hits you get to hear some classics that don’t make the AC/DC set list anymore like "Nightcrawler," "Big Balls," "Walk All Over You" and "Girls Got Rhythm." Now you get the picture.
Only two days before Kansas had broken the opening act attendance record. Now, ThundHerStruck holds the record for the second largest opening audience. It was amazing to see people stacked on top of each other jamming along to the songs and partying with the girls. During their set lead vocalist Dyna Shirasaki instructed the Moondance staff to bring Moondance Jam owner Bill Bieloh to the stage. A couple of songs later Bill walked on stage with a huge smile on his face. ThundHerStruck presented him with an autographed guitar to hang on the saloon wall with other Moondance Jam memorabilia. Bill accepted the gift and asked the crowd if they wanted to see the girls next year. Everyone cheered. When Bill said, "You better do better than that" the entire area exploded into an uproar. It was the loudest applause of the event. Suffice it to say that the odds are very good that ThundHerStruck will return to Walker, Minnesota in 2008.
Set List Highlights: Pamela / Bottom of My Soul / Hold the Line / Rosanna / Africa
There are not many bands in musical history that have the sheer musical ability of Toto. The band has won seven Grammy awards and sold tens of millions of albums behind such hits as "Hold the Line," "Rosanna" and "Africa." The band is led today by guitar player Steve Lukather and vocalist Bobby Kimball. They are backed by the best session musicians on the planet. We are talking guys who have played with Sting, Eric Clapton, Judas Priest, Asia, Jeff Beck, Mick Jaggar and a host of others. Not surprisingly, Toto put on a musical display of virtuosity.
The set list featured a lot of newer songs and a lot of extended jazz-like jamming. The groove was more than solid and many were in awe of the talent that was being displayed before them. Toto may have a reputation as being a pop band that plays ballads but that is only one side of them. Today’s Toto is not afraid to mix it up and jam. It was a solid performance by an incredible band. The vibe may have been better served in an auditorium than at a festival but for those who took a break from whooping it up and drinking beer Toto proved they are a professionally tight and incredible band.
Set List Highlights: Tuesday Afternoon / The Voice / I Know You're Out There Somewhere / The Story in Your Eyes, / Your Wildest Dreams / Isn't Life Strange / I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock n’ Roll Band) / Nights in White Satin / Question / Ride My See Saw
No one knew what to expect from the Moody’s. After all this band is celebrating their 43rd year together in 2007. The band wasted no time jumping into the hits and before "Tuesday Afternoon" was over the band proved they are still viable. Justin Hayward sounds as if it were 1967 and he just joined the band. His vocal prowess and musical talents are still top notch. Joined by other Moody stapes, John Lodge on bass and drummer Graeme Edge on drums, the Moody Blues have some eye candy on stage in the form of a female keyboard player and flute player. The ladies are very pretty but they also are expert players.
One look at the set list shows that the Moody’s played some of the most classic songs ever written. Again, it may not have been the best band for a festival as they are very mellow. However, the band sounded great and the songs were welcome to these ears.
Set List Highlights: Affair of the Heart / Allison / I’ve Done Everything For You / Don’t Talk to Strangers / Jessie’s Girl
While Toto and the Moody Blues were superior musically, Rick Springfield, also known as soap star Dr. Noah Drake, went over better with the fans who wanted to party. Rick had a guitar malfunction on stage and he ended up throwing his instrument twenty feet in the air allowing it to crash down onto the stage. He selected audience members to sing into his microphone during "Don’t Talk to Strangers" and he had everyone dancing during "Jessie’s Girl." Not surprisingly, he went over much better with the women in the audience than he did with the guys. Some may say it is jealously over his good looks and the fact that scores of women love to flash their tits at him — hell, maybe that is it. Being Rick Springfield would have its advantages. Still, when all you are is eye candy and your best song is a Sammy Hagar remake ("I’ve Done Everything For You") then there is just not enough substance there to remain valid.
Springfield deserved the opening slot but he got lucky and closed Moondance Jam Sweet 16 because the Moody Blues (the official headliner) had to play the 9:00PM slot due to tour routing. Rick made the most of it. He had the ladies heated up and ready to go. I am sure many Jammer Hubbies owe Rick a thank you card for the treat they got when they went back to the camper.
Once again, people were leaving the main stage to get a good spot in the Saloon for ThundHerStruck. The ultimate AC/DC female tribute band played after the Moody Blues and after Rick Springfield. In the saloon after the Moody Blues one Jammer, who was not a Rick Springfield fan stated, "Why don’t they just let these girls play? I don’t want to see Rick Springfield. I guess I will watch them now then go back to my camper and pound my pud and then come back to the Saloon later."
In the end, Day IV was not the strongest Moondance Jam line up I have ever seen. It goes without saying, though, that it was still amazing fun. It ended up being a career moment for ThundHerStruck as they were the best band of the day – beating out the Moody Blues by a hair.
When the dust settled, I made my way back to the casino for a late night bacon cheeseburger. I turned the corner to get in line at the snack bar and ran smack dab into ThundHerStruck. We talked about the magic of Moondance and how this festival is unlike anything either of us have ever experienced.
I suppose anyone could fork over the cash and hire a bunch of bands to play a festival. Yet, it would not be the same for the Magic of Moondance goes beyond the music. The Spirit of the Moondance Jam is sacred. It is a place where friendships are made and families reunite. There is bond between those who have returned to Walker, Minnesota year in and year out. The magic calls out to new people every year who can’t help but be called to the site. If you are there for the right reasons then you will discover the Magic and it will take hold of you and never let go. You will be in agony for months waiting for Bill and Kathy to announce who they have signed for the next Jam. And when the time arrives you will once again find yourself on a mystical journey that takes you beyond the physical elements of Walker, Minnesota and into four days of heaven.
Bill and Kathy Bieloh, Mark Kirchhoff, Paul and his Daughter, Michele from New Mexico who came all the way to Moondance after reading my article, Ian from England, the cooks who fed us dinner, everyone working in the VIP tent, ALL the VIP Jammers, the AMAZING security staff – you’re the best I have ever seen, Dan Wall and the guy who looks like Phil Collins, Ryan and Chrissy Trowbridge – great to see you again, The Senior Trowbridge’s – enjoy the CD ya won, Mark Juenemann, Brandon Fjetland, Beau the Jam Web Guy, Sean Turner, the PBS guy who takes my picture in the photo pit each year, all the cool photographers I hung out with and met, THE MOONDANCE ICON, Superfan & Woman, Robert Tuozzo, Kevin Abernathy – sorry I got you in trouble, Kevin’s wife, sister-in-law and the lady from Canada, ROGAR, Dyna, Steph, Carin, Andrea and Tina, the wonderful staff at The Lazy Moon, the Jammer Guys and Girls for helping us with the VIP Giveaway, Ron & Jen’s friends - good to see you again, bring Ron & Jen back next year, the nice people at the Rock n’ Roll Purse tent, the people who run the shop that sells the crickets and elephants, the guy who played our interviews on the jumbo tron, Lisa Miller from the radio station – lets talk some next year and Laura Kremers from the ‘other’ radio station – we didn’t get to hang out enough this year. Special thanks to Rick Nielsen, Kevin Cronin, Bryan Hitt, Rich Williams, Rick Allen, Troy Luccketta, Dave Rude and Mike Reno for doing the interviews. We can’t forget some special friends to Classic Rock Revisited, Phil Collen, Viv Campbell, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Kimmie Sue (and Timmy), Cynthia Michelle, Eagle Rock Entertainment for the product to give away, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and Dennis DeYoung for signing the photos we gave away from last years Moondance Jam. Last but not least to everyone who reads this and to all the people on the Moondance board – I lurk. I hope this gets you to talking about Sweet 16.
Down on Me, I Stand Alone, The Lumberjack Song, When It’s Over, Hot Girls in Love, Turn Me Loose, Workin’ For the Weekend, The Kid is Hot Tonight,Rock Bottom, Modern Day Cowboy, Love Song, Song & Emotion, Thank You, What You Give, Signs, Carry On Wayward Son, Point of Know Return, Dust in the Wind, Paradox, Song for America, Bittersweet, Boom Boom Boom, The Flame, Dream Police, I Want You to Want Me, Surrender, Take It on the Run, Keep on Loving You, Tough Guys, Can ‘t Fight This Feeling, Back on the Road Again, Keep Pushin’, Golden Country, Roll with the Changes, Time For Me to Fly, Ridin’ the Storm Out, Hang on Sloopy, Rock n’ Roll Hootchi Coo, Red Sky at Night, One Thing Leads to Another, Saved By Zero, Rosanna, Hold the Line, Africa, Somebody to Shove, Black Rain, Runaway Train, Tuesday Afternoon, The Voice, Singer in a Rock n’ Roll Band, Nights in White Satin, Question, Ride My See Saw, I’ve Done Everything for You, Jessie’s Girl, Lets Go, Shake It Up, My Best Friends Girl, Candy O, Black Maria, Moving In Stereo, You Might Think, Drive, Bang the Drum, You’re All I’ve Got Tonight, Bye Bye Love, Just What I Needed, Open My Eyes, Good Times Roll, Rocket, Animal, Foolin’, Mirror Mirror, Another Hit & Run, Love Bites, Rock On, Bringin’ on the Heartbrake, Armageddon It, Photograph, Pour Some Sugar on Me.