Concert Reviews

What It Was Like: Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp 2010

Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp is a chance for musicians to get a crash course in playing in a rock band.

Whether your drumming skills are on par with Meg White's or somebody who can play "Pride & Joy" note-for-note in a dark corner of a Guitar Center, the intent of the camp is to become a better player. Oh, and to have a fun time while forming a band, recording an original song, and playing live at the House of Blues as members of Disturbed, Grand Funk Railroad, Quiet Riot, and Winger serve as camp counselors.

A preamble: I do not consider myself a failed musician. I've never truly had a desire to leave my everyday life for the rock star golden goose or the consolation prize of having enough money for rent and food at the beginning of the month.

I've played the drums since 1994. I've also played guitar, bass, trumpet, and piano, but drums have always been paramount. No amount of sparsely-attended shows or dream-killing critiques by my sister would stop me from playing when I was a teenager. When I was in college (also known as the perfect time to go for broke with a band in a van), I got things rolling with a career in radio while playing in a couple of bands. My desire for a career beyond retail and the service industry got me thrown out of two bands as a result. But I don't regret that at all. Both bands imploded not too long afterwards (not because of me, but because of personality issues that were always there). These days, when I'm not entering accident reports in a database or reporting accidents on the radio, I'm usually air-drumming.

Usually it's to a small section of a song I'm loving at the moment. I've played in a couple of bands in the Dallas area since I moved here in 2002. These days, I casually jam with my friends and keep playing on my set. Ask anybody who's a lifer, and he or she will tell you a personal story like that.

And, going into this past weekend's fantasy camp, that's what I had to show for my experience.

Day 1: Friday, November 12
The bulk of the rehearsal for Friday and Saturday was held at Absolute Space, a former office building converted into a rehearsal place. Since I've been to this place before with my last band, it definitely felt like home turf.

After checking in with the front desk, I run into David Fishof, the camp's founder. He remembered me from our interview over the summer, and introduced me to Sandy Gennaro. Sandy has played with people like Joan Jett, Cyndi Lauper and The Monkees. I knew of him because he was featured on an instructional drumming tape my father bought me in high school. (Yes, I later had Sandy sign my tape.)

After jamming in Sandy's space with two guitarists, a bassist, a singer and another drummer, we had to go into another room to audition for our bands. After I nudged my way through Deep Purple's "Highway Star," I went to another jam room, this time hosted by Teddy Andreadis, who's played with Guns N' Roses, Carole King and Michael Jackson, among many others.

Dinner was served at 7 o'clock and I happened to sit at the table where Rudy Sarzo from Quiet Riot, Kip Winger, and Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad also sat. Listening in and adding a few comments to their conversations, I got the sense that these guys are very humble and really into this camp as a fun musical excursion. I definitely didn't detect any over-sized egos.

Also over dinner, I got to talking to some of the fellow campers. I was curious who could afford such an experience -- packages aren't cheap, starting at a cool $2,000.

One camper was a lawyer from Tyler who was surprised by his wife on his 50th birthday with a chance to do the camp. Other campers were from University Park and Southlake. In other words, I doubted that I'd run into a starving artist from Oak Cliff who doesn't own a car and listens only to chillwave at the moment. Watching everyone play, I have to say, most of the talent level here was pretty good. I guess that makes sense; given the price of the camp, you can't be some slouch doing this as a blow-off sort of thing.

Later, when I found that I had been placed in Teddy's band, I was quite pleased. The hour spent in the jam room before dinner went well. And I looked forward to the following day --which would be the longest day of rehearsal.

But, before that, we were sent off with all the counselors getting up and playing after dinner. Beatles songs, Rod Stewart's "Hot Legs," and Grand Funk tunes were played. Then various campers (including myself) got up and played songs. Some came off well ("Livin' on the Edge") while others were massacred ("Daytripper").
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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs

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