Moondance Jam 20

Moondance Jam 20

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

This past weekend the 20th Moondance Jam in Walker, MN exploded with Kiss, Stone Temple Pilots, Paul Rodgers, and Burton Cummings all captivating the jammers.

(Above: Stone Temple Pilots)

This was the first Jam without its founder Bill Bieloh, who passed away last fall. Shortly before Kiss took the stage on Friday night there was a heartfelt memorial video shown to the crowd. There were many tears, but when Kiss took the stage a few minutes later the emotional rollercoaster blasted off with booms and flashing flames.

“Moondance, Moondance, when we came in this afternoon, I could see some people having trouble walking. You must have been hiking today so you’re a little tired… That’s why you are kinda walking like,” Paul Stanley of Kiss said as he stumbled around the stage mimicking the crowd to open up their set.

It was hot out in Walker last weekend, but this is a humid and sweaty summer everywhere in Minnesota. When 63 year old Burton Cummings, former lead singer and songwriter for The Guess Who got off the stage at around 6pm, he needed extra time to cool down before meeting with a few VIP fans. He had a scorched timeslot of Saturday at 5pm, but when he came out for an encore that wasn’t expected it showed his rock and roll credibility. The sage Cummings told the crowd the story of his band and gave them a departing message.

“When I started out in my first band, decades and decades ago, I never ever dreamed that I would be one of the lucky ones sitting here, but this December I am going to turn 64,” Cummings said. “It’s because of days like this and the people like you that have kept me going all of these years. I leave you today with a song from the days of the hippies.”

The sentiment reminded me of when I had spoken with famous artist of the hippie era Wes Wilson a few months ago. He talked about the hippies who were not in it for the drugs in the 1960s, the true ones who were trying to save the land.

“When I wrote this song I was full of hope and optimism,” Cummings said. “I don’t know, this song still holds a bit of hope and optimism for the future. Just let me say one thing; I’ve said this thousands of times on stage, and I will say it once more, don’t ever forget how lucky you are to live in a country like this. All you have to do folks is, any day of the week, turn on CNN and watch for about five minutes about how most of the world lives… You’ll be ready to go out and kiss the ground. Don’t ever, ever forget, how lucky you are. We’ll leave you with this, from the days of the hippies … God Bless, I wish you all health, long life, good friendship and above everything, peace in here.”

He then went into his Guess Who hit, “Share the Land.”

During an improvised jam session in the middle of Cummings set that revolved around a bluesy, “American Woman,” he felt an old rock spirit with him. He eventually sang a verse and chorus of The Doors hit song, “Roadhouse Blues.” Cummings was also wearing a Doors shirt during his set. After the show he talked about hanging out with Morrison for a night about a year before his tragic young death in 1971 at 27 years old.

“An old rock and roll friend dropped by to say a brief hello to Minnesota,” Cummings sang in the improvised jam. He then turned his back to the audience and began to unbutton his outer shirt to reveal his Doors shirt underneath. “Ashen Lady, Ashen Lady, Give up your vows, give up your vows. Save our city, save our city, right now. I got an American woman.”

At that point Cummings went into “American Woman” and the thousands of fans in the audience cheered their approval. Despite the heat, Cummings and his band put on an amazing show. His performance reminded the crowd why he is the real “Guess Who,” not the one that goes by that “band” name.

I paid quite a bit of money to see The Guess Who at Black Bear Casino not too long ago and learned after the show that the only remaining member performing that day was the drummer. The cheesy singer of the new “Guess Who” had his shirt off through most of the Black Bear show to show off his abs, but his overly bleached long blond hair was too much. It is sad that here was the writer of The Guess Who’s songs and the band’s lead singer playing in extreme heat at 5pm, while the drummer of the band is going around charging a ton of cash performing in climate controlled places like Black Bear Casino. Cummings was impressive, but the Guess Who at Black Bear was a waste of money and time in hindsight.

Another classic rocker who graced the Moondance stage was Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company.

Here we were again with the lead singer of a band who was performing solo, but this time the hits weren’t quite as earth shattering as “American Woman.” I didn’t totally realize it at the time, but I had seen Rodgers in one of my favorite concert videos, “Message of Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival.” “Isle” is the British Woodstock that took place in 1970 on the small Isle of Wight and was attended by 600,000 people. Some people are familiar with this concert video more for Jimi Hendrix and his performance shortly before he died. Hendrix wore a fire suit while he smoothly rode his pedals and stroked his guitar. For me I always remember from the “Isle of Wight” video when Free took the stage and did, “All Right Now.” Rodgers had a look that Jason Lee must have totally copied when he appeared as a singer in the movie, “Almost Famous.” He had a beard, long hair, and a very slim physique.

Rodgers was great on stage, but a bit postured. He has always looked posed on stage though, so learning his security eccentricities only made him appear even more postured. Kiss was escorted from their dressing room about 50 feet on a golf cart to the stage while surrounded by security. It was kind of strange watching them in all of their makeup and costume glory squished together on a golfcart.

“I got a feeling,” Paul Stanley of Kiss sang while on the stage. “I got this feeling people, I see a full moon tonight, and so I know everybody’s gonna get crazy. I got a feelin’ if everbody loosens up, just a little bit, we’re gonna get this place so HOT! Now what… Let me hear you say, OWW… Let me hear you say, WOW… I’ve got a feeling we are gonna have to call out, ‘The Firehouse.’”

Stone Temple Pilots were the highlight of Moondance 20 in my view, but there is one other thing I must note about their performance. There were three Teleprompters set up on the stage floor to allow Weiland to read the lyrics to his songs. I have not seen this done before, but my access at this show gave me an interesting revelation. It was kind of like karaoke watching Weiland on stage, but to be honest, he didn’t appear to be reading the monitors very often. There are special passes that allow concert-jammers the opportunity to purchase backstage access, photos with the bands, and meal deals. Go to to plan your Jam for next year and read more details.

The music for STP still feels vital and isn’t dated like most bands from the grunge era. Maybe it is due to Weiland fronting Velvet Revolver and being relevant in modern rock music, or maybe it is that the music is a bit more timeless than other songs of the era.

Here are the videos I shot of the show: