The first day of "Halfway Jam" started like any typical first day of a music festival. With a beautiful day looming and first day jitters of the attendees a typical start was assured. What every music festival has is surprises but when the surprises make a big impact it makes everything more fun.
Halfway Jam in Royalton, Minnesota launched its eleventh first day on July 24th, 2014 with a bill that included a heartthrob and a Canadian band named for an attraction in its hometown. Under a little cloud cover which broke nicely, temperatures that hovered in the high 70's and low '80's with no falling precipitation the back drop was extraordinary.
For the VIP patrons a wonderful catered menu awaited. Today the menu was of tacos complete with rice, beans, assorted vegetable garnishes (standard fare, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc.) with a snack being provided following dinner.
VIP wasn't the only winner for food, all patrons had the option of buying food on the grounds from some wonderful vendors that gave wonderful smelling selections (tomorrow I will sneak in a steak sandwich, its one of my favorites).
For the patrons two stages awaited, the Main Stage and the Westside Stage had decidedly varying acts that allowed a little bit of something for everyone. On the Westside stage were Platinum FM, Lady Luck, LA Madness and Draw the Line. Platinum FM, a multi-talented five vocalists and musicians that play the hits from the '80's and more. Lady Luck is a cover band that performs music of differing bands from Led Zeppelin to Halestorm and all points in between. LA Madness is made up of exceptionally gifted musicians performing their original material that can only be branded as "indie rock/blues mixed with alternative, grunge"! Filling the final slots for the Westside Stage was an incredible Aerosmith tribute band, the ONLY officially endorsed Aerosmith tribute band. In all the Westside Stage did not disappoint once again.
The Main Stage gave those in attendance two great bands that made an indelible impression that is proof that the price of admission is worth every penny. On the Main Stage Thursday night were Honeymoon Suite and Winger, two bands that had great success in the decades of the '80's and '90's, but Thursday they proved those are just numbers.
Up first tonight was the Canadian band, Honeymoon Suite. As lead singer (and founder) Johnnie Dee explained the name of the band came from their hometown, Niagara Falls, Ontario and the thousands of couples that spend their recent nuptials in the "honeymoon suites" in Ontario and New York. Honeymoon Suite has a massive music catalog that includes twelve albums and several very well known hits that were part and parcel to numerous proms, dances, weddings / receptions and the speakers of innumerate cars worldwide. To describe the set that Honeymoon Suite played would be best understood by the slack-jawed writer that was blown away by the power they generated. Much like the hydroelectric power generated by the famous falls, the band lit the stage with musicianship that would be on par with many hard rock acts. They were absolutely incredible!
The closing act on the Main Stage was the band Winger, the band known for several hits and the founder of the band Kip Winger. When the self-titled album "Winger" was released in 1988 it was at the height of the era of hair but the band was different than most of its contemporaries. The album highlighted the talent that was within the band, in its musicianship and its lyrics. The songs "Seventeen", "Madalaine", "Headed for a Heartbreak", "Hungry" and "Purple Haze" were instant hits for Winger thus cementing the album as one of the best albums in music then and still today. On Thursday night Winger provided a set that included all of those songs (except Purple Haze) plus newer material that is every bit as hard as any music by Judas Priest (yes I said and mean that). The entire set was a thrill a minute and it reminded me of why the band is still successful.
Music festivals give its attendees many opportunities to make their experiences personal, memorable even but this evening one person had an experience during the Winger set that my trump them all. If I were a betting man I would bet that every musician wishes they could experience the success of their favorite band. Each of them wants their shot to be a famous lead singer, or guitar player, rolling in cash and groupies but rarely does megastar success hit. At the same time every musician wishes that they would get to be called in like a relief pitcher to help perform on stage, kind of like a Mariano Rivera to save the day. Thursday night at Halfway Jam one lucky person actually got to do that, kind of.
After Winger completed their set they returned for an encore but not like one I have seen previously. As the band took their positions Kip Winger came out bass-free he then asked the crowd if anyone in the crowd was a "kick-ass bass player", and Cody Jergenson raised his hand. Kip asked Jergenson to come up on stage, and after a little coaching as to what was about to be performed Winger took the mic and then the band plus Jergenson began to perform "Ain't Talking 'bout Love", the Van Halen classic. The song was great and so was the performance of the young man. What an opportunity and what a honor Kip WInger bestowed upon the young man.
Halfway Jam is an opportunity to sit back and listen to excellent music performed by incredible musicians granting its attendees three days to sit back and enjoy. Day one was the first day in which we were able to do so. It was a beautiful day and it also provided us a glimpse inside a fantasy day gone well. Its not too often you see a person just pulled from the crowd and asked to perform but for every person there we all had a chance to make day one special. This was merely the first day with two more remaining, maybe you can find your own fun there for day two and three but if you can't this year make your way there next year you will not be disappointed.