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Moondance gives stage crew manager break from ‘real world’

by Robby Robinson
Bemidji Pioneer

Sunday, July 15, 2007

WALKER — Moondance Jam stage crew manager Mark Kirchoff says the jam gives him a break from the mundane and the “real world” each summer.

A banker from Maple Grove, Minn., Kirchoff started his association as a member of the regional band Mountain Ash. It was a band he began when he was in junior high school in Kenyon, Minn.

He said he played at the jam for a few years with Mountain Ash, and after he set up the new stage in one of the bar tents, Moondance Jam owner and promoter Bill Bieloh asked him if would like to manage to main stage. That was seven years ago.

Preparing the stage for four or five consecutive acts, usually a half an hour apart, takes a lot of hard work, experienced stage workers and a lot of planning.

“If you have good people and a master plan, it all goes off well,” he said.

The trick is to have the sets already in order from back to front, he said. When the first act is completed you move everything out of the way and the set for the next act is mostly there and ready to go.

The planning goes year around, he said, and this year was a little bit easier to prepare for Moondance Jam in July because much of the preparation was already done for Moondance Jammin Country Fest in June.

Throughout the years there have been a few scary moments, especially with 20,000 or more fans waiting for their favorite entertainers.

A couple of years ago, two band members were waiting at the Grand Rapids airport to be picked up for their ride to the Moondance Jam concert grounds. Unfortunately, they were waiting at the Grand Rapids, Mich., airport not the Grand Rapids, Minn., airport. A chartered plane had to go retrieve them.

In another incident, the Beach Boys, slated for the 9 p.m. time slot at the jam, got caught in bad weather on the East Coast and called to say they would be late.

“In that incident, Peter Frampton graciously volunteered to play earlier and give up the closing slot. With the help of a police escort speeding the Beach Boys from the Park Rapids airport to Walker, the band made it to the stage and made it just a few minutes late,” Kirchoff said.

Kirchoff said that you just have to plan ahead and when tings don’t work as you planned, you just study you options and make your best decisions.

“It’s a good bunch of people I work with and I love the music and I love music festivals,” he said. “I look forward to it every year.