Day One of Moondance Jam Rocks Northern Minnesota
It was a perfect day for live rock and roll outside and under the stars in Walker, Minnesota. Moondance Jam's first day let loose the sounds of April Wine, Skid Row, Hinder and Kid Rock over the wooded glen near Leech Lake. The Jam comes of age as it enters it's 21st year of outdoor festival revelry, as thousands of campers and music lovers drink, party and hang by the campfire in between shows.
Moondance not only features national acts, but several tribute bands and local favorites from all over Minnesota. Along with the main stage, there are three other venues that accommodate live music for festival-goers. It's virtually impossible to not be in earshot of some band playing a tune.
St. Cloud act Goodnight Roxy performed in The Tiki Bar early in the day. It was the first Jam they have attended. Guitarist Adam Herron told me, "It's a step towards bigger things," and singer/songwriter-guitarist Anthony Perry said he "really enjoyed the opportunity, despite the heat."
The main stage, however gets the most attention. The show started at 3 this afternoon with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tribute band Free Fallin. Fronted by Brian Evans on guitar and lead vocals, the six-member band successfully gave you the impression that Petty had made an appearance. The crowd agreed with whoops and fist pumps at the end of their set.
Seminal 70's & 80's Canadian rock hit machine April Wine broke out an hour of their most famous rockers and power ballads, including Roller, Enough Is Enough, Just Between You And Me and Sign Of The Gypsy Queen. Lead singer and guitarist Myles Goodwyn's voice was in prime form and lead guitarist Brian Greenway knocked back the solos like he was knocking back the ice water on the 85+ degree day. Relative new-comers drummer Roy 'Nip' Nichol and bassist Richard Lanthier rounded out the line-up. They even threw in a couple of The Beatles' tunes to surprise the crowd.
80's hair band Skid Row sauntered out with the swagger and energy of teenagers to blast their well known songs. Along with I Remember You, 18 And Life and Youth Gone Wild, they hammered a set that spanned their nearly 30 year history. Lead vocalist Johnny Solinger was in rare form, hitting every note, while The Snake (Dave Sabo) drove home the solos like it was 1990 all over again. They did play a couple of unfamiliar tunes that had the crowd buzzing about new material.
On the rock scene since 2006, Hinder built a strong performance from the start. The Oklahoma rockers brought a mix of hard charged songs and crowd pleasing power ballads. It's their first appearance at Moondance and a multitude of young female fans in the crowd were sporting the bands shirts and signature bandanas. Their set consisted of their biggest hits including; Better Than Me, How Long and Use Me. Breaking out Lips Of An Angel late in the set let them add in some new songs as well as some older gems like Get Stoned. They proved to be the perfect lead-in for the headliner, Kid Rock.
Finally, Kid Rock careened onto the stage with his usual bigger than life explosive attitude. His live shows are truly a spectacle as he pounces from one side of the stage to the other. And his ensemble have an equally wild demeanor. As a unit they crank out a tight groove, melting hip-hop, R and B, country/blues and vintage rock riff samples into crowd-wowing sing-alongs. Alternately, Rock can weave a tender ballad. He picked up an acoustic and strummed through his hit duet with Sheryl Crow, Picture, with the female vocal duties handled by one of his back-up singers. It had the Moondance crowd swaying. He also launched into an interesting rendition of fellow Detroit native Ted Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever.