The Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp

Hollywood, February 15-19, 2007

 

Day Three (02/17/2007)

Saturday dawns, and Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp IS mimicking the rockstar lifestyle quite convincingly. As the day wore-on I would describe myself

Rogue Scholars' Drummer Adria McClain really getting into the beat!
Rogue Scholars Guitarist Dan Donnelly... don't stare at that guitar body for too long! lol
Rogue Scholars' Drummer Ed Johnson... our band's anchor!
Photos © Rebecca King, 2007, All Rights Reserved

as beyond spent. My real life friends know that despite my short little legs I walk very quickly and with focus. But as Saturday progressed I noted that my pace had slowed… I'd saunter to get an energy drink or to just take a breather. I felt ever so slightly light-headed towards the end of the day… almost like when you first start to get a very mild buzz from drinking (except that I hadn't had anything alcoholic at that time). And, in a rarity for me, I repeatedly had to remind myself what day it was.

Part of the day's confusion stems from the unrelenting pace of this thing; but it also is a reflection on just how good our band is. I believe I wrote in a previous blog (although, if I didn't, I'm doing so now!) that on the first day I wandered amongst the various rehearsal studios listening to everyone warm-up prior to auditions. I made a mental note on who I felt were the strongest players. So when they began calling people onstage Thursday night to tell them their band assignment I was stunned, almost shocked, when they kept calling the names of people who'd impressed me most. I couldn't have cherry-picked a stronger band, and it shows with our progress.

Incredible gear - here's our mixing console in Studio Four!
The Rack-Mounted Gear for Studio Four
And you think your Home Theatre system is hard to hook-up? lol

After a quiche-based breakfast, the weary members of Rogue Scholars assembled at 10-sharp to commence rehearsals. We first ran through "Barbara Ann" – then, about midway through our third take, Jeff Foskett – Brian Wilson's Musical Director – wandered into the studio to hear what we'd done with the song. Our full run-through met with his approval, and after the usual autographs and pictures we moved-onto our original song "Draw The Line". It's interesting how the song is changing, metamorphosing, as we keep playing it… especially from my point-of-view (on keys). The day before I was focusing on a verse style reminiscent of ELP's "Living Sin"... namely, ballsy Hammond walks – but today I tended to do more of a rhythm-guitar kind of percussive slap using suspended fourths. And I have yet to play the same solo twice – which means that sometime we've got a gem and other times it's a little bit wanting.

Mark, Jambo, and Jared working-out the guitar harmonies for "Detroit Rock City"
Here's where we were on "Detroit Rock City" about an hour before Paul Stanley arrived and rehearsed - YIKES!
Our first run-through of "Detroit Rock City"... you can see me reading the chord charts that I don't yet know!
Photos © Rebecca King, 2007, All Rights Reserved

Apologies to non-musicians reading this blog – I really don't intend on talking a lot of shop as to form. Suffice to say that it is still a really wonderful piece – and we were informed that late Saturday night our studio was to be converted for recording of a song by each band. On first blush, this concerned us… but, on reflection, we realized what an incredible opportunity it presented! In short, as we rehearse "Draw The Line" – and the production guys tweak their myriad of settings – they can just let the digital recorders run. If we happen to nail a take, it'll already be in the can (or close enough that it could be patched rather than completely re-recorded)… this takes-off all the pressure of stepping into the studio and doing it perfectly on the first (and only) take. As I said to our young whiz Jared, "sometimes it's better to be lucky than good!" lol

Into Studio Four walks the Paul Stanley entourage...
After less than two hours practice we give "Detroit Rock City" a go
It sounds SOOOO much better with Paul Stanley singing lead!
Paul may think we've been playing it longer than we actually have!
Paul Stanley finishes the closing words to "Detroit Rock City"
To me, the smile means that Paul likes what he hears!
Paul Stanley and the members of Rogue Scholars
Photos © Rebecca King, 2007, All Rights Reserved

Around noon, we turned-our attention to the KISS song "Detroit Rock City". It's an odd piece… given all the weird stuff I play it's proving tough for me to get my brain-around. And it is VERY demanding on most of our guitarists. As it started coming-together I decided that it was just not necessary for me to mimic these odd guitar licks on keys – instead I'm using the Hammond for fills and accents… which makes sense to me, given that there were no keys on the original. We'd run through it a few times – and it was still VERY rough (translation: we'd yet to have a successful run-through) when in-walks Paul Stanley to rehearse it with us. Oh well, nothing like pressure… it brings the best out in this band. In short, we came VERY close to nailing it – performed live it would've been quite acceptable… but it meant that with some more practice to tighten-it-up that it would be stellar. Basically, we'd taken a very demanding song that only a couple of us knew, and had it playable in a bit over 90min. THAT illustrates the talent I referred-to at the outset!

Lunch today was of the burger/fries variety… next time I just need to pay attention that I pick up a beef patty instead of those nasty turkey patties!  *blech!*  But it quickly became obvious that this band – and this experience – is like a drug. All of our members ate very quickly, then returned straight to our studio to begin learning the Dickey Betts song "Long Time Gone". Unlike the KISS tune, this one was a very simple 1-4-5 (again, non-musicians, sorry for the technobabble) and we realized that it probably would be playable inside of an hour. It was then that Mark Slaughter (aka "fearless leader") brought us back to earth: we have only 10min to perform at theHouse of Blues. We HAVE to do the KISS song, which runs just shy of half that time. We really want to do our original, which runs just shy of five minutes… so Mark asks if we want to cut or shorten either song to make room for "Long Time Gone" – which we do not. So, our voracious appetite for noodling-out new songs came to a screeching halt.

What we did come-up-with, over the next hour-or-so, is a really REALLY interesting musical transition at the end of "Detroit Rock City" that will afford a completely different playing style for our band; one that will make us stand-out from the other bands (in showing our stylistic range); and one that will let Dickey go nuts on one of the most famous guitar licks of all time. If I sound like I'm being coy, I am – I'm not going to put into writing what we're doing until after the performance, because we don't want to publicly tip our hat to the other bands.

During this process, in walks recent Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead (with the now-usual gaggle of print and photo press swarming around him). He listens and gives our song and our band two thumbs-up. We get pics with him (ED NOTE: it's odd - having returned home, almost none of the pics that have been made available... at least so far... include my band or its members!), then as quickly as Mickey arrived he was gone. We spent the remainder of our afternoon working on the transition and the guitar harmonies for this new close – then, at 5pm, we all headed-into Studio One to find various percussion devices on every chair. Mickey was going to do one of his percussion exercises… really, it's a little hard to describe – but I'm glad that I (and most everyone else) were wearing our tie-died shirts, because it really fit the mood. I'd describe the session as sort of a synergistic living rhythmic harmony. Everybody reacts to everybody else and the "music" created has a very organic, throbbing, almost hypnotic effect. A very odd experience, indeed.

Mickey Hart jams to the Rogue Scholars original song "Draw The Line"
Mickey Hart and the members of Rogue Scholars
Mickey Hart starts-off the Campers' percussion exercise...
Photos © Rebecca King, 2007, All Rights Reserved

When finished, we wandered-into the bar for some end-of-the-day adult libations – and, while near the bar I see a very familiar-looking(and incredibly beautiful) brunette talking to David Fishof. I wander up and introduce myself to Asha Mevlana – another of my MySpace friends (whom I only knew online, not in real life), and both a RRFC Alum and working musician. We chatted for a bit – the only thing I regret is forgetting to have a pic made with her (oh well, perhaps next time). My MySpace luck continued – about the time I was going to get in the dinner line I get a voicemail from Carla Fink, another one of my online friends. We hookup, dine together (which included fried chicken, bbq pork, mac-n-cheese, etc. – it was pretty good, although not remarkable), then we go to Spike Edney's Master Class entitled "All Yu Need to Know – UK Style". Following-up on Teddy Andreadis' style the prior evening, his clinic covered a wide variety of practical issues illustrated with humorous stories from the road. I honestly didn't know much about Spike before this experience, but now I'm a huge fan... and finishing-off with a mini-jam that included Meatloaf's long-time accompanying singer Patti Russo was the pièce de résistance!

From there, Carla wanted to meet Jane Wiedlin – so we wandered into her studio where she was jamming with some of her Campers. That's where we stayed until just shy of midnight, when it was time to return to the hotel. Upon arrival, Carla was in the mood for breakfast – and I wouldn't have minded a GOOD hamburger – so we bumbled-down to Mel's Diner (yeah, the same Mel's as you saw in the movie "American Graffiti") to indulge ourselves. While there we had a sort of star sighting – the oriental guy from NBC's "Heroes" wandered-in for late night eats (sorry I can't call him by name – I don't really watch the show since it's opposite my all-time-fave "24"). But, with our tummies full, we walked back to the Renaissance, said goodnight, then called it an evening. I fell asleep quickly – out of sheer exhaustion – but, as seems to be the norm for this trip, I awoke about 5:30 still worn-out. I am just resigned to being exhausted by the time this ends – from both the experience and my own inability to sleep soundly. As I said at the outset, at least this is helping create the feeling/experience of the rockstar lifestyle.

As I type this, Day Four looms… and we're past the halfway point of the Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp. The experience reminds me of one of my own, more regular, intensive vacations. On one hand, it is flying-by at a blistering pace; on the other hand, there is so much crammed-into every minute that on reflection it seems like we've been doing this for many days or even weeks.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On tap today is a tightening-up of our House of Blues set-list, then rehearsal of "Barbara Ann" with Brian Wilson and our "secret ending" with Dickey Betts. Late afternoon we don our best Hawaiian-style beachwear and, after a Q&A with Brian in the big room, each band will perform our Beach Boys song for our fellow campers. After dinner each band will then go into Studio Four (aka OUR studio) to record their originals… we may or may not do that depending on whether we nail one in practice… time will tell, I suppose. The evening will conclude with our last night's jamming (HOW can it already be time to say "Last" about anything relating to this camp?).

But "last" will indeed loom… and as I awoke this morning (and surveyed all of the "freebies" I've received since arriving) I'm beginning to ponder how I'm going to get it all back home with me (since I came with a relatively-full carry-on and briefcase). Yes, before too much longer, our former lives will again return – we've been warned that there is a very real withdrawal period after Fantasy Camp – perhaps that'll be David's next great venture: RRFC Rehab! ;-)

Have a great Sunday, everybody!

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