Outsider: ‘Jammin’ for Vets’ bringing big stars to tiny Viroqua

2013-05-01T09:07:00Z Outsider: ‘Jammin’ for Vets’ bringing big stars to tiny Viroquaby Matt Johnson La Crosse Tribune
May 01, 2013 9:07 am  • 

I saw the band Night Ranger perform at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis in the summer of 1985.

Now, nearly 30 years later, Night Ranger is going to be at the top of the bill during a day of “Classic/’80s” rock music at “Jammin’ for Vets,” a massive three-day music festival, planned right here in little ol’ Viroqua, Aug. 22-24.

The Wisconsin Veterans of Foreign Wars are promoting this event at the Vernon County Fairgrounds. On Monday, I talked with State Senior Vice Commander of the state VFW, Renee (Lockington) Simpson. Simpson grew up in rural De Soto and is happy to see this event scheduled to take place so close to where she grew up.

Viroqua is no stranger to music festivals. We host the annual Gospel and Bluegrass Festival at the Fairgrounds. ... This is a different type of festival. Three days of modern rock, classic rock and country music. On-site vendors, food, beer and music — loud, loud music — day and night.

Most of the details are in our front page story. A Facebook page for Jammin’ for Vets has been up since March, but we didn’t catch wind of this event until this week.

Most of the bands on the list have had at least one honest-to-goodness charting hit. The headlining acts are all still big names.

Unless you’re listening to new rock music or a steady diet of 95.7 The Rock, you probably won’t know the band Saliva. I would say that if you’re not comfortable even knowing that there’s a band out there with the name Saliva, this show is probably not for you. However, there is a generation of music fans who will go see the show. In 2002, Saliva’s song “Always” charted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart. The band has seven studio albums and one greatest hits record. Saliva is to be the main act on Thursday, Aug. 22.

If you grew up in the 1980s, you’re going to know the bands and artists playing on Friday, Aug. 23.

Night Ranger still has its key vocalists — Jack Blades and Brad Gillis. The band also has a slew of ‘80s hits including “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” “(You Can Still) Rock in America,” “Sister Christian,” “When You Close Your Eyes” and “Sentimental Street.”

Also on the bill for Friday night is Lita Ford, who is known for her ‘80s rock hits “Gotta Let Go,” “Kiss Me Deadly” and a duet with Ozzy Osbourne, “Close My Eyes Forever,” which reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1988.

I’ve always thought Lita Ford was the real deal when it came to women in rock music. She got her start with The Runaways in the 1970s and has worked with most of the big names in rock throughout her career.

Metal fans from the early 1990s will remember the band Trixter, which is also playing on Friday. Their top songs “Give It To Me Good,” and “One In A Million” were popular back when Music Television actually played music videos.

Jammin’ for the Vets  doesn’t leave out country music fans. The event has a whole day of country music with the band Blackhawk in the mix. The festival offers up Jo Dee Messina as the closing act on Saturday, Aug. 24.

Messina has had six No. 1 country music singles on the Billboard charts and has sold 5 million records worldwide. She completed a 17-year music contract with Curb Records in 2012 and is working on a new album.

One important note about Jammin’ for Vets is that the Wisconsin VFW is looking for vendors and other local organizations to possibly help with the event. The contact information is in our story.

Simpson said the hope is that Jammin’ for the Vets brings at least 5,000 people to Viroqua each day. If it does that, it will draw more people to Viroqua than the Vernon County Fair. If the event does well this first year, Simpson said it could become an annual event in Viroqua.

While Vernon County has plenty of “must see” events, I think the buzz on this festival could be the biggest of the whole summer. Bring on the music.

E-mail Matt Johnson at matt.johnson@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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