Moondance Jam roster attracts 35,000
Pilot-Independent, July 17, 1997
By Emerson Ward
Five years ago the Moondance Jam and Barbecue attracted 500-1,000 spectators
and was called a success.
Last week, more than 35,000 flocked to the festival, which has experienced
explosive growth in the past six years, and packed the concert site for
The increase in numbers is due in part to big headline hands like REO
Speedwagon, America, Grand Funk Railroad and Corey Stevens.
The other reason is that the word is getting around about the event.
So much so that, more than 300 cars had to he turned around at the gate
on Saturday night before REO Speedwagon hit the stage, according to Bill
Bieloh, promoter of the event.
"This year was a little bigger than expected," Bieloh said. "We
were hoping for 30,000 and we ended up with 35,000."
Even though thunder, lightning and rain pounded the site on Saturday
for part of the day, no spirits were dampened, Bieloh said.
The thousands who attended the event were no less pleased than Bieloh
about the event. "I’ve been to Woodstock, Woodstock '94, Grateful
Dead concerts, and this one ranks right up there," California resident
Annie Thompson, shouted, dancing in front of a six-foot speaker. "I’m
coming next year."
Though the event is attracting more and more each year, Bieloh said
he would like to limit ticket sales next year. "It’s a perfect
size right now," he said. "We can control the situation and
keep it fun at the same time."
In an article in the Echo newspaper, Bieloh stated that the Moondance
cost $190,000 to put on including nearly $50,000 alone for REO Speedwagon.
"I calculated it at about $1,700 per minute," laughed Bieloh. "But
I really don’t have a problem with that price. You have to spend
money to bring in bands that bring in people."
Project Coordinator and "Main B.S. (backstage) Guy" Paul Nye
said the concert went smoothly, although meeting the requests or "contract
riders" from the bands was troublesome. Riders are items, such as
food, beverages and other requests, attached to the contracts of the
national acts in addition to "humongous" amounts of money they
"Some of the bands have huge riders, including liquor, which we
nixed out," Nye said. "They request beverages, deli trays,
meals and the infamous Bic lighter."
On the Loverboy request list, a Bic lighter was requested. Though it
was a joke, Nye has heard of riders that included white socks and other
outlandish wants. "One band listed white socks in their rider," he
said. "The reason is, they don’t want to wash their socks,
so they throw them out and get new ones free as a part of the rider.
You’d think that a band making up to $50,000 a night could afford
to buy their own, but it’s probably an issue of convenience to
them. So they make it inconvenient for others to meet those requests."
Even though thc concert was a lot of work and a lot of fun to be a part
of, Nye was disappointed that local Park Rapids band Ripchord was scratched
from the list of performers to make room for REO Speedwagon and the rain
Over 160 local and area people worked on the Moondance Jam crew, Bieloh
"Without their help, I don’t think we would have been able
to pull this thing off."
Paul Busch, the son of Tony and Deanna Busch of Walker, works for Technical
Services group in Minneapolis. Busch designed and built the staging that
was used for this year’s Jam. "Evidently, it is one of the
smaller stages they use," Nye said. "It measured about 45-
by-65 with wings for the speakers."
The music Festival not only featured some of the greatest bands of Classic
Rock, but also starred local rock groups, including Anomaly from Bemidji.
Drummer Isaiah Mooney said playing in front of such a large crowd was
a satisfying and privileged experience. "I don’t think I’ve
ever had an adrenaline high like this one before," Mooney said. "The
fans were great and I don’t think we could have asked for more."
Moondance Jam also was a hit for festival producers Jack Jordan and
Jack Thibault of T.E.A. Productions.
"This takes a backseat to nobody," Jordan said. "What
a great thing to be a part of."
The duo takes part in about 200 musical events annually and finds the
Moondance Jam to be one of their favorites. "The area around here
is great," Thibault said.
"The people around here, have been nothing but outstanding. That
is what makes this so unique."
Next year, Nye said promoters are looking at booking ZZ Top, Steve Miller,
John Foggerty, The Buckinghams and many others.