One Time, At Rock-n-Roll Camp…
Inspired by the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon, the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp (SGRRC) was founded by Kelley Anderson in Murfreesboro, TN in 2003 to encourage more young women to become involved in music. The weeklong camp centers on each girl joining a band composed of fellow campers, then writing and rehearsing a song to play at a showcase for parents and friends on the last day. The camp also features live performances and panel discussions with local musicians and workshops.
Last summer, SGRRC expanded to Memphis. Through the magic of the internet, Kelley asked me to teach the zine-making workshop. Since the camp was being held right across the street from my office, I replied with an enthusiastic yes.
I have to admit that I was pretty nervous the first day, not knowing what to expect. Little boys—no problem. Girls ages 10-17—no clue. I ended up with four really sweet and talented girls and an awesome assistant, Jessi, who is a former camper.
Monday we just sat around and got to know each other and talked about what a zine is. We had a whole stack of sample zines to check out, and I gave everyone a copy of Fertile Ground. Then I tried to explain why a mom might want to make a zine without mentioning words like homebirth, breastfeeding, or circumcision that might freak them out. Luckily, the latest issue was the Memphis issue, and I was able to convince them I was semi-cool with the details of breaking my leg in two places in the roller derby.
Tuesday we busted out the box of art supplies and started making collages. Everyone was a little more relaxed and we had fun discussing what we wanted to put in the zine. I also talked to Chuck, the photography teacher, about getting some pictures of the bands that the girls were forming for the zine.
Wednesday I was a bit panicked about not having any content, so I asked the girls to do some writing before we busted out the art supplies. I talked to Kelley to see if she could get the band names, members names, bios, and lyrics for me to include. No small task! No one could come up with a name for the zine so I shyly asked my group of budding hipsters in Ramones and Go-Go’s shirts if they had ever seen the movie “American Pie.” They nodded. “Remember how that girl was saying, 'One time at band camp'?" They nodded. "Want to call it that?" They looked around at each other and giggled in approval.
"Maybe we could cross out the word 'band' and replace it with 'rock-n-roll'," Halle suggested.
"Yeah, we could cross it out with red lipstick!" Allie said.
Hoping to have a stapling party Friday, I told the girls they'd have to work on a few things at home so we could get everything laid out on Thursday. At lunch it occurred to me that everything we were doing was in color and that when I gave the girls free reign to pick out the style of zine they wanted to do, I never asked Kelley what our budget was for printing!
Thursday I came in to find all of the volunteers looking very sleepy and hungover. Kelley, Jessi, and Nikki are in an old time country band called Those Darlins and they played at Murphy's Wednesday night. Chuck had stayed up late too. But it wasn't too bad--Kelley had most of the band info and Chuck had all of the pictures I needed on his computer. Once we got all of the band info together--there were eight total--we suddenly had lots and lots of content for the zine. And best of all, Halle made an amazing cover collage.
We ran out of time, so Jessi and I ate a quick lunch and then finished the layout ourselves. Even though she is totally laid back and awesome, she agreed with me that we needed a table of contents and page numbers. I was very worried about coming off as totally anal!!
Friday when I showed up for class, long-armed stapler in hand, I found out that the zine was still at the printer's. So much for the stapling party! Jessi had the great idea of making little envelopes and putting fortunes into them to wedge between the staples of the final zine. We had a great time doing this--especially me, the old dog learning a new trick.
I left after lunch with a promise of a phone call by Anna, the director, as soon as the zine was printed. I planned to rush over and get it stapled before graduation later that evening. At about 4:45pm I got a text message that said, "They are all here, they are stapled, and they are all in color!"
On Saturday at the Showcase, Kelley, the founder, actually said to me, "I got a chance to sit down and read the zine last night and it is the best one we've ever had."
As awesome as the zine was, the real highlight of the camp was the Showcase at the end of the week. Inside the Gibson Guitar Factory, the lights were low, the room was packed with parents and friends, and you could feel the buzz in the air. There was no actual backstage, so campers were milling about all dolled up and you could tell that they were PUMPED. And NERVOUS as hell.
First up was Squirrel vs. Ferret who sang an original song called "Frozen Sorrows." Two of my zinesters were on guitar and the lead singer had a great smile on her face the whole time she was up there. I seriously got goosebumps and almost started balling!
The Country Gals featured a zinester on guitar. EVERYONE had been talking about The Country Gals all week. They were the youngest band--each girl is about ten--and they wrote a song called "Daddy Buy Me a Dancing Horse." They all made shirts with horses on them and the girl on vocals, Kierstan, came out in pigtails and said, "Daddy, come here!" before she started the song. She hopped up and down the whole time she sang. At one point she stopped and took three or four big breaths. It was so damn cute it hurt.
Loveless was next, featuring a zinester on keyboards. Their song, "Broken Prince Charming," was great and the lead singer had a really unique voice. Her mom was jumping up and down in the audience screaming, "That's my daughter! That's my daughter!" It was hilarious. I can't wait to do that to Satchel and/or Jiro someday.
Forgotten Blue featured the daughter of some good friends of mine who just happened to be standing next to me. I went back and forth from watching Flannery to watching her mom and tried to imagine the feeling. Flannery looked so grown up and cool. I had seen her throughout the week and did my best to be friendly without embarrassing her.
Jessi's band, the Klassix, did an original song in the style of the Sherrell's. I was really glad that my friend Hope was with me since we went to high school and girl scout camp together. We both just looked at each other, shook our heads, and wondered what our lives would have been like had we had Rock-n-Roll camp!
Ravad 74 ended the show with their very catchy and very well done original song "Unsinkable." (When I'm not singing "Daddy daddy buy me a dancing horse," I'm singing "I'm unsinkable/No one can bring me down/I'm unsinkable/I don't want you around.") Now, these girls really knew how to rock. Granted they were the oldest girls and one of the members, Audra Brown, already has an album out, but damn. If they don't become rock stars, I have no doubt they will at least join the roller derby!
It was a really awesome show and an amazing experience overall. You really just had to be there. I'm so excited about the future of SGRRC and cannot wait until next year. I've got to find a way to take the whole week off so I won't have to miss a minute!