A number of Jammers who had been at previous festivals commented this year's crowd was the biggest they had seen. This year's Jam featured a new stage design with more lights and louder sound. Jammers in the dancing area directly in front of the stage were clearly impressed with not only the stage's sound power, but the sound quality as well.
July 10 was the Jam's only day of bad weather. The sky remained dark and gloomy and poured rain until nearly 8 p.m. but Jammers easily dismissed the lousy weather to begin the party.
Jammers were treated to music from Gary Puckett, Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Little River Band.
Rain or no rain, Puckett received a strong ovation from the crowd when he hit the stage just after 4:30 p.m. With a career that has spanned decades, Puckett has, without question, built up a loyal fan base.
With the weather improving slightly, the crowd really cut loose for Little River Band. Jammers were dancing and singing along, as if expressing relief at the improved weather and excitement over the weekend ahead.
Finally, shortly after 11 p.m. .38 Special hit the stage and the crowd roared its approval when the band ripped into what would prove to be one of the Jam's most memorable sets.
After a full day of battling rain and soaking up classic rock from some of their favorite bands, Jammers headed back to the campgrounds to continue the party and rest up for the next day's festivities.
Until Moondance Jam 10, Wednesday's activities were dubbed the "Pre-jam Party." However, with national acts hitting the stage on the first day of the last two Jams, the kick-off day has become a major part of the festival.
Jammers were allowed to set up their camp sites Wednesday morning, and by the evening they were ready to hit the festival grounds to begin four solid days of music, dancing and partying.
One of the Jam's biggest draws is the campgrounds. The bulk of Jammers travel to Walker for the camping as much as the music.
The campgrounds were filled with thousands of people mingling and playing games. Most were bedded down in tents and campers, but others simply strung up tarps between trees to sleep under. Some brave Jammers brought nothing save a sleeping bag, choosing to gamble that Mother Nature would cooperate.
The design plans for the Jam's various campgrounds was nearly flawless. Jammers were packed in tightly, but each site had plenty of space for camping gear and herds of people mingling.
The majority of Jammers spent the mornings and afternoons hanging out in the campgrounds, catching up with old friends and making new ones as well.
A ride through the facilities revealed people sitting around in the shade trading stories and jokes, and of course, a cold beverage or two.
Other Jammers, looking for a more active way to spend their day, sped
around the site on bicycles and in some cases, tiny tricycles.
Nothing contributes to a festival atmosphere better than large, grown adults trying desperately to ride down dirt roads on a toy meant for children in diapers.
Other Jammers, bent on a little playful mischief, randomly launched water balloons out of a sling shot contraption.
The behavior in the campgrounds was nearly perfect all weekend. And Jam employees, affectionately dubbed "The Party Patrol" because of the bright blue T-Shirts they wore with "Party Patrol" emblazoned on the front, were constantly on hand in the campgrounds for maintenance, but to head off potential problems as well.
"We received just tons of comments on how well everything is organized, how clean everything was," Bill Bieloh said. "We had a 10-man detail that went through every morning and every two hours to sweep the campgrounds."
The only major incident in the campgrounds occurred Thursday night when the Party Patrol went though the grounds end ejected 100 people as gate crashers, or people who hadn't paid for a ticket and received a wrist band.
Bieloh estimated that as many as 10 percent of Jammers are gate crashers. However, he also noted gate crashers are part of the deal when you run an event like Moondance Jam.
In light of the Jam's Operation Hometown Proud theme, Jammers were encouraged
to decorate their camp sites in red, white and blue. Hundreds of Jammers
got into the decorating, and countless American flags could be seen throughout
For more information and coverage of Operation Hometown Proud, see Page 3 of this edition.
Old school power rockers Black Oak Arkansas kicked Thursday evening's Jam off with a powerful set that got people dancing and waving their arms and, in some cases, singing along especially when the band roared into their classic tune "Jim Dandy."
July 11 weather was in stark contrast to July 10 rainy and blustery conditions. Sun and bright skies took over in the afternoon and continued all the way through Sunday afternoon, when Jammers began filing out of the campgrounds for their trips home.
Popular 1990s pop rock act Gin Blossoms took the stage after Black Oak Arkansas and wowed the crowd with renditions of their hits "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You."
It was evident from the early part of the evening, thanks in large part to the weather, the crowd had even more energy than the previous night.
Like the campgrounds, the concert area was free of any major incidents.
Finally, at 9 p.m. one of the Jam's most successful acts, STYX, took the stage to a thunderous ovation.
Without question, STYX was one of the festival's highlights for countless Jammers.
While the vast majority of Jammers were clearly anticipating STYX's performance, it paled in comparison to the buzz floating the crowd in the minutes before the "opera rocker" hit the stage. The excitement spilled over into an impromptu chant of "Meat Loaf!" until he appeared out of the shadows and the chant was replaced with a continuous roar of approval.
The crowd was ecstatic to be seeing a performance from one of the late 1970s most successful artists. And while every song Meat Loaf performed resulted in sustained applause from the crowd to everyone was blown away by the his performance.
For his part, Bill Bieloh was slightly disappointed by the performance.
"He's a great entertainer," Bieloh said, "but he only played four of his top songs that he stretched out into half hour medleys."
In some ways, the Jam's festival grounds were reminiscent of English villages in the 14th or 15th centuries where a stage, in this case for plays, was a hub of activity while commerce and life buzzed around it.
Of course, the comparison does require a fairly high dose of suspension of disbelief. After all, England in the 1500s didn't have electricity, neon, cell phones, pagers or teenagers in very expensive Abercrombie and Fitch clothing.
Food stands offering everything from corn dogs to gyros to burgers to lemonade stood off to one side of the stage.
Jammers could buy neon painted cowboy hats, tie-dyed T-shirts, sunglasses of jewelry. Moreover, if the mood struck them, they could get a tattoo, body art or with a hearty dose of courage, some sort of piercing.
I was tempted to get a piercing myself, to add to the flavor of this piece. However, after being informed body piercing could not be turned in as a work expense, I elected to skip it.
Jammers were also treated to the "Budweiser's Beer School" where they could learn how beer is brewed and how different styles and flavors of beer are crafted.
Festival-goers could also try their hand at a tall climbing wall to get ready for the next mountain climbing trip. Or, if their courage wasn't entirely spent at the body piercing booth, Jammers could strap themselves and another Jammer into the "Sling Shot" which launched them into the sky and bounced them around inside a protective cage attached to bungee cords.
According to Bill Bieloh, although it isn't yet clear how well the vendors did, most had a very successful four days.
With the official arrival of the weekend, combined with more beautiful weather, spirits among the Jammers rose even higher than they were over the festivals first two days.
Gypsy got the music rolling at 4:30 p.m. and, as they worked their way through their set, Jammers began filtering into the festival area from the campgrounds.
Around 7:30 p.m., blues rockers Indigenous hit the stage and blew the
crowd away with their guitar work and intricate performance.
Before their set began, many Jammers weren't familiar with the band. However, less than halfway through their performance, the band had won themselves thousands of new fans.
Bill Bieloh also commented that Indigenous got a very positive reaction
from Jammers coming up to him and critiquing the festival.
"They were very down to earth people," he said of the band. "They were like someone from your own backyard."
Not long after Indigenous left the stage, the Jammers began to prepare themselves for Blondie, one of the most successful rock acts of the late '70s and early '80s.
Judging from the crowd reaction, Blondie didn't disappoint. Lead singer Deborah Harry blazed through the set list with passion and confidence, energizing the thousands of Jammers singing and dancing along with her.
Harry was also one of the more talkative Jam performers, engaging and thanking the crowd frequently.
Just a few minutes past 11 p.m., Journey hit the stage and began a performance that many Jammers would later claim was the festival's best.
"Journey, I think, did by far the best," Bill Bieloh said. "The voices, everything was on time, just like when you hear the song on the radio."
Journey powerfully hammered their way through many of their hits including "Open Arms" and "Don't Stop Believin" as their sound and performance blended perfectly with the stage and acoustics.
Meet and Greets
The highlight for many Jammers was a chance to meet some of the performers backstage for photographs and autographs.
Jammers selected to meet some of the performers were shuffled into the hospitality tent to the left of the stage. The tent was for press, photographers, special guests and performers.
Perhaps as much as meeting the musicians themselves, Jammers were giddy at the site of free beer. Budweiser, one of the Jam's major sponsors kept a cold keg of Bud Light in the tent and the average Jammer didn't need more than a handful of seconds to spot the keg, make a move toward the keg and then indulge in the keg. The hospitality tent can also be an interesting place for reporters and photographers. Jammers always want to know where you're from and the name of the paper you're working for.
Moreover, a reporter's notebook, with "NEWS" written across
the front cover is an irresistible conversation piece for Jammers. As
a rule, the more inebriated the Jammer, the more curious they are about
the working of a reporter's notebook and journalism in general.
Immediately after being told you work for the local paper, Jammers also want to know if you can get them back to see the band. A journalist's privileges only go so far, so no, we can't get anyone back to see the band.
While not all the bands allowed a meet and greet, acts such as STYX, Meat Loaf and Blondie met with fans, answered questions and generally increased the memories for the Jammers lucky enough to meet with them.
One thing became abundantly clear in the afternoon of the Jam's last day: Jammers were going to party, dance and pretty much squeeze every bit of fun they could out of their last hours at Moondance Jam 11.
For the third straight day the weather was gorgeous, especially in the early evening when the sun began to recede slightly. Loverboy took the stage at 4:30 p.m. and proved to be the most successful of the Jam's 4:30 performers. Without question, Jammers were in the mood to stand in front of the stage for the next eight hours and dance and be entertained.
1980s metal/fantasy band Dio hit the stage next and pumped the crowd up with its loud and aggressive performance. The power of the Jam's stage set-up was clear during Dio's powerful set.
From there, English rockers Deep Purple took over and, as the sun began to set, the Jammers cut loose even more and cheered them on through their entire set.
When the band broke into their 1972 classic "Smoke on the Water," which was recognizable from the second the guitar riff began, the crowd nearly danced out of their shoes.
German rockers The Scorpions were the Jam's final performers and the crowd was eager for their performance. However, the Scorpions performance was not without problems.
First, a member of the band flew to Grand Rapids, Mich., rather than Grand Rapids, Minn. A jet was chartered to get him to Minnesota, but the concert was delayed.
From there, the band's management demanded a closed stage, meaning simply
only band personnel could be on the stage.
Additionally, the band ordered everyone out of the hospitality tent, evidently for fear of overcrowding. They ordered the tent emptied even though the band climbed onto the stage via a set of stairs at least 40 feet from the tent. Security was also on hand to prevent people in the hospitality tent from gaining access to the backstage area.
Most surprisingly, however, was the band's treatment of Bill and Kathy Bieloh. As has been their custom throughout the festival's history, the Bielohs wanted to take the stage before the final performance to thank the Jammers and the hundreds of Party Patrol members and the 14 managers who help them make the Jam come alive every year.
With the closed stage demand, it looked like the Bielohs wouldn't get their chance to say thank you. Bill Bieloh pointed out to band management their contract with the Jam states the stage is to be open.
Bill Bieloh was then told he and Kathy had one minute to make their presentation. The Bielohs tried to thank everyone that helped them with the Jam, but simply ran out of time.
"I have never been so furious in my life," Kathy Bieloh said. "It almost wrecked the whole weekend. Because we have 300-plus employees we love to thank and that means something to those people that their name is said on stage."
While the Scorpions treatment of the Bielohs and their staff may have been sub par, the band did manage to put on a very good show for the Jammers, sending them back to their camp sites on a good note.
Sunday afternoon, a very hoarse and tired, but also very happy and proud Bill and Kathy Bieloh reflected back on Moondance Jam 11.
Both were pleased with the behavior and almost total lack of serious incidents.
"The sheriff's department says every year, 'I can't believe you can pack that many people in and you have so few things go wrong," Kathy Bieloh said.
The Bielohs also made a point to thank the members of their staff who
they didn't get a chance to mention on stage the night before.
Both Bielohs clearly have a lot of respect for and pride in their employees and the work they do with the Jam and were clearly bothered by the fact they weren't able to mention their employees names on stage in front the thousands of Jammers.
Moreover, as a reporter floating around the stage area and the Jam grounds, I can attest to the outstanding job these employees, who start as young high school kids and go all the way up to seniors did for Jammers.
The Party Patrol, or "Blue Shirts," — whatever you want
to call them, deserve the accolades the Bielohs wanted to give them.
"Some of them work their butts off for five days, others work their butts off for three or four months," Kathy Bieloh said. "A few have it on their minds all year round."
The Bielohs specifically pointed out Pat Eischens and Nancy Freeman, the event coordinators, as two of the many integral pieces to planning and running the Jam.
The Bielohs also made a point to thank the Walker community as well. "We want to publicly thank the people of Walker and the surrounding area who are inconvenienced during the four-day festival," Kathy Bieloh said.
"If the traffic was more than you were used to or you could hear the music and you didn't quite want to, thank you so much for putting up with the four-day event," she continued. "We hope it was OK for you."
For now Bill and Kathy are going to enjoy some down time to relax and not think about the Jam.
"Sept. 1 we start again," Bill Bieloh said. "We don't talk Jam for a month."
When you live in an area like Walker, certain events are looked at with an almost total sense of anticipation. The Eelpout Festival, Ethnic Fest and our Fourth of July celebration are just a few of our major events local people and visitors look forward to.
As it has grown from a tiny little music festival to one of the Midwest's major concert events, Moondance Jam has also grown into one of those events to look forward to.