There have been hundreds of reports on Walker, Minnesota’s Moondance Jam over the events 14 year history. All of them pretty much say the same thing: The bands were great; the camping was a blast; the staff was wonderful. Well, I am happy to announce that Moondance Jam’s Fab 14 party continues in the tradition of excellence. However, instead of just reporting a play-by-play of the bands, I will attempt to describe our Moondance experience from beginning to end in hopes of inspiring you, the reader, into checking out Jam 15. Check out our Moondance Photo Gallery!
Day I and II
Our story begins in the Wichita, Kansas Hotel Hilton Bar back in 2003. As I sat having a drink with my daughter, a voice from behind asked me if I was Jeb Wright of Classic Rock Revisited. Surprised, I turned and began talking to a man who said he was in the band Mountain Ash. Mountain Ash was part of a band exchange program between the Moondance Jam in Minnesota and the Wheatland Jam in Kansas. Each year, a Kansas band travels to Minnesota to play their festival while Mountain Ash takes the trip south to jam in the hot Kansas sun. The man I was speaking with was Mountain Ash guitarist Mark Kirchhoff. In addition to being the bands lead guitar player, Kirchhoff is also the Backstage Director at Moondance Jam. Mark touted the festival and shared the events history with me. I was very impressed but with Moondance only a few days away there was no way I could make travel arrangements in time. Mark proved to be a great salesman and over the course of the next two years he kept inviting me to come up and check out Moondance. Finally, in July of 2005, we decided to make the trek north and see for ourselves if this event really lived up to all the hype.
Unfortunately, a previous engagement kept us from being able to attend Wednesday’s opening night featuring 38 Special and Lynyrd Skynyrd. We were told by everyone in attendance that both bands were excellent and that Skynyrd was at the top of their game. Instead of enjoying opening night, I was packing my bags and getting ready to pick up Jon Fultz. Jon has contributed to CRR in the past, logging many hours on the road and conducting the odd interview. As grateful as I am to know Jon, I must admit that he is one ugly son of a bitch at 5:30 in the morning! Groggy but excited we headed to the airport and hopped a jet bound for Minneapolis. Once we arrived, CRR scribe Ron Bozich met us at the airport along with his son Jared. We shot across town and packed up Ron’s RV and headed out to the highway for the three hour drive to Walker, Minnesota. I quickly realized from my position of sitting in the back of the Minnie Winnie that we may not ever make it to the Moondance Jam as Ron was driving so fast that if the vehicle had wings I am sure we would have been airborne. The need for speed was not the only reason for our concern. The terror that was in our eyes came from the combination of speeding, Ron’s fiddling with the CD player, eating lunch and constantly turning around to talk to us! Halfway through the drive, he pulled over and announced his teenage son would be driving for the next hour. Jon and I got out our Rosaries and began to pray but soon felt a rush of relief as the younger Bozich kept things between the lines, drove at a legal rate of speed and never once turned around to speak to us. We were going to make it after all!
We pulled into a gas station about a half an hour south of Walker and gassed up the big rig. The lady behind the counter asked us if we were going to the concert. She informed us that on opening day it took people an average of four hours to make the twenty minute drive! She told us this year the Jam was expecting between 25,000 and 30,000 people each day of the event. We looked at each other and began to wonder if this was true. Is there really a classic rock event in Minnesota that can draw those kind of numbers? 30,000 people in Walker, Minnesota? For those of you who do not know, Walker is a town with a population of around 1,000 for 361 days of the year. During Moondance, however, the town grows considerably. Moondance has allowed the town of Walker to prosper and offer many things to its residents that they would not have if it were not for the Jam.
Mark had given us his cell phone and told us to call when we arrived at the venue, that way he could personally see to it that our camping, tickets and passes were handled properly. As we drove up to the entrance, the event staff had no idea who we were and had not talked to Mark. About that time we heard the opening chords to Blue Oyster Cult’s “E.T.I.” blasting from the main stage. Blue Oyster Cult were not on the line up this year so I looked at my Moondace Jam schedule and discovered that Mountain Ash was currently onstage. Getting ahold of Mark would be impossible so we pulled over and waited it out and listened to the boys belt out tunes from Pink Floyd and The Who. Once their set was done, Mark took care of everything and we were escorted to our camping spot right by the stage. Our troubles were not over though as Ron’s RV stuck out about ten feet into the road – a road that led to the main entrance of the Jam. We tried to angle it in to no avail – this spot was simply not going to work. As we stood scratching our heads a man and woman drove up to us in a golf cart and said we were going to have to move. We agreed but asked where should we go? He said he would be back in a moment to drive around and help us find a spot. At the time he was driving around a young couple who were going to get married at the Jam on the main stage the next day. He said once he finished the tour he was giving the soon-to-be newlyweds was over that he would be back. We later found out that the couple we had been talking to with were Bill and Kathy Bieloh – the owners of the festival.
Bill and Kathy began the Moondance Jam as a way to promote riding stables they owned. Year one featured regional bands but it was quickly obvious that the couple had struck upon a good idea. Year two, national acts Head East and the Ozark Mt. Daredevils appeared at the Jam and by year seven Moondance was in full swing with bands such as Steve Miller, April Wine and Yes taking the stage. Since then, Moondance has continued to grow with each year surpassing the previous one. The Moondance Jam is widely considered to be the best outdoor classic rock festival in the United States – and things only appear to be getting better.
Bill came back around and after a few tries, we finally found a beautiful campsite and got settled in for the evening. We sauntered up to the main stage where Mark met us and gave us our laminates for backstage access. As we wondered around getting familiar with the area, I ran into Ryan Trowbridge, the owner and promoter of the Wheatland Jam. We spoke with Ryan and his lovely girlfriend Chrissie for several moments before being joined in our conversation by Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon. Kevin and Ryan bantered over how much it would take to get REO to come back to his festival and how impressed we all were by this years Moondance lineup. By now, the five o’clock hour was approaching and Loverboy were making their way to the stage.
Loverboy got the crowd going as they blasted out “The Kid is Hot Tonight” from their debut album. What followed was basically a Best of Loverboy set. The band still sounds sharp and the crowd still responds loudly to the classics “Workin’ for the Weekend,” “Turn Me Loose” and “When It’s Over.” Mike Reno has gained some weight and no longer wears his red leather pants (thank god) and Paul Dean is starting to look more like Jimmy Dean than a rock star. Still, as visually different as Loverboy is, they still sound great and are able to deliver a time machine back to the early 80’s for nostalgic fans of their music. Next up on the main stage was Grand Funk Railroad. The band is sans Mark Farner but in his place they have added ex-38 Special vocalist Max Carl and ex-Kiss guitar player Bruce Kulick. Don Brewer still pounds the skins and Mel Schacher still plunks the bass strings. The addition of Tim Cashion makes the band a five piece wall of sound. While die-hards will never accept GFR without Farner, the rest of us are thankful they are still out on the road making kick-ass, footstompin’ music. The crowd rocked hard to “Some Kind of Wonderful” and the campers began shuffling into the concert area in earnest to sing along to “Closer to Home.” In the end, both of these opening acts got the crowd warmed up. We knew that the evening was going to keep getting better as it went along. Smiles and high fives were all around as the beer started flowing and the Jam began to rock!
Moondance Jam Special Guests and VIP’s were treated to a very unique experience during the entire Jam. A platform had been built high above the stage and was located at stage right. This unique vantage point gave people a bird’s eye view of the entire stage as well as a panoramic view of the entire crowd. From high above you could look down on your heroes while watching the roadies scurry to get the next bands gear ready to go. It was also a great spot for scoping out the bikinis in the crowd. This is just one example of the commitment to excellence Bill and Kathy Bieloh give to participants at Moondance. At the base of the stairs was Billy’s Backstage Bar where one could fest on finger food and drink free beer. Now remember, this place was for Bill’s guests and paid VIP members only. If I were attending the Moondance Jam as a fan and had to make a buying decision, then the four day VIP pass would be the way to go. Along with being able to sit in the covered VIP area, Moondance also provides free pop, beer and water to their VIPs and allows them the chance to participate in Meet & Greet opportunities with the bands playing the event. As if that were not enough, Bill and Kathy make sure the VIPs eat well by providing free dinner and delicious snack foods the entire Jam.
There would be plenty of time to eat later for at 8pm Cheap Trick took the stage to thunderous applause. Moments earlier, I eavesdropped on CT’sRick Nielsen give a radio interview. He admitted that the reason they came back to the Moondance Jam was because of all the scantily clad backstage girls! He also said that Cheap Trick was not even on the festival line up for 2005 – they just loved playing at the Jam so much they just showed up and crashed the party. The band features all four original members: Rick Nielsen on guitar; Robin Zander on guitar and vocals; Tom Petersson on bass and Bun E. Carlos on drums. The band are true rock n’ roll veterans and can put on a memorable show while on auto pilot but even the most seasoned pros can get caught up in the atmosphere of the Moondance Jam and become inspired to take it to the next level. Cheap Trick did exactly that. The band put on the best performance I have seen them do in decades. They looked good, sounded great and were totally into their performance. They pulled out some songs from the early days including “California Man” and “Southern Girls” while they played their biggest hits “Surrender,” “If You Want My Love,” “The Flame,” Dream Police” and “Voices.” Lesser known hits “Big Eyes” and “I Know What I Want” were added to the set list along with new song “Best Friend” from their incredible new release Special One. During the song “The Flame” a lady dressed in black leather pants, a black leather vest with fringes and a giant fuzzy top hat with bunny ears grabbed me and began singing. We performed a duet of the song as those around us smiled and cheered us on. After the concert, she said her name was Halie and that she was a professional singer. She gave us her card and told us to contact her. Jon fell in love with her on the spot and told me she was going to be his next ex-Wife!
The final act of the evening was REO Speedwagon. REO is no stranger to Moondance as they have made several appearances in the Jam’s 14 history – and for good reason as they are one of the Midwest’s favorite live attractions. The band continues to belt out a great live show that mixes both the rock and pop eras of the band’s popularity. The set list included “Like You Do,” “Riding the Storm Out,” “Time For Me to Fly,” “Roll with the Changes,” “Keep On Loving You,” “Take It On The Run,” “Tough Guys,” “Don’t Let Him Go” and “Back on the Road Again.” Cronin explained to the crowd that the best REO songs were always written when the bands personal lives were in shambles. He explained the energy of the chaos somehow inspired him to reach deeper and create songs with more emotion and feeling. He then announced that every band member’s personal life was “a complete fucking mess’ as the band went into two new songs. Afterwards Cronin reported that next year REO would be putting out a new studio album of all new material.
Backstage before the show, REO met with dozens of Moondance Jam VIP’s, taking time to sign autographs and pose for pictures. I sat behind the band on a picnic table enjoying some shade and a cold beverage. REO keyboard player Neal Doughty turned to me and said to get in line and get a picture with the band. I obliged and after the shot was taken he smiled and told me that he had better see the picture on Classic Rock Revisited! Now if I only knew who snapped that shot! In the end, day one was a success. The best band of the day is a tough call to make. REO gave an awesome performance that never let up for an instant. The crowd loved “157 Riverside Avenue” and throughout the entire show they were singing along and dancing away. Cheap Trick, however, were simply brilliant. A big part of me wants to call this one a draw but if a gun were at my head I would have to give a very slight edge to Cheap Trick as they had that little extra something on this magical night. Either way, the real winners were those in the audience as being able to see these bands give incredible performances back-to-back was a delight.
Day Three started only a few hours after Day Two ended! It was with about three hours of sleep that I wandered over to the showers at the baseball complex adjacent to the Jam. On the way there I realized that I had left my soap in Kansas. Let’s face it, I was going to be in the hot sun all day and I was going to be pretty ripe by mid-afternoon but I at least wanted to wash off the previous days scum. Luckily, Ron had a bottle of body wash so I ended up clean – at least for a few hours and I didn’t have to gross out by using someone else’s bar of soap. Let this be a lesson to future Moondance Campers – make a list of everything you need before you leave home and be sure to check it twice!
If you have never been to the Moondance Jam then you will be quickly impressed. The whole event harkened back to the days when rock concerts were about more than just music. Remember camping out all night long to get tickets to see your favorite band? How about arriving several hours before the concert began and hanging out in the parking lot all day talking to people and drinking beer? It was pretty much like that – only better. During the day at Moondance there are crafts, food vendors and radio stations booths to visit as well as the official Moondance Jam Merchandise Tent. Local bands play at the Moondance Saloon from One o’clock till after Midnight. The campgrounds are filled with people drinking, cooking out, walking around and talking with each other. Everyone we met was nice and willing to shoot the breeze at a moments notice. The few assholes that reared their ugly heads were escorted out quickly by security as soon as they became too drunk and obnoxious.
We woke up with the sunrise and were showered, dressed and sitting in the Minnie Winnie while most of the campers were still sound asleep. Our adrenalin was already pumping in anticipation of the upcoming concert but none of us are as young as we used to be. If we were to make it all day and all night then we would need caffeine. Ron had some instant coffee but truth be told it sucked. We needed fresh brewed coffee and we needed it now. We walked around in search of the fresh scent of brewing grounds but found none. We thought maybe the vendors would have some but they were all closed. On our trek for Maxwell House we saw a guy passed out in the campground, face down on a picnic table. He was not moving. We were starting to wonder if he was dead. Someone else had the same thought and went and tapped him. He moved slowly to show he was alive – terribly hungover but alive. We smiled and continued on our journey. Just as we were about to give up and return to our campsite to eat a spoonful of instant coffee, I had a brilliant thought – perhaps the backstage area would have coffee. The event staff and the artists need to eat so we knew there would be people in the hospitality area. We changed course and headed back to the backstage area. We went into the sacred circle of RVs that would later house the bands and we witnessed our Holy Grail. Upon the buffet table we saw a coffee pot!
We drank up the black water and talked about the previous days events when we noticed Tommy Skeogh of Tesla wandering about. Now, this was early – way too early to see a rock star sauntering about backstage. I have interviewed Tommy on a couple of occasions and we hit it off well and have stayed in touch. We ended up sitting down and eating breakfast together. We were joined by some of the band’s crew. Telsa’s soundman bantered with one of the roadies – some guy with a fake leg – about having sex with groupies. The one legged man told of a few of his conquests but was met with skepticism by his peers. The antagonist sound guy asked, “How come we are never around when these girls come to see you?” Everyone laughed and another member of the Tesla entourage – a chubby guy with blonde hair – was soon brought into the conversation. The sound guy said, “This guy [the chubby guy] was in Tulsa with us and he had a girl there. He didn’t hide her. We all saw her.” He turned to the blond haired roadie and candidly asked, “Did you get laid?” He replied with a sheepish grin and a nervous look in his eyes, “Uh... yeah I had sex.” The sound guy didn’t buy this for a moment and quickly fired back, “I think you’re claiming something that ain’t yours.” Everyone bawled with laughter as it became obvious both guys were guilty of acting like the character Brian Johnson in the Breakfast Club when he claimed to have lost his cherry to an unnamed girl in the Niagara Falls area.
Eventually, Tommy got up and we parted ways. I went back over to where Ron and Jon were sitting and we decided to walk around the grounds. It was at this time – maybe 8:00 AM – that we noticed what we would forever refer to as Super Fan. This guy was sitting in his lawn chair, center stage a good 8 hours before the first band on the bill was to begin playing. We later found out that he was there the previous two days as well. Super Fan staked his claim early and was not going to let anyone interfere with his having the best seat in the house. What makes this even more impressive is that Super Fan had to sit there all day with the 100 degree sun beating down on him with no relief from any shade the entire time. This exemplifies the rock n’ roll spirit found at the Moondance Jam; these are some serious rockers! After seeing Super Fan, Ron and I were inspired to head back to the camper and break out the acoustic guitars. We jammed for a few hours and then headed back to the Saloon to see some local bands.
At 3:00 PM, regional act Panoramic Blue took the Main Stage and the action began. They sound a bit like Matchbox 20 but play original music. It was entertaining and the boys may have a bright future ahead of them if they continue to craft their songwriting skills. Next up was Wishbone Ash. The legendary Andy Powell took the early afternoon stage to only a few dozen fans but within minutes of hearing the bands unique harmony guitar licks, fans began to come over from the campgrounds. The band put on an amazing show as they played all their hits including the crowd pleasing “Warrior.” After the show, Andy did an interview with a 12 year old girl from Minnesota who actually has her own cable access television show – a real life Wayne’s World. She did a fine job before confessing she could not believe she was standing next to Andy Powell – now that is a young girl with both talent and great musical taste.
No band on the Moondance bill took a more devastating road to the Jam than Blackfoot. In the late 1970’s and early 80’s the bands brand of Southern Rock added a Heavy Metal element which set them apart from the rest of the pack. Songs like “Left Turn on a Red Light,” “Train Train” and “Highway Song” became FM classics and the band slogged it out on the road and developed a reputation as a killer live band. The band ended up going through many personal and personnel problems that resulted in several sub-par recordings and eventually a break up. Rickey Medlocke, the leader of the original Blackfoot has long since departed and is now the lead guitar player for Lynyrd Skynyrd. The 2nd in command was drummer Jakson Spires. In March of 2005, just as the Blackfoot reunion tour was being planned, Jak died suddenly. Bass player Greg T. Walker, Charlie Hargrett and Bobby Barth decided that Jakson would want the show to go on so they hit the road. One might be skeptical of a band without two key players being involved but have no fear, Blackfoot still rock. Charlie and Greg play from the heart and the others do all they can do to invoke the spirit of past members. The set list is strong as they play all the hits plus great remakes of classic songs such as “Wishing Well” and “I Got a Line on You.” The band is also writing new music. They played a wonderful new song dedicated to the memory of their fallen comrade Jakson Spires. After their performance, Frank Hannon from Tesla walked up to Charlie Hargrett and told him how inspiring it was to watch Blackfoot perform. It was a heartfelt moment from one guitar player to another and a well deserved compliment.
With the opening bands out of the way, the crowd was packed in to see the evening’s two headliners, Tesla and Journey. Tesla features all five original members and the band is touring to support there latest album Into the Now. The album is classic Tesla and has already moved two hundred thousand units. Anyone who is familiar with the band knows that they are killer live. They create a lot of energy and present many physical and audible dynamics. They often mix acoustic and electric guitar sounds which results in a unique vibe that is both melodic and heavy at the same time. Jeff Keith is a terminal teenager and has the energy of a hundred men. His voice is note perfect and he is the master of ceremonies onstage. Frank Hannon delivers the goods on the electric guitar; this guy can flat out play. He is the golden haired California musician who can impress with an enormous solo as well as with a classical guitar riff. Brian Wheat and Troy Luccketta hold down the rhythm section keeping everyone where they are supposed to be - even Tommy Skeoch. Tommy is the mad punk in the group. He snarls, scowls, smiles and howls with the attitude of a true rock star. He can play a mean solo as well but his role in the band is to provide the angst – he does it very well indeed. Before the show, Tommy told me that the two hours onstage is pure heaven but the traveling and waiting is pure hell. However, it would not be Telsa without some conflict. Tommy admitted, “This band puts up with a lot of shit out of me. They have to send me to rehab every five years or so. Some of the guys in this band could stand to go to rehab for their attitude. In the end, we are all brothers. Brothers fight but they love each other.” Perhaps it is the love/hate relationship and the brotherly competition that fuel Tesla. They live for the stage and they take what they are doing very seriously. Both backstage and onstage there were no signs of any drugs or alcohol within the camp so perhaps they are maturing. Let’s hope so as I would love to see Tesla around for years to come.
Journey was the final band of the night. They are out on tour promoting a new album only available in the United States at Journey concerts! Unfortunately, they had to scale back their three hour show to accommodate the festival schedule but they managed to put a few new songs in the set. Neal Schon is the captain and commander of ship Journey and has admitted that after 30 years he is finally making the band into what he envisioned 30 years ago. The band played all the hits but they also threw in the surprise of a lifetime when they covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” mixed in with a bit of “Third Stone from the Sun.” Neal Schon handled the vocals and the band totally rocked. His guitar playing is still underrated after all these years – that is a big statement as Neal is considered a guitar great, however, he is truly amazing to watch live. He handles slow melodic sections with tenderness and plays the loud parts like he is carrying a sledgehammer. He can also play fast as lightening. Watching him perform a flawless live set is breathtaking.
The rest of the band sounded tight. A fan could not believe what he was hearing. He leaned over and stated, “I thought Journey was a pussy band. I never knew they could pull of Hendrix.” The compliment may lose a little of its credibility when the same man looked at Ron and myself and asked if we were in Cheap Trick. We assured him we were not but he would not let us off the hook that easily. “Don’t do this to me man. I know you guys are in Cheap Trick” he added. He said Ron was Rick Nielsen and I was Bun E. Carlos. We looked at each other and laughed as we are not nearly as goofy looking as those guys. I offered to show him my driver’s license to prove I was not Bun and he finally believed us.
Backstage, the Journey Meet & Greet was a madhouse and I didn’t have the official Journey sticker so I knew I would not be able to talk to Neal and thank him for all he has done for Classic Rock Revisited. I sat back and watched the VIP’s grin from ear-to-ear as they met their heroes. It was fun to watch but just as I was leaving Ross Valory walked in front of me. I told him to tell Neal hello for me as I knew I would not get past their security. He asked if I knew him and I told him Classic Rock Revisited were big Journey supporters and that Neal had done three interviews with me. Ross put his hand on my back and pushed me through the security guards and said, “Just push your way in there.” Neal saw me coming as I pointed to my Classic Rock Revisited T-shirt. Schon smiled and said, “Hi Jeb” and we talked about the bands tour, the new album and how great things were going for them. I strongly feel Meet & Greets are for the fans and not for journalists. I get to touch my dreams on a regular basis when it comes to meeting rock stars. In live settings I think the fans should get the most for their money so I shook hands and left Neal to sign autographs for the people that mattered – the fans. As the night went on it was leaked that members of Whitesnake had shown up a day early to check out the action. Backstage I found Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach from Whitesnake talking with Frank Hannon of Tesla.
I had met Doug when he was with Dio. We are both friends of Guitar World writer Joe Lalaina. Doug and I talked for a while before Reb joined us. Reb and I had actually met when he was with Winger and I reminded him of the time that he played an encore with Poison only to come off stage mad as hell because they had not even plugged his guitar in. Reb looked at me and said, “Are you that Jeb Wright who used to email me all the time?” I laughed out loud because I knew exactly what he meant. Classic Rock Revisited used to have a monthly column titled Ask the Stars and Reb was on our email list. He told me that he hates these types of questions because he can’t type and that he does not feel like a rock star. I assured him I would not include him on future surveys and we had a good laugh.
The winner for Best Band of the Day is even more difficult to pick than it was for Day II. Journey put on a great show. They played with more finesse and overall power than I have seen in years. Telsa, however, delivered the goods in a major way. So, it is Telsa by a nose.
By this time we had the morning routine down. We got up early and went over to the showers so we could have plenty of hot water. Next, we went backstage to the hospitality area and had a nice warm cup of coffee and some bacon, eggs and fresh fruit. After that we walked by Super Fan and actually said a few words to him letting him know that we were impressed by his dedication. He simply replied, “Tonight is going to be great.” We ran into Mark and asked him when he wanted us to do the Classic Rock Revisited Giveaway with the VIP Jammers. We brought along several autographed items as well as around 100 CDs and DVDs. Mark instructed us that we would do the giveaway after Firehouse and if need be we would pick it up after Ratt played as well. The rest of the day was spent just hanging out and enjoying the atmosphere. Our talk centered on John’s new love and around a lady we will call Becka who we met when she asked us if she could take her picture with us. She was very friendly and appeared to be having the time of her life. She was with what we shall politely refer to as a very younger man. She told us it was her boy toy. She runs a local hotel and offered us a place to take hot showers but with our new system we were well taken care of.
Later on we ran into Halie – the woman Jon was falling for. This time she had on an oversized Uncle Sam top hat. I wondered if she lifted it from Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad. She told us that she would be singing a song she wrote at 10:15 PM on the Saloon Stage. We agreed to go but only Jon actually made it. We basically killed time laughing, checking out the girls and walking around. At 3:00 PM, Savoy Brown took the stage. We went over to watch and were actually swept off our feet at the music we heard coming out of the speakers. Now, we all knew Savoy Brown was a good band but we rather expected that maybe they would not be as good as they used to be. A lot of years have gone by and the band has not really done anything in some time. Savoy Brown is still led by Kim Simmonds. The band was a three piece for this show as Kim was joined on bass guitar by Gerry Sorrentino and on drums by Dennis Cotton. They were very impressive and while they are probably more at home in a smoky bar, the exposure had to be good for the band. They ended their show with the incredible “Hellbound Train.” Savoy Brown also debuted some new material as well. As a three piece band, Kim is forced to have his guitar up front and center at all times. The result is a very Hendrix/Robin Trower feel. The band’s new material is as strong as any of the oldies that they played.
Next up was Firehouse. We quickly went from the bluesy barroom guitar playing of Kim Simmonds to the Aqua Net world of Hair Metal. In all fairness, Firehouse has more hits than most people remember and they actually do put on a pretty good show and sound good. Their biggest hits were all played and included the songs “All She Wrote,” “Don’t Treat Me Bad,” “Love of a Lifetime,” “Reach for the Sky” and “When I Look Into Your Eyes.” We listened to the band play from the VIP area where we were setting up our table and microphone for the VIP Giveaway. Once Firehouse was done playing we announced for the VIP’s to look at the numbers on their nametags and listen for them to be called. This proved to be a tedious process as many were still in the campground area or had only a one day VIP pass and were not there at all! Still, a crowd gathered round and people got into the fun. They were shouting out their numbers and telling us what they wanted to win. The hottest items we gave away were Lynyrd Skynyrd autographed CDs, a Skynyrd autographed poster and CDs signed by Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult and Ronnie James Dio. We also had signed memorabilia by rock greats like Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, Iron Maiden, Patty Smyth and Twisted Sister. Books written by Canadian author and Classic Rock Revisited contributor Martin Popoff were highly sought after items as well. The VIP fans were having a blast when the main stage announced it was time for Ratt. We put our giveaway on hold and went back to the show.
Ratt played a quick set of all of their best known songs. “Round and Round,” “Way Cool Jr.” and “Lay It Down” were the ones that got the crowd going. The band is now fronted by journeyman Jizzy Pearl and has ex-Motley Crue replacement player John Corabi in it as well. Basically, though, it is pretty much Warren DeMartini’s band. He plays very well and Ratt, overall, sound okay. Backstage they were very into the whole Moondance experience as they hung out with just about anyone who wanted to hang out with them. Once the band was done playing, we fired our giveaway back up and did our best to give the fans something a little extra for their money. There was one teenager in the audience who was dying to get the Iron Maiden autographed picture disc. He was begging for us to give it to him but we had to leave it up to chance. Alas, he did not win. As we were tearing down our tables Jon noticed that we had an autographed Twisted Sister poster that we never gave away. We could not believe we missed that one as they were the headliners of the night. We started to plug the microphone back in when an idea hit me. I rolled the poster up and inconspicuously walked around the VIP area till I found the kid. I told him I was sorry he didn’t get the Iron Maiden picture disk and he told me how badly he wanted it. I told him I hoped this would make up for it and slipped the poster into his hands. He unrolled it and his jaw dropped followed by a smile from ear-to-ear.
Jon, Ron and I went down to the main area of the arena to watch the Moondance Jam’s tribute to our troops. The stage was filled with servicemen and flags and the MC introduced a little girl who sang two patriotic songs. The little girl had soul and showed a ton of guts for standing up there in front of thousands of fans and singing her heart out. The grand finale was a flyover from a Blackhawk Helicopter. The flyover combined with the music and video portrayed on the jumbotron was very touching. The crowd cheered louder every time the helicopter flew by. In an interesting and very funny side note, rumor has it the force of the helicopter flying over Cinderella’s merchandise booth was so great everything went air born – including the money! Speaking of Cinderella, they were on sight getting ready to take the stage.
We knew we had some time before the band went on so we went backstage to eat some dinner. Tonight’s meal was rib eye steaks. Let me tell you there is nothing better than eating well cooked steak backstage at the Moondance Jam. To make our evenings entertainment better we were joined in the eating area by members of Ratt, Firehouse, Whitesnake and Twisted Sister – including Dee Snider himself. It was a very surreal moment for a fan of hard rock. During dinner I saw Whitesnake guitar player Doug Aldrich. Doug and I had a nice conversation and we exchanged numbers so look for an upcoming interview with Doug on Classic Rock Revisited. Doug is an incredible guitar player. His playing runs the entire spectrum of guitar heroes. He can easily handle Iommi, Blackmore, Hendrix, Van Halen and Zakk Wylde’s style of playing all the while retaining his own sound. From the first time I heard this man play with DIO I knew he was a true rock star in every sense of the word. The crazy thing is how egoless Doug is. He smiles and is friendly with all around him.
After supper we headed to the main stage where Cinderella were beginning their set. Tom Keifer is a very underrated songwriter. The fact is that Cinderella have a ton of great songs and while they often get lumped into the Hair Metal scene of the 80’s they are really a killer blues-based rock band. Classic Rock Revisited had recently attended the Rock Never Stops tour in Oklahoma City. Cinderella played the exact same set and they sounded exactly the same as well. This proves what a tight band they are. To use an old rock cliché, the songs sounded ‘just like the record.’ Keifer sounds great and the crowd was into the band. The Moondance came alive with songs like “Don’t Know What You Got,” “Coming Home,” “Nobody’s Fool,” “Gypsy Road” and “Shelter Me.”
Next up was Whitesnake. David Coverdale is arguably the biggest member of Rock’s Royal Family to grace the Moondace Jam with his presence in 2005. His roots go clear back to when he replaced Ian Gillan in Deep Purple. Coverdale made sure everyone remembered that as the band opened with “Burn” and “Stormbringer” each song intertwined around each other. From the get-go, Whitesnake showed why they were one of the best selling bands of the 80’s. Song after song, hit after hit and high note after high note, Coverdale and company took control of the crowd. The only time they let up was when Coverdale bantered with the crowd. After the first few songs he looked at the mammoth crowd before him lifting their beer cups in the air and commented, “This ain’t no meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous now is it!” The band continued and played “Is This Love,” “Here I Go Again” and “Give Me All Your Love Tonight” to thunderous applause from the 80’s fans in attendance. The best songs of the set came from Whitesnake’s Slide It In album. The crowd worked itself into a frenzy when the band played “Slow and Easy,” “Love Ain’t No Stranger” and “Slide It In.” A guitar duel broke out between Aldrich and Beach. Each axe-master attempted to outdo the other and in the end it was a draw. Doug wins hands down when it comes to licks and blues scales while Beach gets the nod for 80’s guitar tapping, squealing and whammy bar dive-bombs. Aldridge went on to perform an incredible solo that saw him throw his guitar about twenty feet in the air. He eventually wore it out, smashed it up and went to get another offstage. The only thing that could compete with that was the bare-hands drum solo performed by drummer Tommy Aldridge. The crowd stood in awe watching one of the most legendary drummers on the planet beat the skins. Coverdale came back and the band ended the show with “Still of the Night.” For David’s critics, I am sorry to disappoint you as the man still has the pipes, the looks and the stage presence.
Few onstage knew that David had actually been stranded at his hotel. The plans that were made to whisk him around Minnesota didn’t work out but a quick thinking fan and a young hotel employee took matters into their own hands and provided a happy ending. The fan allowed Coverdale use of her car and the young hotel employee became David’s personal chauffer. After the show, the fan and the young man were whisked backstage and David signed merchandise for them in appreciation. David’s personal assistant – who we must add is stunningly beautiful – allowed us to say hello to the rock icon. Classic Rock Revisited had featured an interview with David and his beautiful wife Cindy when she was promoting her star studded cookbook titled Food that Rocks. The interview was a total blast and Cindy became a friend of Classic Rock Revisited even though none of us had met face-to-face. As I stood waiting to meet David in person for the first time, Ratt were gathered around Coverdale and John Corabi fell to his knees and gave him a Wayne’s World greeting. It was fascinating hearing Jizzy Pearl and Warren Demartini ask David about his time with Deep Purple. Coverdale also gave some promotion to his ex-band mate Glenn Hughes informing the members of Rattt that Hughes and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi were releasing a new album together. Finally, David turned around and I introduced myself. After a moment, Coverdale gave me a big smile and put his arm around me and said in a loud voice with a thick British accent, “Jeb, it is so great to finally meet you in person. You tell Cindy that we met so she knows!”
The final act of the Moondance Jam was supposed to be The Doors of the 21st Century but for undisclosed reasons the band cancelled only days before the show. Rumors ranged from the band being overseas and unable to make flight plans to vocalist Ian Asbury not wanting to do the gig to the band being too tired and needing a break. Whatever the reason, Moondance officials did everything in their power to bring the band to the show, including offering to charter a private jet for the band. When it became apparent that nothing was going to bring the group to Minnesota then they went out and filled their spot at the last minute. In their place were heavy metal hellions Twisted Sister.
The band took the stage and made a ton of noise from the first note. The barrage of sound lasted the entire set and was only interrupted when Dee Snider felt it necessary to snarl at the crowd and spew his outspoken views on life to anyone who would listen. For starters, Dee made sure everyone knew the new name of the band. Dee informed everyone the band was now to be called Twisted Fucking Sister and to reinforce the idea he had the crowd chant it over and over. Many in the crowd were either frightened by the spectacle of Twisted Fucking Sister or they were worn out by four days of music and the band’s aggressive approach was too much for them. About a third of those on the floor began heading for the exit but the rest stayed and head banged along to the classics including “Can’t Stop Rock ‘N Roll,” “The Price,” “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
During “We’re Not Gonna Take It” Dee had the crowd sing along to the chorus. After a few chants the singer stopped the music and sat down at the side of the stage. He said, “I am talking to that guy in the blue shirt. How come you are not singing? I asked everyone to sing and all twenty thousand people are singing – except for you. I bet you think that if you sing then you will look like a wuss. Guess what? When twenty thousand people are all singing and you are the only one not singing then you really look like a wuss.” Soon after JJ French went on a rant about new music being terrible and how 80’s music rocked. The crowd seemed to agree with his sentiments. The best stage humor, however, came from Dee announcing that he knew that The Doors of the 21st Century were supposed to be the headliners of the show. He told the crowd that the Moondance officials were left with a tough decision when they backed out. According to Dee, “They asked themselves, ‘who can we get to replace one of the most legendary bands of the 1960’s?’ The answer? Twisted Fucking Sister!.” The crowd howled and Dee began going off about bands who do not have all original members calling themselves by the same band name. He made the point of everyone knowing the Doors original singer was dead and that all five original members of Twisted Sister were alive and well. All in all, Twisted Sister were fun and those who stayed enjoyed the show. The band sounded a bit rough but they have never been accused of being virtuoso musicians. Nonetheless, the band put 110% into the gig and that is all one can ask. In a perfect world there is no way they would have headlined. Following Whitesnake is a near impossible task but TS did a decent job.
Classic Rock Revisited accidentally got involved in Twisted Sisters set. CRR scribe Ron Bozich was front and center in the crowd enjoying the show onstage as well as the show in the crowd (let’s just say Twisted Sister had the boobs a flashing). A lady was attempting to sell roses and was getting swallowed up by the crowd. One jerk even stole a few of the roses and threw them into the crowd. Ron felt bad for her and bought a rose. She smiled and was very appreciative. Ron had no one to give the rose to so when Dee Snider positioned himself in front of him, Ron advised the rose lady to toss the flower onstage where it landed at Dee’s feet. Snider and band were in the middle of the song “You’re Gonna Burn In Hell.” At the songs conclusion Dee picked up the flower and looked to the crowd and said, “We are up here singing a song about hell and someone throws a flower onstage? What kind of people are you?” With that Dee chomped off the head of the rose and spit it out.
The end of the night was quickly arriving as Twisted Fucking Sister said goodnight to the Moondance crowd. We moved to the Moondance Saloon where members of local band Mountain Ash were jamming with another talented muse named Jon James. The saloon quickly became packed as the band played classic tunes including “White Room” and “Suffragette City.” The guitar duo of Mark Kirchhoff and Jon James was fun to watch. James is very 70’s glam influenced and with his quirky haircut and black rimmed glasses he looked the part. The crowd was very into what was pretty much an impromptu jam. The last song was Pink Floyd’s “Young Lust.”
With that the festival was over. We sauntered back to our campsite to get some much needed sleep. On the way we learned that we were parked in a very tame camping area. The entire weekend there was a ton of sin and good natured debauchery going on in the general admission campground that we new nothing about. We learned about a nightly K-Y Wresting Match that began at 3:00AM and about a wonderful government program designed to quench the thirst of female campers called Beer for Boobs. There were even campgrounds where there were stripper poles for any campers wishing to get up and strut their stuff. One thing is for sure; news of these after hours events ensures our attendance at Moondance Jam 15. We vow to sacrifice sleep to bring you the story of life in the Moondance campground in 2006.
In the end, Moondance is more than four days in the sun watching rock bands. It is a celebration of music and life. The show is very organized and flawlessly executed by all involved. The overall vibe of the event is one of happiness and good times. The music comes first but the fellowship and fun are a close second. Classic Rock Revisited highly recommends this event to all of our readers around the world. So be it by plane, train or automobile you should be booking your trip to Walker, Minnesota for Summer 2006. We are not even waiting to see who the line up will be as Moondance has proven themselves over and over again in their 14 year history. Rest assured that next years event will be even more amazing than this years was.
For all the information you need and more visit the Moondance Jam’s
Official Website and see for yourself what you have been missing. Moondance
Jam is the premier classic rock festival in the United States. If you
love classic rock music – and chances are that you do if you are
reading this article – then you owe it to yourself to get to Walker
and learn first hand what the term Minnesota Friendly means. So, in the
end, look for us next year at Moondance and don’t be afraid to
come up and say hello. Just look for us with smiles on our faces around
three in the morning in the general admission camp ground!