Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp is quite a unique experience, to say the least.
Far more advanced than getting together with some friends and jamming out over a few months in a garage, the intense, three-day event invites participants to form a band, write a song, record the song, and then perform that song live on stage during the last night of the affair. And with notable musicians like Kip Winger, Dickey Betts, Rudy Sarzo, and Mark Farner helping the participants along, you can learn months of experience in an insanely short amount of time.
David Fishof, once a sports agent who transitioned into music promotion (booking acts like the Association, the Monkees, and Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band) spearheaded the event a number of years ago. Now with a reality show on VH1 Classic about to appear in October, the Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp will set up shop here in Dallas from November 12 through the 14.
The camp isn't cheap by any means: Packages start at $1,999. That said, this is not some cash-grab where you're left feeling like you didn't learn anything new about your playing; given the amount of talent involved, you can learn plenty over the weekend event's duration. And it sure beats flying around the world looking for musicians you look up to and begging for a lesson.
We recently sat down with camp leader Fishof to discuss the camp, his background, and what's in it for those who want to enroll. His goal with the camp is to bring the passion of playing music to people and make them better players. Me? I plan on entering the camp as a drummer and will document my experience for an upcoming Observer piece.
I understand you got your start by booking acts in the Catskills?
I started booking acts in the Catskills. I wanted to play in my brother's band; he wouldn't let me. My dad said to me, "You can't be in the band... so why don't you go book bands?" I booked my brother's band in the Catskills and I booked all these bands. It was a great learning experience because booking acts in the Catskills; these people eat three meals a day and at night they got their show and they didn't have to pay for the show. These comics had to entertain people like no one ever entertained. In the Catskills, people say, "I hear you. I dare you to make me laugh." They became the best entertainers. I started up there, then became a sports agent. I always loved rock 'n' roll. It's always been in my heart. That's what I wanted to do.
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How did your time with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band lead to Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp?
I had so much fun and I realized that these guys--without their managers, wives, or girlfriends, just alone--were just having fun. I wanted to show this to people and give people this experience. I kind of came up with the idea to do this.
Is the camp a crash course in "How are we gonna pull this off this in a few days?"
The day you sign up, that's when the experience starts. If you're advanced, and you really want to be in an advanced band, you have to come in and audition in front of the counselors. A lot of the counselors want to produce a band and be better than the next guy. They will sit and train you and create a band.
I still play in bands and I love playing the drums. It seems like the camp is great for people who want to live pragmatically and play with people beyond the local scene.
I think it benefits everybody because it pushes you. It will push you to be a better musician. It's not about being a rock star or advancing your career. I just want to say, "Hey, come for a weekend and play with the best. See why they're the best. See what you can learn from the best."