Music's Edge Rock Camp, 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.
The moment at the end of the opener is always my favorite, when the kids feel the power of generating that kind of audience pleasure, and the force of the appreciation coming back at them.
#1) "Old Time Rock & Roll," Bob Seger (Each band had to do one song from 1978):
Stagecraft discipline required. Maci quickly handed off the bass to Izzi, and donned her Strat (The Pink Bandit). As applause decayed, Andrew burst into the first line -- "Just take those old records off the shelf..." And the band came in right on beat, without my cue or count off. Dueling piano solos by Izzi & Rui. (Before this week, neither had ever heard of the G-Blues scale, nor improvised at all.)
Admittedly, a 12-year-old singing "Call me a relic... say I'm over the hill..." seems goofy. But it's not autobiographical, yo.
Owen dutifully did his stint on bass for this one. But couldn't wait to get back on lead guitar.
#3) "Living on a Prayer," Bon Jovi:
I fell in love with the song earlier this year, so I'm overjoyed at such grand success. We truncated it, snipping the difficult (and redundant) bridge, focusing on the emotional trajectory of the basic structure. Rui's piano bass line and Izzi who loved playing a string sound on her keys created suspense in the intro and interlude vamps. Nico's drum fills lifted the band into each section. But the sight of Jesse rocking out behind his drum kit, wailing along with the chorus, was worth the price of admission.
Now that Maci & Caroline could hear themselves, their pitch was right on. (I noticed that Maci, 10 years old, intuitively adjusted the melody upward from the adult male register. You can't teach that.)
#4) "T.N.T." AC/DC:
(A word about children singing songs like this... In a previous camp, a student complained about AC/DC material: "This song is a big tough man. And we're having a little girl sing it? Isn't that weird?" Well, I suppose it's odd when Eliot sings "Women to the left of me... to the right..." But the rest of the lyrics, like "I'm dynamite... Watch me explode!!!" Let's face it, most Rock-n-Roll is children's music to a certain. Back in the 70's, I was 12. And the reason grown-ups shirked this stuff was not because they were threatened by Bon Scott's virility and David Lee Roth jumping around in butt-less chaps. They just thought it was plain silly.)
Obviously, this one is cathartic for all. Lots of shouting, and Owen & Caroline with duel guitar leads. (Next year, I'm getting a roving guest instructor to give more attention to lead guitarists. They are generally left on their own while I focus on group dynamics.
Oh, and Izzi, our "official" bass player was audibly the backbone on this and the closer.
#5) "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana:
Owen busted right into the intro without hesitation. Great stagecraft and alertness. Another truncated tune, 'cause the length of this one simply wears them out. Rui took the solo on piano, which I wrote out for his classical sensibilities. (Afterwards, he sheepishly said he had trouble getting it right. But I told him, "As long as you get those notes in there and create the sound, it works.")
It was the breaks at the end of choruses on this song that really made it powerful. The kids loved executing that part tightly more than anything we pulled off. (Rui was doing a big gliss in rehearsal, but the weighted keys were too heavy for him, so he just hit them with his fist.)
In the decay of the last chord, Eliot screamed, "Llama in a Box!"
They put on a truly great show. I believe they absorbed the lessons about that difficult paradox of taking it seriously while letting go and having fun.