Sturgis 2017 – Part 2

Read our October 2017 digital magazine for full coverage and photos. 

By Perry and Traci Nelson

   Traci and I got to Sturgis a little early this year…For a couple reasons:

   #1 We saw an entirely new look to the venue taking shape at the Buffalo Chip. The American Flat Track (AFT) as well as Indian, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, and other makes of flat track race bikes and their riders would be in attendance. This was a sanctioned race and took place on a crazy hairpin-cornered dirt track, with jumps. The dirt track was set up right in front of the Chip’s main stage…crazy huh? They had to tear this down before the concerts. They left some of the “dirt hills” for people to sit on and watch the concerts. Just moments earlier these “dirt hills” were used by “Twin” flat track bikes to pass other riders, jumping their bikes up to ten feet off the ground in the process!

   They did remove all the hay bales and tires and other stuff before the shows. They put that “stuff” around the track so the riders don’t get hurt if they do crash. There were a few crashes. Just a small horse fence separated the thousands of fans from the riders. Part of the fun is folks getting some dirt and smoke blowing towards them ….all part of it!

   #2 We wanted to see the band “In This Moment” (ITM); there’s been a lot of talk about this band. ITM is borderline death metal and a cross between Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. Would a band like this bring a lot of younger people into Sturgis? If Sturgis South Dakota is going to continue to be the biggest motorcycle event we all know and love, according to numerous vendors that we spoke with, the Rally needs a newer “something” to bring in a younger crowd. Maybe the band “In This Moment” that played the Friday before the bike rally at the Iron Horse in downtown Sturgis, along with the AFT races at the Buffalo Chip, just may have been the ticket.

   As always Traci and I were right next to the stage to get the best shots and to cover this event for our readers. I don’t know what was crazier; the crowd, the band “Motionless in White” before the headliner, or the acrobat girls wearing very little clothes in between the two bands. The feeling of excitement was building in everyone before the main act came out. From our angle we could see the crowd and behind the stage at the same time. There were large drapes or curtains at the front of the stage that would be lifted as soon as the band started. The stage was completely engulfed in smoke.

   Right before the curtain was lifted Traci n I felt like, what seemed like, a blast coming from the stage. The “blast” about knocked both of us off our feet it…turns out it was nothing more than the bass speaker; the last time I felt a blast from a PA system that moved my body like that was at a “Cure” concert in Phoenix Arizona back in 1989. It was about this time at the ITM show that I had the realization that there was this new generation of “head-banging younger bikers” everywhere at this venue … they were all around us! Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just younger folks, there were older guys n gals mixed in but by far the majority was younger 20-30-40ish..

   The day before I heard from one of the older vendors at the rally that the attendance was down and that he was concerned that once the “Baby Boomers” start dying off there wouldn’t be anybody else left to continue bringing large numbers of bikers to this rally, and that was really concerning to us… if not downright depressing.

   So let’s fast forward back to us on this Friday night. at this particular point in time, right in the middle of all this craziness at this ITM concert. What the old-timer said to us earlier in the day drifted away as the thought of this “younger crowd” at this heavy metal show going absolutely crazy and having the time of their lives entered our memory banks.

   The band members were all dressed in makeup with crosses on their faces. There were 2 or 3 long-blonde-haired girls, wearing nothing but sheer white togas, evident from our view.

   The girls were catering to Maria Brink (ITM lead singer) in what can only be described as exotic dancing. With the monster bass lines, heavy guitar riffs and powerful vocals by Maria the performance seemed truly out-of-this-world. The entire band went through many wardrobe changes as the show went on. Towards the latter part of the show Maria spoke to the crowd. It seemed strange to hear her “talking normal” voice almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing. She was gracious and thanked all the biker community and The Iron Horse for having them out. 

   Traci and I like to keep an open mind when it comes to newer music and this is a band that we looked forward to seeing and we were very interested in finding more about. We wanted to get a quick interview with the lead singer but we were told that she doesn’t do interviews… actually we were told she would talk to us, then we were told she wouldn’t talk to us, then we were told she never does interviews, then we were told that she was very mean, then we were told that she’s really nice, then we were told that she was tired… then we’re told that she scratches people and drinks their blood, so we just decided to buy two of their CDs and make up stories about them… just kidding…

   We will talk with Maria someday and our readers will be the first to hear how they are doing and got their start etc. We hate to speculate or read other interviews as a basis for their story. I can tell you they are a tight band and it looks like attention to detail in their performance is up there with the best. This band will vibrate your stomach and contrary to popular belief you can hear fine through some types of ear plugs.

   What a start to the Rally!

   At the Buffalo Chip our “go to gal” was Nyla Griffith. Nyla is in charge of special events and works directly under Rob “Woody” Woodruff, the Buffalo Chip owner. We did have an outline of all the Buffalo Chip events, as well as most of the events happening in the Sturgis area. We still received daily emails and text messages from Nyla letting us know when their bands started, and when their motorcycle events were to take place, as well as the press conferences, and press releases.

   The first press conference(AFT) held at the Buffalo Chip SpeakEasy SteakHouse included: Rob Woodruff (President Sturgis Buffalo Chip), Michael Lock (CEO AMA Pro Racing), Cameron Gray (AFT events COO) and Steve Menneto (President of Motorcycles, Polaris Industries).

   We met up with the Indian Motorcycles top three American Flat Track racers AKA The Wrecking Crew: Jared Mees, Brian Smith, and Brad Baker.

   We also met the top three Harley-Davidson AFT racers: including Jake Johnson (who appeared in our June issue), Kenny Coolbeth Jr., Brandon Robinson, along with racers riding Kawasaki, Yamaha and other makes.

   The Buffalo Chip was the setting for the 2017 Sturgis TT American Flat Track (AFT). The racing at the inaugural Buffalo Chip TT was presented by Indian Motorcycles and was a wild one, befitting the massive crowd of Sturgis Rally attendees who became a part of the race itself for Round 13 of the 2017 American Flat Track Championship. The 2017 AFT Sturgis Half Mile Top 4 Results were: 1st Briar Bauman on his Kawasaki Ninja 650, 2nd Jared Mees on his Indian Scout FTR750, 3rd Jake Johnson on his Harley Davidson XG750R, 4th Sammy Halbert on his Yamaha FZ-07.

   There was also an RSD (Roland Sands Design) “Super Hooligan” race on the same track which led to crazy times at the Buffalo Chip. Celebrities like John Shope (John Shope’s Dirty Bird Concepts), Josh Owens (Cable TV show MoonShiners), Roland Sands (RSD) and a bunch of nationwide talent. The Super Hooligan racing is a mix of serious, crazy and just for fun racing.

   Like I alluded to earlier there was a fast tear-down and set-up for large concerts after these races. The first band we saw after this massive overhaul was “Shinedown”. Nyla met us by the stage and took us backstage and then we proceeded to the pit where we could get some good shots of the band. We had to meet Nyla by the stage before every show and she led us to the backstage and to the Pit/VIP area. During the Ozzy concert in the Pit you really feel what it’s like to be a living sardine. Let me explain this better; The VIP area is combined with the Photo Pit– For Ozzy Osborne there were a lot of people in the space, BUT, we made the best of it and folks were kind and respectful of one another. I met a guy there who had seen Ozzy 175 times and just did a Meet & Greet with him…

   I got some great pictures, got out and joined Traci at a reasonable distance from the stage where we enjoyed one of the best performances I’ve seen Ozzy, Zack Wild, and company do in a long time. Traci n I were very comfortable sitting together on our 2013 Road-King. Best time ever; these are the times we take home with us. You can see the whole show right up front, kick it on your ride. The outdoor movie style screens at the Chip bring you right up to the stage. You can start your bike and rev it up; a ritual at all the outdoor shows at the Chip.

   We covered the Legends Ride: an event starting out in Deadwood with celebrities from all over America, and the world, converging on this small town to benefit the Special Olympics. This year we met *Tom Berenger (Oscar winning actor from the movie Platoon), *Cris and Patrick Simmons (Pat is the only original member in the The Doobie Brothers band) celebrated their 28th anniversary. They met 28 years earlier there in Sturgis. (I heard Cris was riding a Sportster when Patrick met her), *Carey Hart (Freestyle Motocross rider and sponsored by Indian Motorcycle, and Fox clothing) not to mention married to “Pink” the famous pop singer/icon- they have a 7 year old (Willow) and a 6 month old, *Doug Danger (motorcycle stunt rider), *Josh Owens (Star of the Cable TV show MoonShiners), *Carmine Cangialosi, *Zahn MacClarn, *Valerie Thompson (world’s fastest motorcycle racer), *David Uhl (famous motorcycle artist), *Michael Lichter (famous photographer), and of course *Ron “Woody” Woodruff (Buffalo Chip owner and man responsible for helping start this wonderful charity event) a “star” for those (Special kids and adults) who have no voice.

   Nyla hooked us up with Chris Conra from “SilencerCo” and Traci and I got to fire guns with the Silencer attachment on them…Traci shot the AR15 and I wanted to see if they worked so I shot the .45 handgun. Those silencers really work; all you can hear is a click from the gun and the bullet hitting the target. In Traci’s case the click from the gun and the dirt behind the target. To be fair I was shooting at targets much closer and Traci’s form was great!

   Brittney Olsen our Sept 2016 Cover Model and winner of the “Sons of Speed” Motorcycle Race in Florida this year was racing in the “Spirit of Sturgis Vintage MC Festival” at the Historic 1938 track @ 1802 Ball Park Road. Patrick and Cris Simmons (Doobie Brothers) happened to be there and Patrick was asked to sing the national anthem. I asked Patrick if that was planned and he said no and he had his phone out making sure he had the words…he did great…Top 3- winners in this Race were: 1st Roy Taboada 1948 Wiz, 2nd Eric Dietz 1939 G Cevey (car motor), 3rd Brent Johnson 1940 Indian Scout.

   The “New” Full Throttle Saloon (FTS) was rockin’ and rollin’ throughout the Rally. We checked out the “Sons of Speed” Vintage Bike Race. I got to meet one of my inspirations on bike building Billy Lane. Billy is on his second kid (in the basket) and builds, works on, and races vintage motorcycles. These bikes are early 1900’s, most have no brakes or starters. Xavier Muriel is/was the drummer (2005-2017) from the rock band “Buckcherry”. They say Drummers are usually the craziest members of the band; well Xavier was at the Sons of Speed racing these antiques…that’s pretty crazy…everybody knows Billy is crazy….Jesse James Dupree (Lead singer from the band Jackal)…crazy …Michael Ballard; owner of the FTS and star of the reality show “The Full Throttle Saloon” on cable TV…also a little crazy.

   The FTS when it was on Lafayette St. (the main road heading into downtown Sturgis) burned to the ground two years ago. Ballard rebuilt the FTS at the site where the Broken Spoke used to be 20 minutes down the road. A must visit, you talk about crazy?… come check out dozens of 30+ ton metal presses and gears placed throughout the new FTS…

   Last but certainly not least: the new road from the Buffalo Chip Campground to I-90 just north of Sturgis is AMAZING. It’s a beautiful scenic back road… a very serene ride through the countryside. 2018 is the time to check out the Sturgis Rally. Trust us! It is a better Rally than ever before. The organizers, campgrounds, and events are better than ever. Cops are not pulling everyone over like other rallies. This Town really wants us there and wants us to keep coming back. And to top it off we were blessed with great weather this year.