Eyes were on clouds forming west of town Tuesday morning as Jam Productions vice president Don Sullivan oversaw the set-up at Dehler Park for Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp.
The concert is on for this evening, with gates opening at 5 p.m. for pre-sale ticket holders whose tickets have a special mark. For others, the gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the concert starts at 6:30.
Dylan last performed in Billings for a capacity crowd at the Shrine Auditorium in 2000.
“It’s a fabulous show. We try to make it affordable for families in tough times,’’ said Sullivan, who travels to most of the Jam Productions shows.
After driving through a heavy rainstorm Monday night to get to Billings, Sullivan was anxious about Tuesday’s forecast for more rain. Weather is expected to improve today with a reduced chance of thunderstorms and rain and a high of 95 degrees. Unless there is a safety issue with high winds or an electrical storm, the concert will go on rain or shine.
Eight trucks rolled into Billings, and set-up began early Tuesday morning. Workers took a break for the Koncert for Kidz show Tuesday evening featuring Grammy award winner Joseph Fire Crow and got back to work after the concert.
As for Dylan, he was scheduled to perform at Sturgis on Tuesday night. His Sunday concert in Lincoln, Neb., featured a set list that included “All Along the Watchtower,” “Lay Lady Lay” and “Just Like a Woman.” He changes it up every show, though, Sullivan said.
“Last summer, he played ‘Forever Young’ at the end of his set and it was just a perfect way to end the show,” Sullivan said.
Jon Thompson, city parks supervisor, was also on hand Tuesday. He said he just about wore out a Dylan album in the 1970s that featured one of his favorite Dylan songs, “Hurricane.’’ He had nothing but praise for the set-up Tuesday.
“They are a first-class operation. They are very familiar with a stadium setting and are very professional,” Thompson said.
Thick plastic mats with holes for ventilation will be laid over the field this morning and will be removed after the concert. Six thousand fans will be allowed onto the outfield. The infield will be closed during the concert, protected by fencing to ensure that fans don’t walk on it, Sullivan said.
“I’m proud of my staff,” Sullivan said. They do a great job protecting the field. We make it our priority because we can’t interrupt the baseball operation.”
Jam Productions has been promoting tours featuring live music at baseball fields since 2004. They have featured shows by Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Def Leppard, as well as Dylan and Mellencamp. Sullivan was impressed with Dehler Park and appreciated the fact that the Rims make an interesting backdrop for the stage, which is set up behind and to the right of second base. The stage is covered, about 5 feet high, 90 feet wide and 40 feet deep.
“This is the first time we’ve played a stadium with such a unique geographic feature,” Sullivan said. “We’ve played every size ball park from Triple A to A and this year, for the first time we’re playing at a ski resort.”
The Mustangs play their next home game Friday, and everything is expected to be cleaned and cleared away so the field is ready for that game, according to Mike Whitaker, director of parks and recreation.
“The only issue is heat,’’ Whitaker said. “If it gets into the triple digits then we will have the turf getting too hot. But it should cool off by Wednesday evening. We’re hoping for temperatures in the 70s for the concert.”
Four city police bike patrol officers will help with traffic tonight, and Jam Productions has hired 25 security officers to work the concert. Twenty-two portable toilets were brought in and the regular toilets will also be available for the concert. Mustangs boosters will help serve the beer and other local food vendors will offer concessions.
The city gets $1 per ticket sold, an additional $3 for each of the 1,000 tickets sold out of the City Parks and Recreation office and receives money to pay for cleanup. Hopes are high that if this show goes off without a hitch, there will be more on the horizon.
“It will be a win-win situation for the community and the concert will be great,” Whitaker said. “We’ve had calls from people in Canada and Wyoming who are coming to this show. It’s definitely a regional event.”