For the fourth year in a row, my wife and I purchased VIP tickets to Moondance Jam. We will continue to go VIP as it is just too good a deal to pass up and it is run by an excellent staff. The two people in charge of VIP, Jean and Don, year after year do a great job of truly making everyone feel like a VIP. They run the front entrance to VIP and are there early in the day until the last band finishes, always greeting people with a smile. The staff, many of whom I have seen all four years, works tirelessly during the jam serving drinks and food to around 800 jammers each day. I will review all aspects of the VIP experience below.
Every year there are a few changes made in VIP to make it better. Two years ago desserts were added to the evening hors d’oeuvres list. These seem to get better each year. Last year the food serving area was moved from under the VIP tent to a covered area beside the stage away from the people in VIP. This allows more room under the VIP tent. While the line is now out of view of the stage, the food line seemed to move faster this year so I really didn’t miss much music. The VIP stage box area was expanded last year to include two levels. This allows better viewing and more people on the stage box at a time. This year, the two bars were moved to the east end of the tent. The tables that are usually in this area were moved further west which allowed them a better view of the stage. As for food changes this year, there was a return to two meal serving times, which may have cut down on the wait time. Another change was having a wide range of crackers available all the time in the food serving area. This was a nice snack that was available any time you wanted it. Fresh fruit and cold vegetables were also available more this year. There also was a new pork roast nugget served one day during hors d’oeuvres that was the best hors d’oeuvres I have ever had at the jam. Finally, wine was served for each meal this year for the first time.
One of the best things about the VIP experience is the food. The first food serving of the day is hors d’oeuvres at 4pm. Everyone is allowed unlimited trips to hors d’oeuvres. There were two meal serving times, at 5pm and again at 7pm. The first night’s main dish was prime rib of pork, which was the best meal I have had at the jam. The second night had two meats with roasted chicken and fried fish. I would have liked to have seen the focus of this meal to be either a fish fry or a BBQ night like last year. The final night was prime rib of beef, complete with a chef who cut and served your prime rib. Each meal was served with three or four side dishes. Every year I am surprised by how big the servings are for each meal. Both prime rib meals included huge cuts of prime rib. From 10-11pm another round of hors d’oeuvres is served. The following hors d’oeuvres were served at some point: pork roast nuggets, BBQ little smokeys, mini corn dogs, nachos with cheese, various cold vegetables, several types of crackers, Caesar salad, pasta salad, chicken fingers, meatballs, onion rings, and a variety of brownies and cheesecake. I made a suggestion last year in my VIP review that each day featured different items during hors d’oeuvres and that was the case this year so you never got tired of eating the same thing.
As always, tap beer, Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails, pop (Pepsi products), and bottled water are all included in a VIP ticket. The beer included Michelob Golden Draft Light, Bud Light, and Honey Weiss. This was also one of the few places to get tap beer during the jam. For $2 you can get a 16 oz. cocktail with top-shelf liquor. The new mugs that were available throughout the venue could be filled with a cocktail for $4. They are mixed very strong as well. They also still filled the older, bigger mugs from past jams for $6. There were four types of Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails: Wildberry Jack, Lynchburg Lemonade, Downhome Punch, and Watermelon Spike. The first night, the lines to the bars got long during the later acts. However, more bartenders were brought in the last two nights and I never waited more than a couple of minutes to get a drink on Friday or Saturday. If you don’t want to walk to the bar, waitresses will also get your drinks for you. There seemed to be more waitresses the last couple days too that helped cut down on the lines. Drinks are available in the VIP tent starting at 2pm and last until the last band finishes.
This has become more important in my eyes the last few years because of the variety of weather you may encounter at the jam. A few years ago it was nice to stay out of the sun when the heat wave hit and last year it was nice to be able to sit down out of the rain. Not much could protect you from the cold this year but it was still better than being out in the elements. The front two rows of VIP are uncovered but the next two rows are covered by the tent. Behind the first four rows are many tables that are also covered. All of these seats provide a great view of the stage. While there were many people in VIP, I never felt crowded other than on Thursday. Access to the food lines, bar, and restrooms is also easy since there are walkways behind each row of seats. There is also plenty of room between the rows of seats for walking. While no seat in VIP is bad, if you arrive by 3pm you should be able to sit in the section you wish. Most people in VIP remain seated but it is not required. For those who want to be in the action, all you have to do is walk out into the sandpit.
Many portable toilets are located in the back corner of the tent. There was rarely a long line to use the toilets and they were clean. There were also two wash stations located in the same area.
As with everywhere at MDJ, the people working in VIP truly seem to enjoy their jobs. The bartenders work very hard to get drinks out quickly and the servers during hors d’oeuvres and the meal were friendly. The waitresses who came by to deliver drinks were also very quick. With all the food served in VIP, trash could pile up quickly. However, waitresses cleaned the tables throughout the day and would often take the plates right after you finished eating. Everyone working the entrance to VIP is extremely nice and would answer any questions about meet and greets, bands, etc. This year they also provided great weather updates during the storms.
A great perk to VIP is the VIP Stage Box. All VIP ticketholders are able to actually watch a portion of a band’s set from above the stage. The stage box was also expanded last year to hold 20 people at a time and included a lower and upper level that allowed everyone a great view. I didn’t spend much time on the VIP stage box this year but I have the last few years. If there is no line, you can watch quite a few songs from the stage box. If there was a line in years past, I was able to watch four songs, two on the upper level and two on the lower level. The view from the stage box is amazing. It seems like more people take advantage of the stage box each year. Lines begin forming before the bigger acts but over the years I have been able to eventually get on the stage box for every band I wanted. The view while waiting in line is still great so you never miss a song waiting. I have also been able to get some great pictures from the stage box.
VIP parking was $50 this year and was only available to VIP ticket holders. While it has been free in the past, I still think it is worth the money to park in VIP. VIP parking is located directly behind the VIP tent and is a very short walk to the seating area. The parking area is close enough you can go to your car at any time without missing much. You also get to avoid the bus lines that form for regular parking so it takes very little time to exit the venue each night. Regular parking is a very long walk. Entering the VIP parking lot only took a few minutes and exiting after the shows only took 5 to 10 minutes each night. [Editors Note: A past VIP parking issue for VIP ticket holders who were camping was remedied this year by dropping VIP prices $50 and having VIP Parking as an optional $50 add-on for all 3 Day VIP ticket holders.]
VIP also gives you a chance to meet the bands performing at the jam. The people in VIP have no control over whether a band will do a meet and greet but many bands do. Each band decides how many people they will meet and a drawing is done early in the day to determine who gets to participate. The meet and greet may be as much as enough time to sign autographs and visit or as short as a single picture. Once again, this is all decided by the band and is out of control of the staff. This year, you only had to sign up once to get the opportunity to win a meet and greet. In past years, you had to sign up each day for the band you wanted.
As always, VIP this year was absolutely worth it. As I said above, it is run by two of the nicest people in the world (Jean and Don) who work hard to make you truly feel like a VIP. It is easy to see they love their job and it rubs off on their workers and even people in VIP. Jean and Don and everyone at the entrance area are always there to greet you with a smile and to ask if you are having a good time. The fact I have seen many of the same people enjoying VIP the last four years proves what a great deal it is. Many people purchase VIP every year and I will continue to do so as well.