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Moondance Jam 16 is 'sweet' success again

by Dean Morrill
The Pilot-Independent

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Moondance Jam Sweet 16 turned out to be the second-most successful in the event's history.

While gate receipts for four-day festival were not official by press time, Bill and Kathy Bieloh, Moondance's founders, said numbers averaged between 18,000 and 20,000 each of the four days, making it not only second-best Jam as far as attendance, but also in gross dollars.

"Absolutely fantastic," said Kathy, Moondance's First Lady about the success this year. "Between weather, numbers and compliments, we heard nothing but good things from those who've been here for years and also the new jammers."

Bill Bieloh credits the line-up and the workers for making it so enjoyable and successful. He said it was a tough year to get the line-up done, as they were forced to wait to see who would be available.

"I thought Moody Blues, REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard, Rick Springfield were great. We tried some new stuff this year ... the line-up did pull together and it really pleased the crowd," he said.

"Luckily we held out," Kathy Bieloh added. "Another festival booked [acts] way back, because they were scared and didn't want to wait; but we didn't. We wanted to wait, and we ended up with a great line-up because we did wait to see what was out there."

Bill Bieloh also wanted to recognize the sacrifices the Walker businesses and community make by giving their people time off to work those four days.
"We rob the whole city of Walker for this festival. The town is so cooperative with this festival, and it could not be put on without that support," he said.
Making the Jam better each year is a priority for the Bielohs and the 312 workers they employ.

This year another campground was added, but the most biggest and most recognizable change was the new Lazy Moon Bar that allowed fans to eat, drink and watch bands in the backstage area.

Underneath the Lazy Moon Bar is the new hospitality area for artists and crews. Dawn Anderson, who has been in charge of hospitality for 12 years, raved about the new facility.

"It's awesome. The facility has made the job so much easier," she said. "It will save us so much money and time. It has been huge relief for everybody to have this."

The new facility, which takes the place of the camping-clean trailers, has walk-in coolers and freezers, storage, a kitchen, six fully-equipped dressing rooms, a buffet room for the artists, showers and restrooms.

Anderson said she has received positive feedback from the bands.

"REO Speedwagon, who has performed several times at the Jam said, 'This is great; this is so professional,' " Anderson recounted. "It's more of the big time where you are hitting the next level of doing these events, when you have this facility."

Mark Kirchhoff, the backstage director for seven years who works hand-in-hand Anderson, his assistant Kevin Abernathy and the Bielohs to make the Jam better every year, couldn't be more pleased with 2007 event.

"This Jam is fantastic. Every year it just keeps getting easier and easier. We've got good people; they know what they're doing, and we just stay out of their way," Kirchhoff stated.

Kirchhoff's job consists of making sure the music side of the Jam gets pulled together.

"I enjoy it. It's exciting, it's fun," said the Kenyon native who now lives in Minneapolis. "This is our second home. All the people you work with, year-in and year-out; it's family now. It's enjoyable."

Comparing this year's Jam to previous years, Kirchhoff said rain dealt them a small snag Friday night.

"We live in Minnesota, so you have to deal with the rain," he said. "There was a threat for lightning, and that's our main concern. We have a steel stage here, and we don't want anyone near the stage, so for safety's sake, we postponed performances to let the storm fronts pass through."

Besides his production duties, Kirchhoff also has another gig at the Jam. He, along with Abernathy, Roger Anderson, Brandon Fjetland and Mark Jueneman, perform in the band Mountain Ash, and opened the Sweet 16 Wednesday with their performance on the main stage.

Kirchhoff thought Def Leppard's performance was the best he saw. He also thought REO Speedwagon put on another "great show. They're very familiar with Moondance and are happy to be here." He also liked The New Cars and Tesla.

Moondance has also striven to take care of its crowds. Security is paramount when you have 20,000 people in one place.

Kent Fladeboe, who is in charge of backstage security in the production area, said the crowd was well-behaved this year.

"The crowd has been fantastic," he said. "Wednesday night's crowd was the best we've ever had, and it was one of the largest with Def Leppard performance."

He said there were minor problems the other three nights, but they were easily taken care of.

"Friday we had some bad weather. You get bad weather, you get long breaks and we had to hold off for that storm. People get a little impatient, but they were well-behaved."

Fladeboe, who has been associated with all 16 Jams, said what he enjoys most about the Jam is the extended family, not only from those people who plan the Jam every year, but also to the Jammers.

"We go out in the campgrounds and there are people we've seen for 16 years. It's just a huge family. It's a good time," he said. "We enjoy it ourselves. It's a lot of work, but it comes back to the family."

The music

Def Leppard, Tesla, REO Speedwagon, The New Cars, Moody Blues and Rick Springfield attracted the largest crowds.

Wednesday night's show, which featured Def Leppard and Tesla, drew the second-largest crowd in Jam history, bested only by Boston's performance back in 2003.

For Def Leppard and Tesla, it was a family reunion of sorts. It was the first time since 1987 the bands performed at the same event, with the bands hanging out together backstage, catching up on old times.

Marty and Sue Moffett, who came all the way from England for the Jam, thought it was the best classic rock festival they've attended.

Over the last two decades the couple has traveled all over England and the United States, attending rock 'n' roll festivals.

"We've seen Def Leppard perform a few times, and this show was easily the best," Marty Moffett said.

While Def Leppard's performance was probably the most anticipated and enjoyable, REO Speedwagon, who has performed several times at Moondance, didn't disappoint as they closed Thursday night. "Can't Fight This Feeling," "Keep On Loving You," "Roll With the Changes" and "Take It On The Run" were just a few of the popular songs the group performed.

"We've had them here five times, but they had a different show. They were my favorite," Bill Bieloh said. "Kevin [Cronin] says this is his favorite place to play."

Tesla also brought in many fans, kicking off their set with "Rock Bottom," "Into the Now" and "The Way It Is," and closing with "Modern Day Cowboy." The powerhouse quintet, led by Jeff Keith and performing without guitarist Tommy Skeoch, who was replaced by the able Dave Rude, put on an incredible live performance.

The New Cars and Moody Blues were not as loud as their counterparts but still had the crowds rockin' and dancing in the fairgrounds. The New Cars opened their performance with "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Shake It Up," and closed out Friday night with an incredible set that kept nearly 20,000 fans in the fairgrounds until they finished.

Moody Blues, probably the most-anticipated band to perform this year besides Def Leppard, showed why they are the most enduring and beloved rock bands in music history. For Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge, it's about the music — more than 40 years of it, to be exact.

Performing such classic hits as "Nights in White Satin," "Ride Me See Saw," "The Story in Your Eyes," "Isn't Life Strange" and "I'm Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)," the group showed why they continue to perform to sold-out shows.

Rick Springfield, performing for his third time at the Jam, brought out a large base of female fans, and once again didn't disappoint. His guitar-laden performance kept the fans screaming for more as he closed Sweet 16.

Soul Asylum, who replaced Smashmouth due to recording obligations, was a nice addition to Friday night's show. The Minnesota-born band put on a great show prior to The New Cars taking the stage.

Jackyl and Loverboy, who performed Wednesday, Thursday acts Kansas and Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Rick Derringer Friday night and Saturday's performers Toto and regional band Thunderstruck, an all-women band, also had great sets.

Five campsites recognized

Moondance is not know as the "campin' and jammin' event of the summer" just because of the music.

Of the thousands of fans that flock to the fairgrounds, many plan all year for this event.

One campsite received the "best" award in five of the six campgrounds.
In South Wooded, "16 Candles" won top honors; "Love Shack" in South Reserved VIP; "Sweet 16 Birthday Bash" in South Reserved; "Camp Waupatouie Falls" in General Camping; and "Su-Sweet Belly Bar," named after Richard "Su-Sweet Belly" Marquardt, the Moondance photographer, in North Reserved.

The "Su-weet Belly Bar" was named the grand champion. In addition to winning tickets for Moondance Jam 17, those campers will be able to come on stage for a chosen band's performance.

There was no winner in North Wooded Reserved, as the judges failed to find the campsite during their five-hour tour. Apparently the judges were having too much fun at the other five and got lost.