rock Moondance 11
George Fairbanks, Staff writer
Thursday, July 18th, 2002
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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.