Elliot Easton, Jordan Wagner and Slim Jim Phantom.
|Click here to see a slideshow of Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp set to the song Jordan's RRFC band recorded
“How’d you like to go jam with Steven Tyler in a few weeks?” was the question I got from a PG editor over the phone. As you can imagine, I was a bit taken aback by the proposition; I thought it was a lame attempt at a practical joke. Ready and willing to follow along with the gag, the subsequent statement put things into perspective: “We’d like to send you to Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp.” As the details followed, I was soon overwhelmed with excitement, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that in less than a month I’d be meeting the likes of Todd Rundgren, Elliot Easton and Carmine Appice. I was going to take part in the grandest of rock daydreams.
Like many people, everything I knew about R&RFC I learned from a particularly good episode of The Simpsons. Homer and his pals participate in an actual camp with log cabins and learn how to “act” like rock stars under the tutelage of Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz. Not being an animated fictional character, I had no idea what was in store for me. It preyed upon my anxiety. I was going to get to hang out with legends and actually play with them? How do you prepare yourself for that?
For those who are mostly in the dark about the details, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp is a five-day excursion to a city well established in the popular music scene. Each camper participates in a band with other campers… and one rock star. The whole shebang concludes with a gala event on the final night at a famous music venue, where the band rocks out on the stage. R&RFC just celebrated its eleventh anniversary this year with a camp in Hollywood, CA (from April 29 to May 3).
In the past, they’ve had rock stars such as Roger Daltrey, Paul Stanley, Brian Wilson, Slash, Alan White and Jack Bruce take part. This year’s star-studded lineup promised to be phenomenal as well, with the names Bruce Kulick, Mark Hudson, Teddy Andreadis, Kip Winger, Danny Seraphine and Sandy Gennaro gracing the press release, just to name a handful. Each of these seasoned pros (dubbed “rock counselors”) was set to lead a band of campers, sculpting and shaping a handful of tunes to unleash on the final night at a sold-out show at The Whisky A Go Go.
Not only that, but each band would also get to record an original song at Capitol Studios with Eddie Kramer, the master producer and engineer who worked with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Last, but undoubtedly not least, each band would get to play an Aerosmith song with the legend himself, Steven Tyler, who arrived on the third day for a long Q&A session followed by a visit to the practice sessions of each of the 12 bands. He talked to the bands, listened, and jumped in to sing along while they played. And although it wasn’t in the original plan, he also made a surprise appearance at the Whisky and saw each of the bands perform on stage.
I spoke to Fantasy Camp founder David Fishof, and asked what prompted him to start it. “I was on tour with Ringo,” he told me, “and it would be me and these rockers on the plane… Joe Walsh and Levon Helm and Dr. John… I saw how amazing these guys were, you know, when they had no one around them and they were just regular musicians… not the way people always talk about rock stars. Whenever someone would ask me what it was like, I thought, ‘If I could only give this experience to people.’ I saw how much fun the rockers were having on the tour, so in ’96 I decided to share that experience, and I did my first camp in Florida. I called guys I’d met on tour, Nils Lofgren and Clarence Clemmons, Mike Love, Mark Farner, and so on. No one said no. Everyone had such a great time. For me it’s just about giving people an amazing experience, changing people’s lives through music.”