Music's Edge Rock Camp, Session II, Day 5 (Friday):
It's Sunday, and I'm finally getting my bloggings to screen for the final two whirlwind days.
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."
Drummer Niko crossed a different threshold. He passed beyond boredom, where he'd rather die than do one more run-thru, into intimate command of the material. His fills became authoritative, varied, and expressive, communicating the transitions so well that I stopped cueing so bigly.
Also, he advocated and encouraged his drum partner -- the less experienced Jesse, whom I rode hard all week . (Jesse absorbed it patiently, huffing only once in indignation.) Niko saw Jesse was tired of it before I did. Upon my final effort to fix a minor bad habit, Niko said, "It's okay, it still sounds great even when he hits that extra snare." (Well, okay then.) Good call. The proof is in the footage of Jesse jamming like a maniac, with full-on, rock-out body language. He just needed me to get off his back.
I never told those boys how hard it really is to be a double-drummer band -- to sync up while playing with feeling. Some musicians refuse to do it.
Then we did sectionals -- breaking the band up into pieces, so they could hear their parts in connection with specific other parts. (Especially Izzi's bass against the kick drum, with her newfound aggressiveness on the axe.)
We came to a decision that Owen would start the last tune (Nirvana) immediately during the decay after the previous (AC/DC). This means high alert, and Maci has to strap on her guitar during the AC/DC solos. The experiment started to thrill as they got a sense of the excitement they can generate.
As we push forward so hard, all week long, I kinda forget that they're very young kids (9-12). The work is earnest, with eyes on the prize. And I don't give them time to think about difficulties and insecurities. While it's only Rock-n-Roll, and we keep it fun, they do get on board with the pursuit of excellence. And then, during their breaks, that's when I realize: They're children, and they're nuts! Rough-housing and indulging in extreme silliness. (I allow this -- indeed, encourage -- in extended measure to blow off their steam.) But they come back into the room ready to rock, always.