Have you ever had one of those dreams where you’re walking down a long hallway with many doors, and you stop and open each door one by one, and there are strangers behind each door? Now replace the strangers with rock stars. That’s what the rehearsals for Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp are like. I’m in the basement of a local rehearsal studio here in North Hollywood and I’m in that hallway, the hallway that’s in that dream. It all seems so familiar. That’s probably because I’ve been in this very hallway before, many times. This is a rehearsal facility that I have been to many times to rehearse with my own band. But the similarities end here.
Normally, the doors are all unmarked save for a nondescript number on the door. Today the doors have the names of musicians such as Alan White, Vinny Appice, Rudy Sarzo, Tony Franklin, and Bruce Kulick to name a few taped to the doors. And in the normal world, you’d walk down this hallway and the “do not disturb” rule would be in effect. But not today; this is Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, the place where reality and rock stardom come to hang out in dimly lit rooms with worn carpeting and the aspirations of musicians past and present embedded in the very fabric of the rooms. It is precisely at this point where the experience turns into a rock fantasy for me. It isn’t just a dream for the campers, but for me too. I’m allowed to just push open the doors at will, walk in, photograph the bands, and witness the creative process at work.
In case you’ve been living off the grid for over a decade, Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp is pretty much what the title says — for a week, amateur musicians are teamed up into bands, and they have famous musicians work with them. I’ve wanted to do this since its inception, but some home repair invariably rears its ugly head, and then I can’t afford it. But fantasies should be priced like this; if they weren’t, it would dull the luster. This is a chance for the average person to live the dream. This is front row seats at your favorite concert times ten thousand. This is the media event at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.
The 2015 Los Angeles rock camp counselors consists of the following luminaries: Danny Seraphine (Chicago), Alan White (Yes), Vinny Appice (Dio), Bruce Kulick (KISS, Grand Funk Railroad), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot), Ty Dennis (Kreiger-Manzarek Band), Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne), Teddy Andreadis (Guns N’ Roses), Buster Akrey (Iron Butterfly), Kane Roberts (Alice Cooper) and Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot).
How would you like to get up on the stage and jam with Ginger Baker? Have David Crosby come in and help you write a song? Watch Tony “Fretless Monster” Franklin slither up and down the ebony fretboard? Yeah, me too! I go from room to room, casually entering, making a few notes and firing off a few shots. I come to the door marked “Alan White”. Yes, that Alan White from…Yes. I push open the door and there he is with his band doing “Long Time Gone” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I push open the Rudy Sarzo door and they’re doing “Southern Cross.” In the Tony Franklin room they are working on “Born Under A Bad Sign.” I would give anything to just drop my camera gear and join in on the jam, but then, I’m a bass player, and I would rather watch Tony work his magic on his black Fender Tony Franklin signature bass. Yes, they named the bass for him, but that’s another (future) story.
Off in the distance, over the top of the “Born Under A Bad Sign” riffs, I can hear the sound of thunder. That can only be one thing; Ginger F***ing Baker. Arguably, one of the most proficient drummers to ever walk the planet. And on my planet, Planet Cream, Ginger is a mythical figure. And I’m living the fantasy, if only for a few scant hours.
“Wait a second,” I can hear you collectively shouting, “You get to hang with all these bands and take all these photos and write about it?” Technically I’m supposed to be the cool, unaffected journalist. And I’m not one for hyperbole. But I’m a huge Cream fan. Why Cream? Because they had the best bass player, best guitarist, and best drummer all in one group. Plus, Tony Franklin is here, the musician I consider to be the best bassist around these days. He may not be a household name to everyone, but in my household, he is.
Prior to leaving for the shoot, I wasn’t sure if I would be given some of Ginger’s time to conduct a short interview. Hell, I wasn’t sure if I had the nerve to ask him anything after viewing “Beware of Mr. Baker” this morning, just to bone up. I didn’t have enough time to run out and buy a catcher’s mask anyway. But I figure even with all my camera gear, I can still outrun him if I have to.
I’m ushered into the main room, and in the back, on a stage not much bigger than the one in my garage, sits Ginger Baker. And the band is playing Born Under A Bad Sign. This is like that fantasy you have where The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin are just hanging with you and you start to jam. Sure, it’s every day you get to stand three feet from Ginger Baker while he is playing the music you grew up on. No big deal….
The camp culminates with the showcase, this Sunday night at the famed Whisky A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. And then the fantasy ends until the next one begins. But the memories of this experience will surely last a lifetime for the campers, and quite possibly for yours truly. I think the next time camp comes to town I may have to ditch the camera and the keyboard, and really live the fantasy. It’s hard to witness it first-hand and not start making plans to attend.
As a fellow musician, I can attest to how much work goes into getting the songs down, rehearsing, and going onstage in front of a crowd. I’m sure the campers get a good taste of how much effort is involved. I’m equally sure that the blood, sweat, and tears of their efforts will become another layer in the fabric that lines the walls of the rehearsal space. But just think of the stories they’ll have to tell their grandchildren.