It was only fitting that a full moon graced the sky Saturday on the final night of Moondance Jam 22.
Kathy Bieloh, Moondance Events owner, told the packed fairgrounds Saturday night, that her husband Bill was sitting up there looking down and enjoying the show.
Four days of the classic rock festival — appropriately called the campin’ and jammin’ event of the summer — will probably break records once all the receipts are tallied.
“Moondance is unique, and it’s unique because of you Jammers,” Kathy said prior to The Offspring’s performance. “Moondance would not ever happen without all of you. We are all family and don’t you ever forget it.”
Besides thanking the 250 to 300 staff who make this event possible, she talked about how Slash, who headlined Friday night, told her after his show that the fans were the best he’s seen on this tour.
Highlights of the festival included three days of great rock ‘n roll music and a Troop Tribute Saturday night, which included both the Walker and Hackensack Legion Honor Guards.
“Everything went fantastic all weekend. The weather kept getting better every night,” Kathy said Sunday. She also talked about how impressed she was with the bands, especially Motley Crue, The Offspring, Theory of a Deadman and Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
It was also announced Friday night that REO Speedwagon was signed for 2014’s festival, which Kathy said emphasizes her commitment to try to keep at least one night classic rock, with younger rock bands to fill the slots the other two nights.
“We’re hoping by signing REO early, we can get all the bands signed earlier than we have in the past.”
Tickets go on sale Aug. 15 for the 2014 Jam, which will be held July 17-19.
Record crowds come out
Gate receipts won’t be tallied for a few days, but by all accounts, Kathy believes records will be set. There were between 6,000 and 7,000 Jammers at the Pre-Jam Party, and the crowds continued to grow from there.
The fairgrounds, which can hold more than 20,000 people, were almost full for Thursday night. Most came to see Motley Crue, who put on a performance that won’t be forgotten. Known as the world’s most notorious band, the Crue rocked the stage. Also performing were Cheap Trick, Buckcherry, Shooting Star and Cain.
The next two nights also saw huge crowds come out to see Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, Bachman and Turner, Blue Oyster Cult, The Offspring, Theory of a Deadman and Halestorm, whose performance Saturday was before a record crowd for a 7 p.m. show.
Making it even more enjoyable was the nearly perfect weather. Mark Kirchhoff, the back stage production director, said there were only a few rain drops that fell over the four days.
Light rain showers fell during the Pre-Jam Party, but that didn’t stop about 6,000 to 7,000 Jammers from coming out to see Hairball, The Fabulous Armadillos and the Chicago tribute band, Transit Authority.
Hairball, who has closed the Pre-Jam Party for a number of years now, performed for more than two hours — starting at 10:30 p.m. and going until nearly 1 a.m.
Humidity and 90-degree temperatures made for a sticky Thursday, but a nice breeze produced some relief came as the sun started to set. By the time Cheap Trick took the stage at 9 p.m., it was nearly ideal;and when Motley Crue performed, the fairgrounds were packed with Jammers.
“If you had to script it, this is the exact type of weather you would love to have,” Kirchhoff spoke about Friday and Saturday’s dry and sunny conditions. “They were two beautiful summer days. Just enough sunshine and the right breeze. It was fantastic.”
As far as the performances, Kirchhoff said there weren’t any problems, and he enjoyed most, as did the Jammers by the crowds that came out.
“The bands have been good to work with. Moondance is now to the point where the bands that we work and deal with are at a professional level. That’s in their crews, the people who play, the whole nine yards,” he said.
That’s important, because when you’re putting on five performances a night on the main stage, there are a lot of moving parts. The setup starts in the morning and continues until the first band goes on. As the bands finish up, everything goes back in the trucks.
In addition to the 15 national acts on the main stage, there were about 30 regional bands performing in the Saloon, Lazy Moon and Tiki Bar.
Moondance has such a strong reputation, that there are a lot of bands who want to come up the Walker area and perform.
“We have only room for so many, so our toughest spot is trying to pick the bands that will complement the styles of the other bands. Everyone wants to be at your venue. That’s a nice problem to have,” Kirchhoff noted. “This is just a great atmosphere. It’s fun to see everyone enjoying themselves. That was always Bill’s dream. It’s great when everyone can work together and make that happen.”
Another added bonus this year was Wild Bill’s Bar. The bar, adorned with pictures of Bill, went over huge with the Jammers and was packed all weekend.
I’ve been a spectator for the last 16 years as some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands have performed at the Jam. And I’ve had a front row seat for all of it.
Moondance Jam attracts about 20,000 people to the area each year; an unbelievable feat when you consider its humble beginnings back in 1992 when Bill and Kathy Bieloh hosted the first music festival for about 500 people.
All the credit for the Jam and what it does for the Walker area falls directly on the shoulders of the Bielohs, who saw early on what an opportunity they had to bring dollars to area businesses.
For 10 years now Jammers have competed in a contest that rewards the winners with Jam tickets for next year’s event.
This year’s theme was Campin’ Crue 22, and there were about 15 campsites entered.
Friday afternoon Kathy Bieloh and about a dozen other judges made their way through all the campgrounds.
Two hours later the results were tallied and Dr. Feelgood, set up in South Reserved, was the unanimous choice as grand champions.
The two runner-ups were Valhalla Vikings in General Camping and Camp Howler in South Reserved.
The top three campsites receive six three-day passes for Moondance Jam 23, with the winner receiving passes to the Poser Deck Saturday night to watch the band of their choice.