Thunder 2022 – Day 2…

Thunder on the Iron Range Crowd during Winger

This morning I find myself with two thoughts on my brain. The first, criminy, how the heck did I go through 3 day ‘fests in the past with energy every day, and secondly, I may have used the “Negaunee hasn’t had their foundations rocked like this since the closure of the Mather B” line a little too early.

To say day 2 of the 2022 rocked would be a bit of an understatement. SPUN kicked off the day with a set catering to the 80’s rock crowd, and they definitely got a lot of talk afterwards. We’re quite fortunate to have these cats pretty much every weekend. If you think you like to rock and you aren’t out watching SPUN I have to question whether or not you really like to rock.

Chad Borgen rockin’ out.

Stone Senate was up next, and we think they may have gotten a little tripped up by the fact that we’re in the Eastern timezone as they came up from Wisconsin, but they still managed to hit the stage right on time with their varied triple guitar attack. They rocked the crowd with about an hour of mixed rock songs from their catalog some leaning more Southern Rock, some feelin’ like just good ol’ classic rock of old, and then some that definitely let you know they remembered the 90’s and early 00’s. I have to admit I am surprised they didn’t play their cover of George Strait’s “Fireman” as the crowd would have went ballistic, but, even though the crowd had yet to fill up like it would in the evening, quite a few people left the day as new Stone Senate fans. I spoke with some members briefly after their set about them possibly becoming a U.P. regular. They said they understand the rural bar game. and they definitely expressed interest.

After Stone Senate, the only 2019 Thunder returnee of the day hit the stage focusing more on a heavy/classic rock set than we normally expect. Though at times, I felt it was a little clear that this wasn’t the usual polished set from Chad Borgen & the Collective, the crowd was very into it, and they definitely got them ready for what was to come.

What was to come is still leaving me exhausted over 14 hours later. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m a fan of FireHouse. Yeah, I got to hear some of the songs I grew up with live, but this kind of arena rock has never really moved me. That being said, there is no doubt that FireHouse brought it to Negaunee. The crowd was wild as they ripped out the hits, and I was definitely entertained by the sheer showmanship of the band.

Once I can sort through all the pictures, we’ll get some albums up and there should be some entertaining captions as these guys definitely knew to put on a show. Let’s just say from the pictures you wouldn’t know that drummer Mike Foster was drumming a ballad.

Following FireHouse we started to get the unfortunate word that Lita Ford had laryngitis and wouldn’t be able to sing for the night. Though some folks were disappointed, and some didn’t hear that announcement from the stage, few could be truly disappointed in the guitar show that Lita & crew brought. Longtime Lita Ford guitarist Patrick Kennison stepped in on the vox, and you definitely gotta give him credit. Sure, he’s not some tonal, clinical singer, but the man knows how to be a rock vocalist. Lita & crew ripped through a set of hits, including a dynamite version of the Lita & Lemmy Kilminster penned opus “Can’t Catch Me” that slipped in a massive drum demonstration from the legendary Bobby Rock. Though I’m sure a lot of folks were disappointed that Lita couldn’t sing. Honestly, only those of us close to the stage really heard her say anything, I have to say that I feel I may have enjoyed the set more with Patrick on vox as I tend to like my vocals harsher in this kind of rock ‘n roll. Unfortunately, due to Covid, there was no media/public contact with Lita, but even though under the weather, it was still amazing to see the looks of pure joy on her face as you can tell she just loves to play guitar in front of people with her friends.

The night closed with a band, that is no stranger to Negaunee? Well, I guess we can say that since it’s the second time they’ve graced our presence in a decade. However, this time it was with all 5 members of the band…

…sort of. Unfortunately, Reb Beach is touring Europe with Whitesnake so they had a cat named Jake Faun filling in, and well, let’s just say I don’t think Reb is all that missed. This dude just stepped right in, and is still clearly the featured guitarist, even over Taylor (Howie Simon is filling in this tour for John Roth, no public reason as to why). Seriously, this dude rips, and he just helped enhance a set that was already going to be an instrumental clinic.

Pre-Winger Crowd from the stage.

The band kicked it off with a deep cut, “Battle Stations” from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack, and they really focused on their first 3 albums compared to the last appearance. I’m not sure if they were tuning their setlist to a rural festival crowd, or how they honestly go about it, but that seemed to be the case. Of course, it worked. “Seventeen” came early in the set, and Kip actually waited a couple songs to crack “She’s only 53…” (She’d actually only be 51 there, Kip), and they dug pretty deep into their catalog. At one point, Kip even asked the band (and I’m fairly sure this was for show, but again… it worked) “Am I reading this right? Are we really playing Rainbow (in the Rose)? (to Faun) You okay with this?”

Throughout the set, Kip was kind of poking fun at the VIP section separation, but by the end of the set he had clearly decided that this wasn’t how he wanted to end the show. Before the last two songs kicked in, Kip got up there and egged the VIPs to let the General Admission folks into the section. Now, the VIPs didn’t mind. Security, was another story, however, as a longtime security guy myself they did EXACTLY what I would have done. Tightened up, and sent someone looking for someone that could make that decision.

Winger kicked into their second to last song, and about 45 seconds into it I heard Kip say, “You gotta be kidding me…” Now, I have a little experience around Kip and I knew this was NOT going to be acceptable. I looked at a couple of the opening musicians around me and said, “Whoa… He’s ticked, he’s gonna stop the show or walk out after this song…” He did. All of the sudden Kip straight up stops the band. He then calls out security, which isn’t the most fair, but that’s just the game on that level. Then Kip saw promoter Mike Ridenour running through the section to get the “gates” to the VIP open. He had just gotten there and he did everything he could to make sure that show finished properly. Straight up, that is a weird and kind of unfortunate situation to be put in as a promoter and it was handled glowingly.

The VIP section filled up with the GA crowd, Kip was happy and Winger rocked those last 1 1/2 songs out to a grateful crowd. The whole thing was really just a little hiccup, and it’s gonna give some folks a good story later.

All in all, the day wrapped up fairly nicely. Over two days there have been minimal incidents, only enough ejections to be counted on fingers, and lots of drinks, money and fun flowing on Iron Street.

One more day to go, and I’m going to be flying up there out of this office as soon as I hit publish. Looks like I’m once again going to miss Tom Katalin (this is becoming a thing), but I’m only one man with so much energy. Wanna be a part of something like this in the future? Throw me a DM and we can talk. Covering this festival as we have is just the beginning, and as events like this become more prominent we hope to cover them AND all the classics (Hiawatha, Skankapalooza, Wood Tick, etc) on the same level. We just need the folks to do it.

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