Funny how many of my fondest memories over the past decade involve the Buffalo Chip’s Wolfman Jack Amphitheater. Stevie Nicks in 2011 definitely stands out. The skies toward town were turning dark purple. A giant backdrop on stage whipped like a sail before blowing off altogether. Fingers of lightning lit up the horizon, the storm circling the natural bowl of The Chip’s amphitheater while the Bella Donna sang onstage, her black chiffon skirts and blonde hair whipping in the wind as she looked every part a Welsh witch conjuring a storm when she broke into “Rhiannon.” Old-timers spun their partners as they danced next to their Harleys, the song returning their youth. Others stood mesmerized by Stevie Nicks’ enchanting voice, unfazed by the threatening thunderstorm or the outside world, for at that moment the magic of Sturgis had once again cast its spell over The Chip.
I’ll never forget Kid Rock in 2013. With lightning strikes popping off in the distance, the curtain dropped and Kid Rock hopped as he broke out into the lyrics of “Devil Without a Cause.” The rapidly approaching storm soon swept overhead, dousing the crowd and the band. The harder it poured, the harder they jammed. Kid Rock’s energy and his “Rebel Soul” attitude filtered into the crowd who danced and sang along as the band played a long list of hits. That same concert famed photographer Michael Lichter captured the legendary shot of the American Badass rocking The Chip’s jam-packed amphitheater with a giant lightning bolt blowing up the night sky.
One time I snuck in the back gate with the band Tesla. They happened to be returning some Victorys the company loaned them at the same time I was. I sauntered right by security with the guys like I was the newest member of the band. The Chip puts out a pretty mean spread for bands and crew so I helped myself to some free food and beverages like I was a rock star. Memories.
Which brings us to the million dollar question. Which band is going to create memories this year at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip? While just about every musical festival around has gotten nixed, The Chip has worked tirelessly to maintain its reputation as “The Largest Music Festival in Motorcycling” by once again bringing rally-goers nine straight days of live music. Bands are missing performing live for their and fans are craving a good, live show. The Buffalo Chip is eager to bridge the gap between the two.
The Chip team has been working diligently figuring out how to keep people safe at shows. In part, they’re expanding on the example set by the old-timers dancing next to their Harleys at the Stevie Nicks show. Motorcycles have long been a part of the Buffalo Chip concert experience, so it’s been running through different configurations of the amphitheater to allow bike parking in rows along the front of the stage. It’s a ride-in concert, just like the old days! People can enjoy the show next to their motorcycle in a pocket of personal space. The Buffalo Chip also has branded its own hand sanitizer. During the height of the pandemic, the Buffalo Chip transitioned from making whiskey at Buffalo Chip Spirits to making hand sanitizer in support of the community. There’ll definitely be no shortage of hand sanitizer at The Chip.
Fittingly, the first band to play Friday August 7, has a biggest hit called “Flirtin’ with Disaster.” The band’s hard hitting Southern rock has endeared itself to bikers for decades and they’ve been a staple on the rally circuit. Being the first band to take the Woflman Jack stage for the 80th Sturgis Rally definitely makes Molly Hatchet a memorable moment candidate. The Guess Who will carry the classic rock torch Saturday night, August 8, and lots of trips down memory lane are sure to be in store as Night Ranger (Monday, August 10), 38 Special (Thursday, August 13), and Quiet Riot (Friday, August 14) will help give everybody’s “Mental Health” an adjustment.
Things get lit after that. Literally. Lit joins Drowning Pool Wednesday, August 12, for a head-banging good time. Everybody will get all “Lit Up” again when Buckcherry makes its triumphant return to The Chip’s main stage Tuesday, August 11. Adelitas Way (Saturday, August 8), Trapt (Sunday, August 9), Saving Abel ( Monday, August 10) will keep the rotation hard and heavy all week long. Add the Flaunt Girls bawdy brand of burlesque into the nightly festivities along with Hank Rotten’s voice bellowing throughout the amphitheater and The Best Party Anywhere will continue to make memories.
Rounding out the list of 2020 Buffalo Chip headliners is Smash Mouth and The Reverend Horton Heat. The BlueFrog Band will dish out a heapin’ dose of Americana Thursday, August 13, opening for 38 Special. Smash Mouth teams up with Trapt on Sunday, August 9, while The Reverend Horton Heat will deliver Texas rockabilly straight up, no chaser, on the last night of the rally, Saturday, August 15. If you’re a fan of slap bass, Jimbo Wallace slays out. Hopefully the band will close out the rally fittingly, these “Showbiz” lyrics lilting in the air,
“And no matter how bad you feel,
When those house lights go down,
A smile lights up your face
Why? 'cause that's showbiz.”
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