Jo Dee Messina weathers the storm

Posted 8/3/10

“She ponied up … she could have said no and walked away, and we would have had to pay her. It's considered an ‘act of God' (in the contract),” said Steve Scott, fair manager.

Instead, Messina chose to stick it out and …

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Jo Dee Messina weathers the storm


Following rainstorm, country singer gives acoustic show to fairgoersKnown for her hit song “Bring on the Rain,” country music star Jo Dee Messina faced a thunderstorm moments before her Park County Fair show with an attitude true to her song's lyrics — “I'm not going to let it get me down.”Regardless of the rain-drenched stage, flooded equipment, electrical issues, muddy ground, windblown fans and continuing storm, Messina was determined that the show would go on.

“She ponied up … she could have said no and walked away, and we would have had to pay her. It's considered an ‘act of God' (in the contract),” said Steve Scott, fair manager.

Instead, Messina chose to stick it out and give the crowd a unique acoustic show Wednesday night in the grandstand bleachers, mere feet away from fans.

Her close proximity to the audience gave the show a more intimate atmosphere than a typical concert, Scott added.

The popular country musician interacted with the audience, taking song requests, answering questions and joking around with fans.

At one point, she bantered with an audience member who was talking on a cell phone, saying she didn't mean to interrupt the conversation. Messina then proceeded to take the phone and talk with the likely bewildered person on the other end.

Messina performed in a T-shirt and jeans, further adding to the down-to-earth feeling of the show.

“I look better in the dark,” she joked. “I looked cute, had my makeup done, a fancy top … and then came the rain.”

The hair-dampening, make-up ruining rainstorm nearly spoiled Messina's entire show before it could start. High winds swirled dust in front of the stage as the opening performers, The Doo-Wah Riders, finished their closing songs. As wind whipped against fans, they scrambled for shelter as rain began to pour. Within moments, rain falling in sheets had soaked the stage.

“The crew stepped up and got everything covered, but by then it was too late,” Scott said.

Doo-Wah Rider Lindy Rasmusson, who sings and plays electric and acoustic guitar, said, “That's the wettest I've ever been on stage.

“You never know what the weather's going to do,” he added. “We only had one more song to do, and we thought we could make it through. Then it started blowing dust — our sound man said he couldn't see us from 40 yards out. Then it just opened up, and (the rain) really came down.”

As the thunderstorm cleared, Messina and crew members assessed the water damage to the stage and equipment, knowing they would have to play elsewhere.

“We looked at the free stage or beer garden, but they were just as wet,” Scott said.

So the show went to the grandstand bleachers.

Though none of the equipment was permanently damaged to his knowledge, Scott said it couldn't be used Wednesday in the wet conditions. Some equipment still was drying out days later.

Borrowing a few acoustical instruments from the Doo-Wah Riders, Messina and her band set up the show on the narrow walkway in the center of the grandstand bleachers, directly in front of some audience members' seats.

Rasmusson down played the Doo-Wah Riders' part in helping Messina and her band members perform their concert afterward.

“We just loaned them some wet instruments,” Rasmusson said.

Rasmusson said he's opened for Messina before, but never had seen a performance like that one.

“I enjoyed last night a lot more,” he said Thursday morning. “When that sort of thing happens, when they go unplugged like that,” the audience gets a more intimate show, he said.

“She talked a lot more to the crowd. I thought she was really personal. The crowd got to know her better.”

The fair office sold 1,243 tickets for the Messina concert, and sales were down a bit compared to previous years, Scott said.

Following the show, some ticket-holders asked for refunds, because they couldn't see Messina well from their grandstand seats.

During the storm, Scott said fair board members considered what would happen with ticket refunds if the show was canceled. Scott said that basically, the policy is that if the show went on — like it did Wednesday night — tickets are not refunded.

Though he heard a few complaints, Scott said for the most part, audience members were happy with Messina's performance.

“Most of them were thrilled,” he said.

“I just appreciate everybody's patience,” Scott added.

Before she finished the show with her hit song “Bye, Bye,” a young adoring audience member asked Messina when she would return to Powell for another show. Messina responded that if fair organizers invited her, she certainly would be back.

“Well, hustle up,” he told her.