LEARN TO ROCK AT SUMMER CAMP: Hello muddah, hello fadduh, there are no groupies here, ta blow ya
With the Memorial Day weekend here, DD assumes parents have already signed their kids up for a variety of summer camps.
Decades ago, summer camps in Pine Grove, Pennsyltucky, meant only pain and embarrassment. The worst offender was Boy Scout retreat.
At Boy Scout camp, Pine Grove-style, the scout master -- a single man in his thirties -- had an icky taste for seeing his troop do push-ups. If you were a little too slow starting a fire with the flint and steel set, or had blundered in the making of biscuits, the punishment was always push-ups.
"Twenty push-ups, Smith! And take off your T-shirt!" were the orders.
Accidentally step in the wet cement for the new sidewalk leading to the mess hall?
Thirty push-ups! And don't forget to take off your shirt.
This inspired a permanent loathing for everything and anything associated with the Boy Scouts of America.
So when DD reads about rock camps for kids (and adults), the gears start to turn wondering if some of them are touching off revulsions for music which will last a lifetime.
I suspect this is probably not the case most of the time.
That's too bad, because if newspaper accounts on them are true, they're about only two things: wish-fulfillment and getting your kicks vicariously, neither of which have anything to do with learning how to play rock and roll.
The camps, or more accurately -- the tales of them, overflow with gag-ya-with-a-spoon cheerleading.
"[An] unconventional classroom is the Ames School of Rock, a new curriculum [at Iowa University] that focuses on just two R's (Rock and Roll, of course) and ensures that no child is left behind in the passionate drive to become a rock star," wrote the Des Moines Register late last year.
"A few parents [are always on hand to] watch from a balcony above as their kids plow through the classic rock canon," it adds.
Parents, one would think, would be anathema to anything rocking, if you were a kid.
Cue the commercial were the idiot dad tells his son that he is planning on getting a tattoo so they can go to some big festival together.
"I hate my life," mutters the kid.
However, in rock camps -- parents are always required -- if only to pick up the tab and get a thrill from seeing junior do something staged and propped up, something they were a bit too feeble to try when they were in their teens.
"The School of Rock in Ames is the latest, local incarnation of a national surge in more formal rock education," it is written. To which one naturally replies: One of the coolest things about rock and roll is that it requires no formal education to be good at it. And that formally educating someone on an art that, when it is good, is like catching lightning in a bottle, could be held in the same regard as trying to teach a pig to sing.
"Learning music theory might not be the way most youngsters would choose to spend their summer days. But if you want to be a rock'n' roll star, you've got to know the science behind the songs," wrote the Burlington Free Press of a rock camp in Vermont.
"[The rock camp is about letting the kids] know that making rock music isn't all about adoring fans, breathless groupies and instant money."
The retort to this laugher is that anyone who actually gets involved in playing pop music in the real world (as opposed to the homes of the vanity-riddled upper middle class) is that one finds such things out, free of charge, instantly and elegantly.
No groupies at Rock Camp Grenada. Boy, kids! Your parents so won't want to pay that tuition now!
"It's easy to see what the draw [of rock camp] is," the newspaper blithely continues. "What musician wouldn't want to spend his or her days jamming with a band and learning from professional musicians?"
"[That's] exactly why [some spotty nerd] of Hinesburg came to camp. This is the 14-year-old's first time at rock camp and already he's feeling the vibes."
Quick cut to the San Jose Mercury News, and yet another summer rock camp, this one in Palo Alto.
" ... [The] camp is riding high on pop-culture influences, including Jack Black's movie 'School of Rock' and the growing acceptance of a new generation of parents," reports the newspaper.
The reporter then reels off a list of the clientele's high-rent locales, where parents of the spoiled-and-annoying believe they can front-load success in pop music, like adding another couple of lines of padding to a future resume.
"The budding rockers who attend the camp come from all over the Bay Area, including Fremont, Los Gatos, Palo Alto and San Mateo. The camp operates in one-week cycles, with some kids attending multiple weeks to hone their skills."
"It's a warm summer Wednesday at [a Portland] Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, and [a 13-year old wallflower] is strumming her dream to life," reports another newspaper, the Oregonian.
"' Being in a band would be the ultimate job,' the eighth-grader at [a local middle school] says. In just three days, [the wallflower] will be clocking in on her dream job."
"Relatives, friends and rock fans fill the seats [at the standard rock camp 'concert'] [The wallflower's] fan base includes her mom, dad, brother [and] grandma ... "
If only DD could have had ol' grandma watching him do push-ups without a T-shirt on for flubbing the flint-and-steel exhibition at Pine Grove Boy Scouts of America summer retreat.
At a rock camp of sorts in Brooklyn, the New York Times writes of kids and their upscale parents, people you might wish to poke in the eye with a blunt stick given your druthers, taking a more bohemian hipster's approach.
"The children whispering and fidgeting in front of the stage at Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn, looked like any kids awaiting, say, a storyteller," wrote journalist Jessica Pressler. "Then [a wee girl] and [a wee boy], the two 11-year-olds who make up the band Magnolia, climbed onstage and broke into a hard-driving original song called Volume. It was clear this was not quiet time."
" 'Wooooo!' a dreadlocked woman shouted from the back of the room, where a crowd of adults, many in vintage concert T-shirts and cardigans, looking like kids themselves, cheered and sipped bloody marys."
For the New York Times, the rock-out-with-your-cock-out schooling for kids ante is upped by the roping in of the offspring of celebrities and snobs, the procurement of managers and shows for the children, and the christening of the excrement which is produced with a genre name, "kid-core."
"The most prominent band on New York's junior-varsity rock scene is Hysterics, a 'psychedelic' quartet founded at the artsy St. Ann's School in Brooklyn," continues the Times. "The week after performing at Union Hall at the CMJ Marathon, the band members gathered at the studio of Jeff Peretz, their manager. Mr. Peretz also guides the Tangents, whose bass guitarist, Miles Robbins, 12, is the son of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins."
However, there are sights and sounds even more worthy of civic superciliousness than rock camps for kids.
Like rock camp for adults.Roger Daltrey stands gamely on a Hollywood stage as the musically deaf, dumb and blind crucify a tune from the Who catalog.
Whereas any old hack can set up shop as a rock camp counselor for kids and convince dumb parents to shell out a few hundred bucks for a week, rock and roll fantasy camp is an entirely different kettle of fish. It takes long-in-the-tooth classic rockers with name recognition but poor liquidity and charges thousands of bucks to adults who, for that soliciting fee, will briefly believe the rock stars are sincere when they smile and tell the camper he or she did good after an execrable performance.
"All that's required is $9,500 and five days of your time," reported the Orange County Register in March. "No experience necessary. Campers have flown in from Detroit, Long Island, Chattanooga, you name it."
" 'I've never done this before," says [Jim] of San Diego. 'I've never been in a working band in the studio or onstage. Even the idea of rehearsing is very exciting to me.' "
Rock fantasy camp counselors include those members of bands who joined after the act was washed-up, studio replacements for regulars incapacitated by the rock and roll lifestyle or those simply known as "the other guy."
For this particular edition of camp: Spike Edney "of" Queen (unknown sideman); Bruce Kulick, guitar, Kiss (studio hack, replaced Ace Frehley, tossed out of band for dissipation); Mark Slaughter, guitar, Slaughter (huh?) and Teddy Andreadis, "of" Guns 'n' Roses (one of many hack sidemen hired by Axl Rose after the rest of his band quit in disgust over a decade ago).
"I'm fronting a band at the House of Blues," said one deluded woman to the Register awhile ago. "And people like Bret Michaels [of Poison] told me my vocals were really good. How do you put in words what is happening here?"
Expensive bullshit, that's how. For over nine thousand US, they'll set you up with a show and blow any color smoke you like up your ass, lady.
"The Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp gives such amateur musicians as [a shmoe named from Steve with too much immediately disposable income from Asbury Park, New Jersey] a chance to be a rock star for a week," reported the Asbury Park Press in August of last year.
"Initially, [Steve Shmoe] said he'd had some reservations about the camp's $8,950 price tag. Indeed, it was his wife, [Karen], who convinced him to go as a special birthday present to himself
. He turned 51 just before camp ended.
" 'She said, 'Why not? You've been waiting for this your whole life,' [Mr. Shmoe] said. 'She was right. I have been waiting my whole life to be with these people, hang out with these people, have them teach me, play guitar with them a little bit.'"
More accurately, a Rodney Dangerfield quip comes to mind, describing what really may have gone down: "I told my wife a man is like wine; he gets better with age. She locked me in the cellar."
Can it get even more irritating?
You could work for a corporation that uses rock and roll fantasy camp as a training exercise.
Rock fantasy camp "can accommodate 25 or 250 people, traveling to a corporate location and even gearing the workshop toward a specific company objective," reported United Press International late last year.
"If [your] CEO is up there playing guitar, I guarantee the room is not going to empty out," said someone for the article.
Let it be known, I am hanging out a shingle for Dick Destiny's Tough Love Rock Camp for Kids As Well As Their Parents.
As camp counselor and director, I am very experienced in everything that would make a good rock and roll camp.
On the first day, your parents will pick out a cheap instrument for you to play. It will not stay in tune very well and possibly hurt your fingers to play. You'll be given instruction on your instrument but it won't be from the songs by your favorites. It will be something like TV theme music from the Sixties or the score to David Lean's Dr. Zhivago
. You won't be able to get out of these lessons.
You'll be able to pick your bandmates but they'll be free to quit at any time and go to another band in the camp if they think you stink and the grass looks greener elsewhere.
You'll get one airless garage to practice in. Occasionally the cops will come, ending your practice session. Occasionally a neighbor will show up, ending your rehearsal. Sometimes the camp counselor will cut power to your garage, like real parents -- not your indulgers and enablers -- might do after having heard enough of you.
Sometimes during the week, there will be the possibility that someone will break into your rehearsal space during the night and steal all your equipment. If that happens, you'll have the option to replace it out of pocket by buying it back from the camp store. Or you can go home early.
At the end of the week, you'll get one shot at a show. For some campers, arranging the show will be easy. Others will have to pay a club owner in advance ticket sales before landing the show. An unlucky few won't even get a show. They'll have to go home.
If the campers land a show, there will be enough liquor and beer served at the venue to ensure a small audience is well-oiled and free of inhibitions. At least one but not more than two merciless hecklers will be in the audience. The audience can be as small as half a dozen people. There's a fifty-fifty chance none of them will like your chosen genre of rock music. If your show goes poorly, you won't get paid or get a ribbon or a certificate of completion. If your show goes well, you won't get paid, or get a ribbon or a certificate of completion.
Remember, the purpose of the Tough Love Rock Camp
is to have fun by instilling the ability to recover from setbacks and bad luck while also teaching learning how to live with failure and cruelly diminished expectations.