By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Band campers:Whatever cancer-promoting evils Camel cigarettes may be perpetrating, their most dastardly deed recently was kicking 15 kids out of summer camp. Sure, the ousting was temporary and the kids weren't exactly singing "Kumbaya"—more like some Zeppelin or Sabbath—but for four hours, the teenage attendees of Rock Camp USA were kicked out of Fort Worth's Ridglea Theatre so Camel could prepare for that evening's sponsored rock concert featuring indie rock heroes Dinosaur Jr., who Buzz guesses has finally realized that indie cred is nothing compared with a big paycheck from big tobacco. Rock Camp Lesson 1: Sell out for stage time. Welcome to the music business, kids.
Rock Camp's founder, Lee Allen, is the goateed Moses of the two-week rock and roll training school, bringing the program to Fort Worth this year after spending five years in Austin instructing hundreds of kids in the art of rocking. "There's a more conservative element" in North Texas, says Allen, which makes camp here smaller, but Allen managed to recruit 15 aspiring rockers ages 12-16 and divide them into bands according to their skill level.
That "conservative element" will have to accept the fact that a four-piece band of young high-schoolers will perform the Led Zeppelin classic "Whole Lotta Love" at the Rock Camp concert this Saturday afternoon at 6th Street Live, a new venue west of downtown Forth Worth. Sixteen-year-old guitar whiz John is on vocals—"I'm gonna give you every inch of my love," and all.
When they're not getting bumped by cigarette companies, the camp operates out of three practice stages at the Ridglea. Halfway through camp, the beginner band even made it all the way through a Red Hot Chili Peppers tune, something that seemed unlikely at first, considering their meek vocalist's giggling problem. But by the end of the week, she plowed through it in a practice performance. Four hours of daily practice pays off. But there's still plenty of downtime for bickering about which bands suck.
"We're not hard-core," complains John, when his band's drummer suggests playing some hard modern rock. John's bandmate, Lars, who makes sure his shoulder-length brown hair covers his face unless he's leaning back, squinting in guitar solo ecstasy during a performance, chimes in immediately. "We don't want to, like, kill kittens." (Hey, kid, do you wanna rock or not?) John says his life's just about "peace, love and rock and roll." Even if that means singing Led Zeppelin to his mom.