Rock and Roll Fantasy

Wed, 07/15/2009 - 9:39am
By: Michael Boylan

Camp before spotlight show at ‘The Fred’ gives locals a chance to learn from the masters

The campers showed up during a sound check at noon, with guitar riffs from the World Classic Rockers blazing across the empty, sun-drenched seats in the amphitheater and the heavy beat of the drum rattling the hearts in their chests. It was as if the band members were playing the part of drill sergeants, saying, “This is rock and roll. If it is too loud, you are out of luck.”

The campers, ranging in age from high school to having kids in high school, took seats on the front row and watched the band float in and out of a jam, speaking to the sound booth with gestures as they played. Roadies moved in and out of the equipment, dancing over wires and making sure everyone had what they needed. As the sound check progressed, the pieces of songs got longer - “Gimme Three Steps,” Here I Go Again,” “Open Invitation.”

Lunch was called and like a hungry herd, the band and the campers flocked to the cast house adjacent to the stage.

The campers took their sandwiches to the seats and members of the World Classic Rockers filled out the tables, talking shop with the aspiring rockers and regaling them with tales from the road. Fergie Fredriksen, former lead singer of Toto, told a group of the younger campers about gigs in Dubai, Hong Kong and La Paz and asked them about their musical styles, abilities and interests.

“That’s lunch, everybody report to the stage,” the tour manager called and the group hustled back out to the stage once more, picked up their equipment and started noodling away.

Nick St. Nicholas, founder of several bands, including Steppenwolf and the World Classic Rockers, tried to get everyone’s attention, eventually having to resort to getting on the mic to be heard.

“Let’s get organized, but not too organized,” he said, discussing the importance of rock and roll spirit.

The first thing that needed to be done was to break the campers into their sections by instruments, so that they could be paired up with their World Classic Rockers counterparts and the band could see what they were dealing with. The band started a blues jam and had the campers join in. The integration between pro and amateur seemed fairly seemless. At one point, St. Nicholas signalled for everyone to stand down so that Mitch Hammond, the youngest camper, could solo on his bass.

“Be sure to respect your elders,” St. Nicholas told Hammond at one point. “Don’t show up any of the World Classic Rockers.”

After the jam, the band played Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” with Randall Hall, who played with Skynyrd, on vocals and guitar. The campers then got together with their instructors on how to play the song. Within 15 minutes, and with the addition of back up vocalists, the campers were ready to play alongside the World Classic Rockers on one of the more popular rock tunes of all time, knowing that in eight hours time, the empty seats in front of them would be filled with cheering fans.

Following the work on “Sweet Home Alabama,” the band taught the campers Steppenwolf’s hit, “Magic Carpet Ride.” The campers were given passes to get them access to the stage that night and camp was dismissed. In just a few short hours, the group would be facing more fans than they had likely ever played in front of before.

“We got to meet, eat lunch and play music with legends of rock,” said Ken Holley, a drummer who played percussion during the show that night. A fan of drummer Aynsley Dunbar, the original drummer for Journey, Holley stated he would have paid a lot to attend the camp. Greg Walker, who sang with Santana for nearly a decade and worked with Holley on percussion during the camp, said “playing the music is cool, but I like the camp more for the hang, getting to know the guys and just hang out.”

Mark McKee of Grantville, the fourth drummer - so he played blues harmonica and flute during the show, appreciated the band taking time before a show to work with the campers as well. In turn, the band was very pleased with his harmonica and flute solos during the camp.

The gates at the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater opened and people began to file in. The opening act, Remedy, a local band that won an open mic contest earlier this year, played some numbers by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers and Stevie Ray Vaughn, before giving way to the World Classic Rockers. The campers sat anxiously in their seats, witnessing the immediate approval of the crowd as the band tore through songs by Journey and Santana.

It was time. The campers made their way to the stage, were introduced to thunderous applause, and took their places alongside the band. As the opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama” jazzed nearly the entire crowd out of their seats to boogie, the campers and the band gave the audience a lesson in rocking. During “Magic Carpet Ride” nearly every camper got a chance to solo during an extended jam.

They got another rousing ovation as they left the stage before the World Classic Rockers continued with their high-energy show.

“It was the experience of a lifetime,” said Sarah Davenport who sang back-up vocals during the show, alongside local tv personality Corinna Allen. The rest of the camp would likely agree, as they were the recipients of high-fives and pats on the back well into the night.

The campers who played at “The Fred” last Friday night were - John Best and Daniel Best on keyboards, Caleb Hurst, Randy Gaddo and Sean-Clive Thompson on guitar, Ryan Ross, Ken Holley and Rob Jimmerson on drums and percussion, Mitch Hammond on bass, Mark McKee on blues harmonica and flute, and Robert Loesch and Mike Parker on lead vocals.

login to post comments