The Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp

Hollywood, February 15-19, 2007


Day Four (02/18/2007)

Fantasy Camp Sunday, like all the others so far, began too damned early for me! It's odd… even though I'm not the best sleeper at this point in my life, usually after a few days in California my body clock has readjusted… but, on this Sunday, I awoke at 5:36am. Fortunately or unfortunately, I seem to be getting used to the fatigue that the lack of sleep is creating (I suppose I should be happy they have an ample supply of Rockstar energy drinks to stave-off my usual afternoon sleepies).

In any event, I wrote yesterday's blog, showered and dressed, then took the first van over to the rehearsal studios – rather than keep spending $9.95 per 24hrs of high speed access at the hotel I figured I'd glom-onto the free WiFi that I find out is provided by SIR Studios… which worked just fine. I stayed online about 45min… not only to post yesterday's blog, but to say "thank you" to all the congratulatory messages I received via MySpace message or email (re: winning the Korg keyboard in the TSO Contest).  All the while several people – including a couple of the members of my band – commented on the speed at which I type (a natural side-effect from playing rapid-fire keys for most of my life)!

After a big Sunday breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, etc., the members of Rogue Scholars assembled in Studio Four to begin a day of fine-tuning… we know all of our songs, so now it's time to tighten them up and get them ready to perform. We warmed-up with a few run-throughs of "Barbara Ann"… which was pronounced ready to go (including some new hula choreography by the entire band when Ed (on drums) and I are soloing).

We then turned our attention to our original song – "Draw The Line" – that we're going to open with at the House of Blues on Monday night. We lopped-off half of the third verse because it seemed to propel the song forward a little better… the only problem being that since we've already played it so much there were several muddled attempts (including yours truly) trying to remember the new change. Otherwise, it's good to go.

Personalized music instruction from Mark Slaughter... Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp is AMAZING!
By this point, the Rogue Scholars repertoire was really coming-together!
The Rogue Scholars guitarists showing their expertise!
Photos © Rebecca King, 2007, All Rights Reserved

We next practiced KISS' "Detroit Rock City" – after a couple of passes we took a break so the soloing guitarists could be sure they were on the same harmonic page. Just before lunch we did about four run-throughs which seem to go without difficulty… only thing: I'm required to do a sound change on the keys that just isn't doable with reliability – so at this point we insisted that a second keyboard be brought-in to rehearse-with (thank you, Alan, for loaning me your personal Kurzweil SP1 and Organ Module).

Rogue Scholars Lead Vocalist and Guitarist - Jim "Jambo" King
Rogue Scholars Keyboardist - David Presley (happy, despite my look of concentration, to FINALLY have two keyboards!)
Rogue Scholars Guitarist - Bob Kozicki
Bob and David awaiting musical cues from our bandmates
David Fishof introducing Duane Betts to Mark Slaughter and the Rogue Scholars
Photos © Rebecca King, 2007, All Rights Reserved

Sunday lunch was a variety of very thick (and tasty) sandwiches, chips (yum… they had Jalapeno potato chips – my fave!), and soft drinks. But with a busy afternoon we decided to cut it a little short and resume practice – which included timing our HOB set to assure we're close to the 10min limitation placed on each band (we're fine). Just after starting our third take on "Draw The Line" the doors open and the Brian Wilson entourage enters – including the man himself. Nice that we played our original tune without a single glitch… and David Fishof keeps saying how he loves it – and finds it so difficult to believe that we could come-up with something so good so fast. We then played "Barbara Ann" for Brian, who pronounced it "great!"; that was followed-up with autographs (I had him sign the cover of my "Pet Sounds" CD) and also a group photo.

Many people have asked my opinion about Brian… I would describe it this way: given the problems he's had throughout his entire life it's really amazing that he's even doing this – although you can tell the large crowds DO make him fairly uncomfortable.

After he left we were told that the guys in the sound booth were ready to start recording us (each band would record one or two songs today). Just as happens when I record at home, the minute the red light appeared all of us seemed to succumb to the pressure and make minor goofs here and there. But, since it was our studio – and we were the mixing guinea pigs – we were allowed several more passes until we got one we were happy-with. At that point we had to release the room to Kelly Keagy's band – so we wandered about and chatted with other campers and counselors… until 5pm neared and we went to listen to Brian Wilson's group warming-up prior to his show.

The Brian Wilson Band during rehearsal / sound check

With a red wine in hand and my friend Carla nearby we stood right by the mixers for Brian's half-dozen-or-so song set – that included his biggest hits. I video'd a couple of them – "Good Vibrations" and "Barbara Ann" (hey, we were playing it, so I wanted to hear how the composer himself is doing it!) – then as soon as he finished each band needed to get ready as it was our time to perform our Beach Boys tunes (sort of a warm up for the Battle of the Bands at the HOB). We were set to go third.

Rogue Scholars performing "Barbara Ann"
Rogue Scholars performing "Barbara Ann"
Rogue Scholars performing "Barbara Ann"
David Presley, accompanied by Rogue Scholars, performing "Barbara Ann"
Rogue Scholars performing "Barbara Ann"
Rogue Scholars performing "Barbara Ann"
Photos © Rebecca King, 2007, All Rights Reserved

Just before taking the stage Mark gathered each of us for what I thought would be a kind of pep talk – instead, he said to ignore what he was going to say and do after our set (that it was an act cooked-up between him and David). No prob… the prior band finished their song and we got ready. It was WONDERFUL to have my hands on a real B3, but the mix seemed off on the little Korg (which I use for the hula solo mentioned earlier). Little did I/we realize what the mix being-off actually meant: we began with the acapella intro, but as soon as the band all came-in each of us quickly realized that the monitor mix was ghastly. I could only hear myself, a bit of Ed's drumming, and the vocals. Still the piece was simple enough that it didn't present much problem until I got to my solo… nobody else could hear it, and in my trying to follow them I inadvertently added another measure – that then cascaded into a goof when we get to this little prog-rock transition that morphs back to the final verse. We finished, but most of us were extremely unhappy with our performance (since we'd nailed it perfectly many times in practice).  If nothing else, it makes you appreciate the value of good monitoring!

The Brian Wilson Band during their performance
Brian Wilson and his music director Jeff Foskett
What an incredible thrill to have THE Brian Wilson giving us a private concert of his biggest hits!
Brian Wilson and his music director Jeff Foskett
Photos © Rebecca King, 2007, All Rights Reserved

So, what was Mark's schtick? We get done and start leaving and he says "hold on, guys!" Kelly Keagy (playing master of ceremonies)is about to introduce the next band, but Mark stops him and says "we can do a whole lot better than that (no shit!) – we want to play it again!" Kelly says "no", and Mark insists again (we find out later that Kelly was NOT in on the joke, and his eyes were ever widening as Mark kept demanding another pass). On about the third one – where Mark is now almost screaming at him, David Fishof comes on stage and asks "what's the problem?" Mark yells that he HAS to let us play our song once more – with that, David says "NO, and get off my stage!" Mark then goes into a rage, turns, and starts beating his bass to death on top of a small amp. The crowd audibly gasped – they really thought Mark had lost it – but after about 10sec of his Pete Townsend routine, David laughs and reassures the crowd that it as all in good humor (and that the small amp with the top caved-in would be sold for charity… though I can't imagine who'd pay much for it in it's current condition!).

Rogue Scholars' were so bummed that we really didn't listen to many of the other performances (not being bad sports – we were just so terribly disappointed that the bad monitor mix had sabotaged us). It also scared us… if the mix is that bad at the HOB, we're going to go-down in flames (because all of our songs are very difficult timing-wise… we HAVE to hear one another)! At any rate, Clem's band won(congrats to them!); we then had dinner that included scallops in a cream sauce, chicken, yams, and a nasty fruit casserole (while edible, IMO the food is arguably the weak link at Fantasy Camp).

When done, young Jared grabbed me and asked if I'd help him with something (of course I said "sure"). Turns-out that David wants him, as this camp's whiz "kid", to do a guitar showcase after all the bands play at the HOB. What we're going to do is have me play an ethereal organ that very slowly morphs between Emaj, E4, and E2 while he does some Steve Vai-type routines above it (there's also another bass player doing same, and another very young camper doing reverse cymbal work at times); then, after about 5-7min Jared does a crash, the drummer does a fast tom-tom run, and then with rapid-fire double kicks we do a very fast conclusion for a couple of minutes. It actually sounds really hot – should be fun (and I'm extremely flattered that he came to me to play keys for him).

So, I'm still in the studio talking ELP (what else? lol) with a couple of campers, when the door opens and in walks a couple dozen people in the Dickey Betts entourage. Several campers quickly take the stage, and we proceed to do about a 10min jam with Dickey. Jeez, it was SOOOO much fun – and now I can honestly say that I've played with Dickey Betts! He was so gracious – signing everyone's autograph (I got mine on the cover of The Allman Brothers' "Fillmore East" double-CD) and taking pics (again, where are all of these photographs?!?!???  I made a point of not insisting on my own because the pro seemed to have everything covered... but, now a week-and-a-half after camp has concluded there's still nothing made available!). With that, the entourage moved-onto another studio, and those remaining decided to do some more jamming (now including Kelly Keagy on drums). We did one in a funk style; there was another in a shuffle-tempo, and another in straight-up rock. All sounded shockingly good – really, there are some exceptional camper musicians here!

Dickey Betts jamming in Studio Two (with Camper "Super Dave" on the right)
Dickey Betts, in the waning moments of his last Camper Jam of the evening

The remainder of the night found me demo'ing a couple of ELP tunes to people who asked (my reputation as Emo-obsessed has pretty much become common-knowledge throughout the camp - noting, at various times, people pointing at me and whispering); I went into the last studio to hear Dickey play; I then chatted-it-up with Mark Slaughter about all kinds of topics, including what I might consider doing musically once I leave camp (jeez, he's an incredible guy – I really do hope we don't lose touch after this thing ends!). About 11, I decided to take the van back to the hotel… marveling how jaded I've become in the past several days (I have open access to a state-of-the-art rehearsal studio, and I say "nah, I'm spent!" and leave! lol). Despite being tired, I hung-out in the hotel bar for another 30-40min, chatting it up with Kelly, Lynn, and a couple of guests (there were a LOT of those tonight – including actress Kate Vernon and her husband/boyfriend, who were there to see Brian perform). In hopes of possibly getting one good night's sleep I popped a couple of Tylenol PM and called it a night around midnight. I made it to 5:35am (jeez, what is up with my internal clock?!?!!).

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

So, as I type this with it nearing 8am on the last day of Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp, I would describe my feelings as bittersweet. I knew this day would come – heck, I've been counting the months, then weeks, then days until flying to SoCal – but now that the last day is here the excitement about performing at the House of Blues is definitely tempered with a bit of sadness. I suppose the saying is indeed true: "all good things must end".

Mark told us that Monday's rehearsal will be very light – we just want to play through everything a few more times then stop (so we have maximum energy for when we need it tonight). We ARE going to work on visual cueing a bit more – as a precaution against a bad monitor mix at the HOB. The afternoon is free – we can jam, we can shop, we can nap (I may give that last one a try). We then have an early (5pm) dinner at the studios, then take the vans over to the HOB. The show apparently DOES start at 8pm, and with thirteen bands we're guessing it'll be about 10:30pm (ED NOTE: man, could that guess have been any more wrong?!! lol) when everyone is finished and a winner announced. There'll then be a Counselor Jam, and – with that – the 2007 Hollywood Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp will be history.

I'm giving this level of detail about Day 5 because I likely will not be able to finish blogging the last day until I've returned to Florida on  Tuesday night. Please know that I'm very gratified by all of the wonderful messages many of you have sent about my recounting of life at Fantasy Camp. Glad I could help you live the experience!

With that, it's shower time – then I need to get the last day underway. Keep your fingers' crossed that we have a good mix this evening, okay? Cheers!

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