27 April 2008

Ladies Rock Camp 2008 (I've Got the Magic Stix)

Late last year, my friend Jean emailed me about Ladies Rock Camp. Did I want to go? HELLS YES!

Ladies Rock Camp Is:
Three days
Fifty amazing women
Ten bands
One song each

Prior to camp you sign up for something to learn/perform (vocals, bass, guitar, keys or drums). You get basic lessons, form a band, and at the end of the weekend - perform one original song.

I've always wanted to play drums, but my playing experience has been limited to my steering wheel. Jean signed up for vocals as did my friend Karen. I was impressed by their bravery.

Camp begins at lunchtime. After some introductions we moved into band selection.

Different musical genres such as Country, Indie, Metal, Funk, and Rock were posted on the walls. What's the difference between Indie and Rock? I said,

"Rock is about scoring chicks. Indie is about when chicks ignore you."

They told us to stand under a genre that we'd be interested in playing. I stood under Punk / Metal. I figured a Metal song would be the easiest to write and the most fun to play. Unfortunately, the only person with me under Punk/Metal was another drummer. Then it came time to switch. I stayed put because, well, the next funnest thing to play after Metal would be punk, right? Also there was no Goth / New Wave sign.

Ladies Rock Camp Punk / Metal sign
When the milling around stopped, it was still just me and the other drummer under the sign again.

Eventually I was adopted by some other leftovers. Our final band consisted of: two architects, a Canadian chick who works at a bookstore, and a 54-year-old jackhammer operator from Connecticut. Our name: Carbon Arc.

Ladies Rock Camp Drum practice roomNext it was on to instrument instruction. My instructor was STS from The Haggard.* I learned a basic rock beat and one fill. In just fifteen minute me and this lady from Tennessee were tearing it up. It was amazing how quickly we were able to learn.

* I used to see them play but I never got up the guts to mention it to her. Similarly I couldn't find the courage to say "whassup" to Beth Ditto who showed up for karaoke on the second night.

After a 90-minute lesson, I got back together with Carbon Arc for song writing time. Yikes!

Ladies Rock Camp is a benefit for Girls Rock Camp. At the end of the weekend, each band plays one song at a showcase/ benefit concert. The song must be 100% original, but there's a song writing workshop where they give you lots of ideas.

When brainstorming ideas for a song, we were all over the map. It was fun, but daunting. Should it rhyme? Should it be danceable? Can you say "Jesus" without people thinking you're a Christian Rock Band?

Someone suggested a revenge song and I mentioned how much I hate littering. It kind of went from there . . .

After breakfast we had more instrument instruction. First we learned a funk beat (which I stink at). Then STS showed us ways to change up the basic rock beat to sound different /punctuate a transition. I could have gone on smashing the drums all damn day, but it was off to do more song writing - final lyrics were due at the end of the day.

The night before our lead singer wrote some poetically abstract lyrics based on our ideas about littering. The band loved what she'd done. With her David Byrne-style of delivery things came together perfectly. We jammed until exhaustion set in.

The last item of business for the day was a dry-run on the camp stage. We did okay, and it was fun to see what the other bands were working on. One of our neighbor bands had an amazing song called "Fake It 'Til You Make It," and it made me a little anxious. Their song was so catchy and fun. I worried that our song was too heavy. Also, their drummer was totally amazing. I swear she had an invisible third arm. I reminded myself that a band called "Carbon Arc" was destined to write something totally heavy and brutal and I felt a lot better.

After that we all had pizza and drank beer and watched karaoke.

Did I tell you I have a rock name? You may now address me as "Pants."

The other members of Carbon Arc are:
Wavelength (vocals)
Mr B. (lead guitar)
Yoda (rhythm guitar)
and Krull (bass)

Our final morning consisted of: band photos, hair and make-up (optional) and more practicing. Camp staffers coached us on stage presence and getting the audience amped. As a drummer, my points of focus would be dramatic smashing and yelling.

The show was at Satyricon and I was really happy so many people showed up! A lot of the ladies were really nervous, but the way I looked at it was: we've all done more difficult things that were a lot less fun. Maybe I would have felt differently if I wasn't behind a drum kit.

Our band played first, which was cool. As soon as I got on stage I realized that my fly was down. so there you have it: I earned my stage name. We played the song at least as well as our best practice run (phew). All that remained was to enjoy the nine other amazing bands.

Seriously, that's not hyperbole. It's pretty fucking astounding what inexperienced strangers come up with. It reminded me that we're all capable of working together and collaborating, but sometimes we choose not to. For whatever reason (environment, stress, insecurity) we opt to dismiss instead of encourage and ignore instead of support.

Maybe rock camp works because we all start out on a level playing field. At our first band meeting I said, "Hi, I'm Megan and I just learned the drums two hours ago." Our whole band was non-musicians, but we managed to write a rock song. How did that happen?

Well, I don't want to get too philosophical since this post is long already. I do want to say that if you've ever thought about learning to play an instrument or wished that Girls Rock Camp was around when you were a kid - I WILL SEE YOU AT LADIES ROCK CAMP 2009!

Official band photos

Our showcase songs will be available on iTunes. If you want to hear the star student of our drum group, check out "Fake it 'Til You Make It."

Here's a youtube link to "Step Into Your Power," this was one of the great songs to come out of camp. The drummer and I were in class together.


Unknown said...

How fun! I am so jealous. I have decided (after playing "Rock Band" on Xbox for 3 hours) that I really want to be a lead singer. It's just good fun. Although I stink at stage presence and writing songs.

- The M.A.D. Hapa said...

You should totally do this with me next year.

The song writing is not as hard as you think. For example, my friend Jean's song was inspired by our self-defense workshop. The chorus went:

"No! No no no no no . . . Back off! It was great."

smartwick said...

You rocked the Satyricon, sister! I'm so glad we did this -- really gives you perspective on what you're capable of and how amazing women are when they work together. LRC 2009, hells YES!

smartwick said...

PS - You need to put up a new poll about why your rock name is Pants.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pants- I am having a hard time snapping back to reality after all the yummy rockstar goodness, what about you? BRUTAL POODLE 4-EVA!

Dinah said...

I can't wait to see band photos!!!

Unknown said...

Sooo buying the DVD of the show off the Ladies rock camp web site:

Cary said...

This kicks serious ass! Looking forward to hearing the song.

jean said...

I really like what you said about how this experience showed how working together can happen. Amazing why it doesn't happen more often huh? Makes me want to search out some other camp and see if it would happen there as well or is it just the power of rock and roll?

Anonymous said...

Pants: You are totally awesome and I love you!
Aunt Cindy

wavelength said...

Hi - it's me - the jackhammer operator. Thank you for posting this wonderful reminder of Rock Camp 2008!

I feel compelled to tell you how supremely lucky I was to have landed underneath that punk/metal sign, where I had the awesome experience of meeting and collaborating with four very cool, kind, intellectual, artistic, thoughtful, beautiful, stimulating young women - Krull, Yoda, Mr.B, and you - Pants!

Two years later, it's still difficult to watch myself in that video. I was flustered and overwhelmed with stage-fright, unable to even remember the simple lyrics that I'd written. It may never be easy to watch, but I'm still glad my daughter pushed me to dip my toes into that intense, tornadic experience called "Ladies' Rock Camp."

I learned some things about music there - but most importantly, I learned:

That the world will not collapse if I'm the center of attention for a few minutes.

That it's possible - and fun - to create something synergistically with others that one could never accomplish alone.

That you can make a complete meal amazingly fast when you put it in a pressure-cooker.

And best of all - that I could thoroughly depend on my new-found "sisters" to back me up, all the way, and make me feel like a million bucks in gold!


- The M.A.D. Hapa said...

Wavelength - thanks so much for your comment and everything you brought to our band. It was an amazing weekend. One I'll never forget. Hope we'll see you back someday?


- Pants