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JAM Walker, Minnesota
14-17 July 2010
congratulate ourselves in the UK at the emergence of new rock festivals
such as High Voltage and Sonisphere, the classic rock festival is a
tradition in the American heartland as familiar as barbecued ribs,
Budweiser and wide open highways.
Jam, set among woods and lakes in the Northern Minnesota countryside, is
now in its nineteenth year and broke all attendance records with
apparently an 18,000 sell out all weekend.
choice of standing in a sandpit at the front, going for a VIP section or
sitting in a lawn chair on a hill, generous set times of an hour and ten
minutes minimum for each of the five daily bands, and two covered bars
with local bands playing in between sets, not to mention the best of
American customer service, the Moondance concert experience is a very
was helped by some defections from counterpart Rock Fest in neighbouring
Wisconsin, which I used to attend regularly but which has moved in a
more contemporary direction.
that, Moondance is also finding it necessary to broaden its musical
appeal, so after a fun eve of show party with some excellent tribute
acts, the first full day had the most modern rock feel of any Moondance
line up to date.
opened and I awaited them with interest having heard some people sing
their praises, and rather than the post-grunge I was led to believe,
their widescreen style reminded me more of U2.
initially favourable impressions gradually faded when I realised how
forgettable their songs were.
their youthful energy I didn't fare much better with Hoobastank,
who I knew primarily for their hit ballad The Reason, but who were more
in a Linkin Park or Lost Prophets mould. When The Reason finally got
played, it got the biggest cheer to date but I'm afraid it sounded more
like Coldplay to me. Full marks to them though for getting the crowd
going, especially with a 'girls v boys' singalong to My Turn.
Collective Soul were well led by the charismatic, fair haired Ed
Roland, coming over like a more intelligent version of Nickelback's Chad
Kroger, and I enjoyed hearing their breakthrough song Shine, preceded by
Ed teasing with snippets of classic tracks that influenced him, but
their rather earnest songs again lacked the hooks to grab me.
To be fair,
each of these three bands gave their all and were appreciated by large
sections of the crowd, but simply did not appeal to my more traditional
Buckcherry were easily the best of the more contemporary acts.
Brash, heavily tattooed and with that wasted glam look, they got a
tremendous crowd response, and have not just the look but the stageshow
to carry off the challenge of a large festival show and are well capable
of inheriting the baton from the likes of Motley Crue.
such as All Night Long and It's a Party were instantly catchy, while Lit
Up's dedication to the delights of cocaine may be in dubious taste but
got everyone going, as did the lyrically explicit Crazy Bitch, Rescue Me
and the ballad Sorry. Meanwhile a cover of Highway Star was far better
than I could have imagined with twin guitars replacing the classic
headliner delighted us classic rock fans though, Sammy Hagar
returning to action with his Waboritas band after his Chickenfoot
were high having seen him deliver three great shows at Rock Fest in the
past, but the 'Red Rocker 'floored the late night audience with one of
the most stunning openings to any show I can remember - his great fist
punching anthems There's only One Way to Rock and I Can't Drive 55, Van
Halen's chart topper Why Can't This Be Love, then a medley from
Montrose's classic 1973 debut of Space Station No 5, Rock Candy and
after some messing around with a steel guitar, Bad Motor Scooter with
Sammy producing a great guitar solo. How could he top that?
couldn't, but I was pleased to hear a set focus heavily on his pre Van
Halen work, mainly from the early eighties, so we got commercial gems
like I've Done Everything for You, I'll Fall in Love Again, Your Love is
Driving me Crazy and Heavy Metal, with guitarist Vic Johnson and bassist
Mona joining in the singing.
He is still
full of infectious energy and vitality at 62, swapping jokes and
collecting tequilas from his bikini clad 'waitresses' and bantering with
the crowd, so it was appropriate that the party anthem Mas Tequila (the
only post-Van Halen song in his set) closed things before the mother of
all confetti explosions.
the encores, despite being Van Halen numbers, were slightly
anti-climactic, a lengthy and bluesy Finish What Ya Started and a
stripped back Right Now.
was the day Moondance dipped into the last decade and a half, then
Friday saw, to put it politely, a more seasoned line up.
Travers opened the show and fortunately, since I last saw him has
reverted from a blues fixation to the harder, two guitar style that made
him a cult hero on both sides of the Atlantic in the late seventies and
was one of two surprisingly good new numbers, Stevie developed into a
fine guitar jam and even his trip into the blues was for an electrifying
cover of Red House.
Whiskey and the singalong Boom Boom Out Go the Lights delighted his long
time fans (if not the bloke who had his Trowers and Traverses mixed up
and kept shouting for Day of the Eagle!) while a blistering encore of
Statesboro blues was exactly the type of heavy boogie that goes down
well here (as Foghat and Grand Funk last year).
Next up were
The Smithereens, who to my shame I had never even heard of when
they were added to the bill, before familiarising myself with a cheaply
in black but with singer Pat Dinizio not looking in the best of health,
they rattled through a series of punchy, catchy songs including minor US
hit singles such as Girl like You and Blood and Roses in a manner which
blended the New Wave styles of the likes of the Knack and the Cars with
an affection for the British invasion of the sixties: indeed they also
played a medley of Who songs from Tommy and slipped a snatch of Behind
Blue Eyes (with the crowd singing along word perfect) into an enjoyable
set. You could do a lot worse than check out their material.
from watching a Heart tribute in the saloon bar, Don Felder had
just hit the stage, and the iconic double neck Gibson guitar strapped
around his neck could only mean he was opening with Hotel California,
with a great duel with fellow guitarist Frank Simes.
the ageing classic rocker's uniform of white shirt, black jeans, leather
waistcoat and shades, the scene was set for a set almost entirely
composed of Eagles classics - from the seminal country rock of Already
Gone, gentler moments such as One of These Nights, Peaceful Easy Feeling
and Tequila Sunrise, to more guitar oriented songs like These Shoes and
Victim of Love.
His voice is
undistinctive, but serviceable as well as being backed by some great
harmonies, and his controlled, slightly bluesy guitar work exemplary, a
bit like an American Clapton.
He was also
backed by a band of star session players including Whitesnake's Timothy
Drury on keyboards. To be harsh, this was a glorified Eagles tribute but
the nearest a Moondance crowd would ever get to seeing them.
impression was confirmed when he ended his set as the Eagles do, turning
up the guitars for Heartache Tonight with his trademark slide guitar and
Life in the Fast Lane, before an encore of Take it Easy.
soundtrack to a sunny early evening in the heart of America put a big
smile on my face and for me, Don Felder was the most pleasant surprise
of the Festival.
Speedwagon and Pat Benatar brought their tour to Moondance, with
Pat and band going first. When I last saw her about three years ago she
came over a bit 'mumsy' but, dressed in a long black coat and with long
russet coloured hair, she looked every inch the rock goddess again, even
Geraldo took a lower key role but his guitar and arrangements were
essential, while they told interesting anecdotes about the origins of
the songs. My one gripe was the visual oddity of Neil constantly going
to the piano, but usually not to play, but to mess about with some
sequencers and programmers.
Pat's promise they would be choosing some obscure tracks, in the time
available this was a strict Greatest Hits set, beginning rockily with
All Fired Up and including AOR anthems Shadows of the Night and
Invincible, the more epic promises in the Dark and Hell is for Children
and poppier moments such as We Belong and Love is a Battlefield, not to
mention an acoustic treatment of You Better Run.
Pat was in
good voice, but allowed the crowd to take over for Hit Me With Your Best
Shot, while Heartbreaker, with a great solo from Neil, closed a set that
was as rocky as anyone could have expected.
Speedwagon had opened with a long and rather contrived intro tape,
replicating a broadcast from 1980 with 'Hi Infidelity' about to be
launched into Don't Let Him Go and Keep On Lovin You, still the ultimate
in power ballads, with Kevin Cronin playing guitar and leaving the grand
piano intro to Neal Doughty for once to maintain continuity, I thought
they were about to play the whole album in sequence, and indeed was
relishing the prospect of hearing some different songs live, but after
In Your Letter and Take it On The Run they returned to a regular set.
It is said
so often to become a cliché, but REO are a different proposition live
from the hit ballad band they are pigeonholed as (but yes, yogurt
lovers, Can't Fight This Feeling did get played).
They are a
road tested, straight ahead rock band with a big sound perfect for
festivals such as this. The set focused heavily on seventies songs such
as Keep Pushin, Golden Country and Time for me to Fly, before the rock
factor was notched up even more with Bruce Hall (whose hometown of
Champaign, Illinois is name checked at every REO show I have seen)
taking the mike during the relentless boogie of Back On the Road Again
(the theme song of two travelling rock fans from France I met in my
hotel!) before, from its keyboard beginnings, Roll With the Changes
builds into a jamming guitar-heavy groove.
it all, guitarist Dave Amato grimaces and gives it his all, and he and
Bruce charge from one end of the stage to the other.
meanwhile, trim, grinning, and hyperactive, skips across the stage
whipping the crowd up like a fitness instructor from eighties breakfast
TV, while keeping his usual monologues relatively short.
traditional encores Ridin' the Storm Out and 157 Riverside Avenue rocked
the crowd into the night in similar vein, and although the set list was
predictable, I never fail to be uplifted by the joy that REO bring to
their craft. Sadly the hotel fridge was empty of Muller Fruit Corners
when I got back.
find a theme to each day, a well balanced Sunday line up saw old and new
bands each influenced by traditional musical forms such as blues and
country, but very diverse in how they have used their influences.
were relatively new Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke, whose
singer had the biggest pair of mutton chop whiskers since Noddy Holder :
for most of the early bands there was usually just a small knot of
people in front of the stage but they seemed to have bussed it a whole
They won at
least one new admirer with a sound that veered between Southern Rock and
Country - with Prayer for the Little Man in the same down-home style
that has seen the Van Zant brothers become country crossovers, and Up in
Smokeand set closer Freedom Song in the former category. At times their
rhythmic grooves and some soulful organ playing also reminded me of the
Stone Cherry are better known, at least in the UK, and the young
Kentuckians are a much heavier proposition. Indeed, at indoor shows I
have been bludgeoned by their sheer volume at the expense of quality but
in the open air, although still uncompromisingly heavy, the sound was
few surprises in the set with familar songs from the first album -
Lonely Train, Hell or High Water and Maybe Someday, and the more classic
rock inspired follow up, such as Blind Man, and the Zeppelin-esque
Please Come In.
their hyperactive energy, particularly drummer Jon Fred Young and rhythm
guitarist Ben Wells, was exhausting just to watch, and with youth on
their side they can be a force for years to come, effectively spanning
both classic rock and modern metal.
missed their first UK appearance in nearly 20 years at Download, I got
to see Cinderella on home soil, again with a set that focused
entirely on their first three albums.
with some of the more basic AC/DC meets Aerosmith numbers such as Push
Push, Second Wind and Falling Apart at the Seams, the set gradually
diversified with numbers such as an acoustic Heartbreak Station, and
Coming Home with its beautiful twin guitars.
was in good voice and the bluesy, often slide or lap steel guitars of
him and Jeff La Bar are unfairly overlooked when Cinders are discussed
in the same breath as the hair metal bands.
groove of Shelter Me (ironically as the rain came down during their
set), even featuring a sax solo from Tom, and a powerful Nobodys Fool
was followed by Gypsy Road, although that seemed to be the one song
where Tom really struggled vocally.
encore, a giant piano was wheeled on for that great power ballad Don't
Know What You've Got Till Its Gone , before Shake Me did exactly that to
a packed crowd at the front and ended a set which was a reminder of
Cinderella's underrated qualities. But will they ever record any new
the bill was Jonny Lang, whose material I did not know but I was
certainly familiar with his revered status as one of the blues' new
generation of guitar heroes.
I was so
disappointed - expecting some fiery blues rock a la Kenny Wayne Shepherd
or Joe Bonamassa, instead the set meandered for long periods with funk,
soul and jazz influences more to the fore, as in a cover of Living for
the City. Oddly, on the one song that impressed me, Lie to Me, it was
his singing not his playing that caught the eye.
he did enjoy a good crowd reaction, possibly as a local boy made good,
but I'm afraid he bored me.
One of my
favourite musical discussions is to ask people which American hard rock
band has the greatest legacy. Aerosmith, Kiss and Van Halen top many
people's lists, but in my view, but for the plane crash Lynyrd
Skynyrd could have gone on to be as revered as the likes of Led
Zeppelin. So it was entirely fitting that the 2010 version of Skynyrd
closed Moondance's biggest festival yet.
who saw their last two UK tours will testify, Skynyrd certainly know how
to put on a show and the crowd lapped up every minute of it, from the
moment they came on stage to Workin' for MCA.
Johnny Van Zant's geniality as a frontman, the visual and musical focus
of Skynyrd falls on their triple guitar attack: Ricky Medlocke, covering
every inch of the stage and combining fiery solos with engaging directly
with the fans at the front; last remaining member from the classic line
up Gary Rossington, an impassive, almost immobile figure under his
cowboy hat; and increasingly impressive new boy - and Robbie Savage
look-alike - Mark Matejka.
such as during a superb That Smell, it was hard to follow the twists and
turns of the way they delivered solos individually or in harmony.
favourites were present and correct, from the singalong What's Your Name
to a beautifully judged Simple Man, and even when three of them were
sandwiched into a medley, it was done in a way that did not seem rushed.
disappointment was that it was back to a nostalgia show with just a
solitary new number in Skynyrd Nation - whereas their modern classic
Still Unbroken had actually been my highlight of their Hammersmith show.
As at every
Skynyrd show, the pace quickened into the home run of favourites Gimme
Three Steps, Call Me the Breeze (Peter Keys adding the trademark honky
tonk piano, but a crowd banner that read 'RIP Billy Powell' a reminder
of how he is sadly missed), and Sweet Home Alabama, as the band hit
those southern grooves and synchronised their stage moves.
for the encore- as Johnny repeated the landmark words of his late
brother 'what song is it that you wanna hear' and sang Freebird with
Gary's slow, melancholic slide guitar stirring the blood, before the
band broke into a frenzy of guitar jamming.
As the other
two guitarists duelled frantically as the song came to a climax, I took
a look at the warm summer's evening, a crowd on a high from three days
partying and great music, and the stage in front of me with a perfect
sound and great lighting rig, and it occurred to me- Carlsberg don't do
rock festivals, but if they did it would be like Moondance Jam.
and the Waboritas
There's Only One Way to Rock/I can't Drive 55/Medley: Space Station No
5/Rock Candy/Bad Motor Scooter/Best of Both Worlds/Three Lock Box/I've
Done Everything for You/Whole lotta Love/The Girl Gets Around/I'll Fall
in Love Again/Your Love is Driving Me Crazy/Heavy Metal/Mas Tequila.
Finish What Ya Started/Right Now.
All Fired Up/Shadows of the Night/if You Think You Know How to Love
Me/Invincible/Promises in the Dark/We Belong/You Better Run/Hell is for
Children/Hit me with your Best Shot/Love is a Battlefield
Lets Stay Together/Heartbreaker
Him Go/Keep on Lovin You/In your Letter/Take it On the Run/Keep Pushin'/Golden
Country/Can't Fight This Feeling/Like you Do/Time for me to Fly/Back on
the Road Again/Roll with the Changes.
Ridin the Storm Out/157 Riverside Avenue
Workin' for MCA/I aint the One/Skynyrd Nation/Whats Your Name/Down South
Jukin/That Smell/I Know a Little/Simple Man/Medley: Gimme Back my
Bullets, Double Trouble, needle and the Spoon/Gimme Three Steps/Call Me
the Breeze/Sweethome Alabama.
photos by Andy Nathan
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