WALKER - Who would you trust with managing the needs of national touring bands and their crews at Minnesota's largest outdoor rock music festival? How about a bank accountant and a real estate closer?
When the Scorpions exit the stage tonight at the end of its performance and the lights go down, it will close the 11th Moondance Jam, held at the Moondance concert site 5 miles outside of Walker. Combined attendance will top 60,000 fans for the four-day event.
In her "real life," as she calls it, Deb Wiemann works for Seague Title and Real Estate of Walker and Mark Kirckoff is an accountant for Wells Fargo of Minneapolis. At Moondance Jam, Kirckoff, who also plays in the local band Mountain Ash, manages the stage and supports crews as they set up for each performance.
Wiemann also makes sure everybody gets fed.
In his seventh year, Kirckoff said he learned on the job at Moondance Jam, at first managing the smaller stages for regional bands and eventually taking over from former stage manager Paul Nye.
The groups have to set up backwards each day to make a transition between the four to five major acts each day easier, he said. When Scorpions take the stage as the final act following Deep Purple tonight, its stage crew will be the first to set up at 7 a.m.
"We do whatever we have to do to make sure the 10,000 to 20,000 fans in the concert arena see the show they've paid to see," said Kirckoff. "I see my role as a traffic cop. Hopefully the set up, takedown and performance is all a seamless operation."
Wiemann, along with Dawn Anderson, who she calls her lieutenant, caters to the crews and performers, which is usually 200-250 people daily. While the stories of extravagant requests by performers on the road abound, Wiemann said that most of the musicians usually have simple needs that can be met by a quick trip to the grocery store.
"You just have to remember that they are continually traveling and may not have the time to make a stop to get the needs of a special diet met," said Wiemann. "We just try to make sure they are comfortable while they are here."
Kirckoff said that each year presents some special challenges but they are usually easily met. Two years ago, the Beach Boys were scheduled to perform at 9 p.m. here after an afternoon show in Virginia and the band was held up due to a flight cancellation. Set to be the closing act, Peter Frampton agreed to play first and the Beach Boys, albeit a little late, made it in time to go on stage as the closer.
"What do you tell 20,000 people waiting to see a certain show and many of whom waiting in the sun all day? Do you just tell them to go home?," he asked. "Luckily we haven't been to that point and the bands we've had here have all been fairly easily to work with."
Kirckoff said he has been around musicians and bands since he was an eighth-grader and began playing in a band with his friends in his hometown of Kenyon, Minn., so he knows the business and he knows how to let the crews do their jobs.
"I'm just the traffic cop here," he said. "If I let them do their jobs and direct them where they should go, it all usually works out fine."
Both Wiemann and Kirckoff agreed that despite the 18-hour days and hard work in the hot sun, they keep coming back because they love the people, the music and working with Moondance owners and promoters Bill and Kathy Bieloh, whom they credit with making the event a party for the entire Walker community.
"This is a nice break from my regular job," said Wiemann. "Bill and Kathy want to be sure that everybody who comes here, whether working or just here for the music, has a good time."
"It's more that just a music festival," Kirckoff said. "Unless you've been here, it's hard to explain it to someone who hasn't. What's evident is that nearly everybody who comes, returns for the next Jam."