Music's Edge Rock Camp


Shipe Blog

Big Friday Nite Show (Part 2 -- My Group "Llama in a Box"):


(Opener) "Born in the USA," Bruce Springsteen:
My dual-drummers opened into that big 80's no-hi-hat beat. Tiny Maci on bass hit a big bass note with the three guitarists' giant power chord. Rui & Izzi locked in the dramatic riff on piano. I held up a "V" to cue the verse. The rhythm section kicked into the groove, and Eliot began belting at the top of his lungs. I got goosebumps when The WOW Hall crowd howled as the energy built with each tight section. And the break in the middle, where Owen & Caroline play the riff in harmony (a la Allman Bro's) fully ignited the place.
By the last chorus, it was a singalong, as predicted.


Friday Nite Big Show at The WOW Hall


After camp dismantles at 3:00pm, all 6 groups must sound check, in reverse order of show lineup, by 7:00pm when doors open. 50 kids, half of whom never done this before.
My group, "Llama in a Box," goes home for rest, snacks, and wardrobe. They return to the Hall at 6:10pm for their turn at 6:30 check, observing the prior band at theirs.  
For efficiency's sake, we wax fascistic: "Bring your axe to the stage, plug it in, and play one or two riffs until it sounds right (Line-Check). Then, don't make another noise until the sound-techs ask for it. (Thank you Davis Davis Davis for your awesomeness at the helm.) They'll attend to you one-by-one, until they've dialed each of you into the House P.A. and your monitors."
It's a "learn-by-doing" endeavor. And my job is crazy-fun, as I position 9 players, guide, explain, trouble-shoot, field anxious (panicked) questions. ("Yes, I'll be at side-stage to cue just like in practice.")
I serve them like a stage manager. I've promised to make sure they have everything they need. Trust me. Lyrics on stands. Chord progressions taped to the floor. Snare drum lowered to junior height, extra sticks. Extra guitar picks. Straps adjusted. Microphones & stands. Need a stool for the bassists, 'cause the instrument is too big? Adjusting distortion pedals. Keyboard sounds.
I re-tune all guitars 3 times, right up to downbeat.
"No Noodling! Hey, the sound guy is talking to you... through that monitor speaker?"
I instill the confidence to demand what they need on stage. Can you hear yourself? Can you hear the others? (Eliot needs to hear the piano to help his vocals on Nirvana.) Tiny Maci (donning a Strat that we've christened "Pink Bandit") thinks she's too loud. "Nope," I say. "We want to hear you as loud as those grandstanders Owen & Caroline."


Session II, Day 5 (Friday): But they come back into the room ready to rock, always.


We had crossed the threshold of diminishing returns. So tired, so much ear-fatigue (volume is extreme in our Greenroom space). We weren't getting better, just making more mental mistakes. Face-palms and laughter. "Can we just be done?" Why not? The kids were utterly confident about the show -- more so than any other group I've had. But I'm paid to keep the kids working & learning. So we did the usual practicing songs in pieces -- transitions, big hits, breaks, intros, endings. And most importantly -- the SILENCE BETWEEN THE SONGS: "The crowd wants to experience the stark difference between silence and the majestic moment that a song starts. Silence makes us look professional with authority to own the stage. Noisy noodling irritates them and makes us look like amateurs."
"But we ARE amateurs."
"Not true," I say. "We're getting paid handsomely... in sodas, T-shirts, hats, and stickers."


Rock Camp Incident Report:


Rock Camp Incident Report:

As expected, dissension over the name “Albinio Mosquito” came to a head. We are now “Llama in a Box.” (Amended from “Throw the Llama Out the Window.”)



Session II, Day 4 (Thursday): With the structures nailed down, we're focusing on details...


With the structures nailed down, we're focusing on details. The group takes frequent breaks while I take individuals aside for performance pointers. (I witness their comfort & confidence increase with their understandings.)


Session II, Day 3 (Wednesday): The kids love "band meetings." We have our band name: "Albino Mosquit


The kids love "band meetings." We have our band name: "Albino Mosquito," which hints at the Nirvana tune in our set.
Speaking of which, pianist Rui (pronounced "Ray," from Hong Kong), is taking the solo. He's classically trained, so I transcribed it for him. (As a guitarist, I haven't written music out in a dozen years, and I'm waiting for him to point out that I'm doing it wrong.) The song is difficult for all. Thesections go by so fast -- Verse, bam! Chorus, bam! Break, bam! Transitions seem impossible, but it's only Wednesday.


Session II, Day 2 (Tuesday): Very productive. By the 2:30 band meeting...


Very productive. By the 2:30 band meeting, we had our 5 tunes, with the possibility of adding a ballad. We got our grooves, endings, fancy parts decided, solos assigned, and arrangements edited to suit our strengths and limitations. 3rd year guitarist Owen says we are farther along than usual by this time.
This session's theme is 1978 -- any 40 year-old charting song. I came up with Bob Seger. (To which Niko quips, "Is it a tradition that we have to do some ancient tune?" referring to last session's Elvis installment.)


Session II, Day 1 (Monday). Over 50 kids! We added a 6th grown-up


Over 50 kids! We added a 6th grown-up -- former camper Philip Michael Etherington (home from Berklee College of Music). We set up his group on the patio. (Where I used to teach until I moved 'em into the Green Room.)



Holy Smokes! Another Rock Camp cometh 'round the bend.


Holy Smokes! Another Rock Camp cometh 'round the bend. So I better finish up my bloggins about last week's session.
A few words about the other guys and their whippersnappers 
(And the obligatory anti-climactic Saturday "Day" show at Eugene Saturday Market):


Big Show Re-Cap


Sound Check: Graduated from tiny practice amps to 100-Watt monsters. 2 full drum kits now. Co-operating w/ sound-techs while panicking, shouting worries all at once. In 15 minutes, we re-tune 4 guitars & bass, adjust amps, find several settings on 2 keyboards, lyrics & chords-charts for all. (Jack uses a capo, so he needs different chords.) Adjust drums and stool heights for little guys. (Thanks to the gracious aid of the older kids — a special trait of this camp.)


Day 5 (Friday — Day of Show)


We took a break to talk about wardrobe. (Green, because we’re Iguana Gods.)



“Caroline, your amp sounds weird again.”


“Caroline, your amp sounds weird again.”
”That’s cause Jack is sitting on it and changing the knobs with his butt.”
”Jack are you a butt-knob-changer?”
”Ha! We should be the Butt-Knob-Changers!”
”Yeah!!!” (Resoundingly.). “Or just the Butt-Knobs!”
”Ok, kids, so run on home and tell your parents that I let you call yourselves the Butt-Knobs. And I’ll put it on the poster under your band photo.”


Working damn hard, the full ”fun” of it hasn’t kicked in, but it‘s starting to sound like mu


Working damn hard, the full ”fun” of it hasn’t kicked in, but it‘s starting to sound like music. Smiles of recognition appear.



We added third drummer to my group — tons of percussion.


We added third drummer to my group — tons of percussion.  So far, we’ve only poked at bits and pieces of the tunes. (We usually don’t make it all the way through any song until Wednesday afternoon.). But we’ve decided on our five — after strenuous debate and some moaninag/groaning. (Pulled teeth to get our craziest energetic character to take off his guitar and sing Elvis.)  




Music's Edge Rock Camp, Day 1 (Monday): Load-in, chaos, set-up, chaos, check-in, chaos, introductions, chaos, auditions (kids amazingly supportive, cheering every fellow camper), chaos, grouping-up, chaos, plugging-in, chaos.
All you can do is catch the wave and ride that inertia through to Saturday afternoon.


Rock Camp Day #4: A very special day, the home stretch


I brought in a personal guest instructor, Isabel (from the duo "Izzi & Margo"). At 15 years old, she's a veteran of 3 or 4 Rock Camps -- vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. She gave the boys a talking-to (tough love). Highlights from her speech: "Sometimes you don't like the song, but that's how life works.... ... I'm a diehard Taylor Swift fan; do you think I wanted to play all that metal that boys wanted to play?" (I choked on my laughter.) Then she confessed that she enjoyed Ozzy's "Crazy Train."


Rock Camp Day #3: Heaven & Hell, Up & Down, Dark & Light...


Okay. I should have known. On Monday, at our first "band meeting," the boys unanimously agreed that they love Led Zeppelin. But there are two Zeppelins. There is "wicked Zeppelin", and there is "happy Zeppelin." For example, there is "No Quarter," and then there is "Thank You." And when 7 boys, with an average age of 11, say they want to play Zeppelin, they are talking about the former, not the latter.


Rock Camp Day #2: Oh goodness!


So, we were working on our "cowbell song" (Santana). And I was encouraging our singer to let the groove simmer between sections -- not to hurry into the next verse as soon as the chorus ends. I told him: "Step away from the mic, dance a little bit, have some fun, walk to the edge of the stage and raise your rock-n-roll fist at your buddies, and POINT TO THE GIRL YOU LIKE in the audience..."
Everybody started giggling. And I was thinking "What?... What did I say that was so damn funny."

The singer's older brother looked at me sympathetically and said: "You do know that he's NINE, don't you? And he doesn't like girls."

Okay then.


Rock Camp Day #1: Auditions

Rock Camp Day #1:

Part 1, Auditions: I like our new method -- all kids in the big room, instead of segregating by instrumentation. Some of the kids auditioned together, as duos, trios, and ensembles. And they generously applauded one another after each performance, like a show. Such an exciting way to kick things off. Plus we got a couple of extra non-rock instruments -- flute and cello -- which always spices things up.