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July 19-21, 2012 - Pre Jam July 18 - Walker, MN

Rock music fans enjoy a party

Brainerd Daily Dispatch
Text, photos by Steve Waller

Thursday, July 17, 1997

It rained, it shined, and of course Moondance Jam rocked.

Three days worth. More than 30,000 partying Jammers were held in the spell of a time warp.

We were suspended under the glow of a mid-summer music festival that reeled in the years.

When the party was over, many mid-lifers from the classic rock era echoed the refrain "I’m 18 (again)... and I LIKE it!" Hundreds of hit tunes had struck a collective nerve.

Flower vendors did a brisk business in a sea of friendly and refreshed fans who gathered near Walker for the sixth and biggest outdoor rock’n’roll venue yet produced by organizers Bill and Kathy Bieloh.

From Thursday afternoon to the wee hours of Sunday, the magnetic north was a stage full of amplified guitars, keyboards, drums and voices raised in ageless melody.

Here was Mike Pinera, guitarist from Iron Butterfly, happy as a kid on his birthday. So enthralled was this colorful and engaging musician that he boasted of his age.

"Me and Mark Farner (of Grand Funk Railroad, Thursday’s final act) have the same birthday September 28, 1948!" Pinera shouted in a tribute to the stage he was sharing with another icon destined for Rock’s Hall of Fame.

Several artists lauded musical colleagues assembled for this show. The mutual admiration society always included the paying customers as well as the well-paid performers.

Felix Cavaliere, founder of The Young Rascals some 30 years ago, sounded distinctly pristine in notable re-creations from a vast repertoire. Each song was rock solid, and between them all he praised the scene before him. His words in song and compliment seemed genuine.

As cloudbursts showered Corey Stevens’ appropriately named Texas Flood blues hour Saturday night, guitar licks and thunderclaps evoked magical memories of a much-missed Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Perhaps you were with us in this bliss, Stevie. It seemed so. The golden glow of a clearing sky at dusk followed, yielding a double rainbow. This was a rare earth-sky-spirit aura that none of the nightly Moondance fireworks could match.

Next treat for these old ears: "I Heard it in a Love Song" by Marshall Tucker Band. And then the really big show, REO Speedwagon, for the finish.

This was surely a million-dollar masterpiece for the main man behind it all. Bill Bieloh always spends more than he expects. While others tune in to the concert, his face pressed to a two-way radio.

He constantly puts out fires when inevitable contractual fine points and a few overblown egos rear their ugly heads.

The power package needed for a high- tech stage of sound and light requires a $27,000 upgrade.

One band wants a case Miller, not Bud.

Producing is stressful, pricey, risky. A band can cost upwards of $30,000 (about what REO was paid).

Having added a third day to the venue, Bieloh went further out on the limb. The event accommodated more people. More pressure on campgrounds that need refinement and stable surface for rigs too easily mired in mud.

But, if you host it, they will come. They came from well beyond the border, camping close to the liquid pulse of song.

They came to dance again in a rhythm of living, breathing rock’n’roll music.