Rock on North Dakota

Do you remember Rockin’ the Hills or Party in the Pasture? These were music festivals held in North Dakota some years ago that became very popular but only for a few short years. Rockin’ the Hills was near Bottineau and Party in the Pasture was near Beulah. It appeared the organizers were trying to fashion both of these festivals after We Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minn. or better yet, Woodstock in Watkins Glen, N.Y. Most of the performers were regional bands, some of which were quite good and created their own following. However, it was the big names that brought the crowds. When you want big names, you have to pay big money.

The Rendezvous Region Music Fest in Langdon found that out. When that event started in 1996, it brought some interesting talent to town. There was Sha Na Na, a ‘50s rock group that even dressed the part. Johnny Rivers played Langdon - so did Bobby Vee. Although those names are no longer big on the record charts, they drew pretty good crowds. They then began to talk about bringing the Beach Boys, which didn’t materialize because booking that band was simply too expensive. Since that time, the Music Fest has continued, but the names of the talent began to dwindle except for one local band that was called Free Beer with Additives at the time. Their rendition of Love Shack by the B52s was brilliant, and every year, it brought the house down.

Rockin’ the Hills did get some big name talent, but you have to wonder why it didn’t continue. A lot of popular Canadian bands played Rockin' the Hills probably because the border is only 10 miles away from Bottineau. Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman of the Guess Who, April Wine, the Headpins and Grand Funk Railroad were just a few of the groups that played Bottineau. Rockin’ the Hills was often advertised on 92 CITI-FM in Winnipeg and CKX-FM in Brandon, so it might as well have been Manitoba.

Lots of other big name bands have played in North Dakota over the years with most of them getting booked into the Fargodome or the North Dakota State Fair. Probably the biggest name to ever come to North Dakota was Paul McCartney of the Beatles fame who played the Fargodome in 2016. Other big names have played there, but nothing like McCartney. They included Chicago, Sammy Hagar, Kiss, and AC/DC.

The State Fair has also brought out the big guns: Bryan Adams, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Foreigner, Jefferson Starship, and the Greg Kihn Band. The best memory of a concert at the State Fair has to be back in the ‘80s when Huey Lewis and the News played Minot. It was so hot during that concert that fair personnel opened up fire hoses on the crowd to cool it off. Another time when Bryan Adams was at the State Fair, Sun 102 in Estevan actually introduced him to the crowd, and when he got on stage he said “Hello Minnow” instead of Minot. It’s probably the first time in his career that he got booed.

Elton John, ZZ Top, Rush, Eddie Money, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Carole King, Pat Benatar, Gordon Lightfoot, the Beach Boys, Paul Anka, Fergie, and many others have played concerts in North Dakota.

We can’t forget about those private venues that sometimes get popular bands. Maybe the owner knows somebody, maybe the band happens to be passing through, maybe a band member grew up here. Whatever it is, this happens more often than you think. ZZ Top and Randy Bachman have both played in bars in Fargo, Loverboy played at the State Line Club near Williston, Kiss played the Jamestown Civic Center, and there was a popular Minneapolis band called Dare Force that actually played an outdoor concert in the Linton park.

But music concerts are just like sports. It seems every year the cost for tickets increases substantially and fewer people can afford to see the top talent. It just depends on what you want to pay to see your favorite star. Big name country stars, big name Gospel stars, big name pop stars and we’ve even had some big name opera stars perform here, as well as symphonies like the Montreal Symphony Orchestra playing the Chester Fritz in Grand Forks.

It’s all about money and popularity. That’s how the stars thrive, and the hype sells tickets.

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