Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5
- Day 5: February 19, 2007 -
Speechless is what I am. I am so pleased with the final night at the House of Blues. I know that the campers and counselors were thrilled and amazed with our big finale.
The day started with everyone's final rehearsal, then a lunch break and back to the hotel for getting into the clothing for the big performances at the HOB. I felt confident with my band's last time to run through the KISS and Journey songs. I gave my band as gifts some of my solo CD's and thanked them for their hard work at the camp. We exchanged info so we can keep in touch and that is something the camp is great for, bringing people who love music together.
About 4 PM we had our special dinner and ceremony where each band and counselor got on stage to receive an award for being at the fantasy camp. It was great to have the lovely Lynn Hoffman and Kelly Keagy interview my band and see how elated they were about the experience, each one saying a few words about how the camp changed their lives. Guess they didn't mind me being the drill sergeant I am known to be!
Off the House of Blues, and campers and counselors were very excited. I went in to greet Paul Stanley and go over a few details of the night with him. Paul was very anxious to hear the bands again and what a night this would be!
I had the pleasure to open the show, as my band "Psycho Circus" drew first slot, and of course I was so excited to get the show kicked off. I introduced Paul to the crowd first explaining what a thrill it was to be on stage with him again. Last time was at KISS Unplugged in 1995! We hit the opening notes of "Shout It Out Loud" and off we were, with Marti my singer and Paul trading off on the vocals. I was on bass doing my fave Gene bass guitar riffs, and the crowd was electric seeing my camper band with 4 guitarists, one keyboard player, one drummer, one female singer and one very big rock star on stage with the camper band!! Paul really enjoyed the vibe, and I thanked him when we hit the big fanfare ending of the tune.
Next up was Dickey Betts and his son Duane to jam along with us on the Journey tune "Anyway You Want It". Took a little bit to get them plugged in, but I explained how amazing it was to have 6 guitar players on stage at once on the famous HOB venue. After a spirited performance it was all over, and the smiles on my band's faces were priceless. The crowd loved it, and we certainly broke the ice for the night in a big way. I dried off a bit and went out into the crowd while the next band was being announced. Paul was a real trooper, singing his heart out with each band. He kept coming out from the side stage entrance to meet campers and fans and took pictures. He signed my guitarist Jason's KISS tattoo.
At one point David Fishof, the promoter, said to me while we were watching Paul sing "Love Gun" with Jane Wiedlin's band, "Desperate Houseplants", how great Paul was singing. I said of course! Paul's pipes were strong and he was quite busy with 13 KISS classics to jump in on. With the announcements for best band made by the celebrity judges like Mark Hudson, Eric Singer, and Carmine Appice (Teddy Andreadis's band took the prize, congrats Teddy!), it was time for the final jam with the counselors.
Things ran a bit late as there were auctions for great charities throughout the evening, and of course getting the 13 bands on and off the stage, which was done superbly by our SIR crew. (Thanks guys!) But we were ready to rock our short set for sure, starting with Spencer Davis doing the classic "Gimmie Some Lovin". I played percussion on that one, as my good stuff was coming. Next we had Artimus Pyle from Lynyard Skynyrd to do "Sweet Home Alabama". The crowd was going wild! Next up was Jane's hit with the Go-Go's that she wrote called "Our Lips Are Sealed". I played bass for that one, but next up was the big Queen finale.
We had the pleasure at this camp of Spike Edney, the musical director of Queen for the last 20 years, as a counselor for this camp (and will be leading the upcoming LONDON Fantasy Camp in May), and he would lead the band with the "We Will Rock You", and "We Are The Champions". Spike invited Patti Russo and Jeff Scott Soto to sing the Queen songs. You may know those names, as Jeff is currently singing lead with Journey and Patti has been with Meatloaf for a dozen years on female lead vocals.
I was very serious about getting the Brian May parts for those songs and I must of listened to them 100 times the week before the camp. I pulled out a groovy old phasor to help out with the vibe on "We Will Rock You". Those songs are SO amazing and what a way to end the night. I nailed my parts, which I was so relieved about. The band had a moment of confusion in the anthem but it just shows that we all make mistakes. We all felt like champions with our finale, and just like the way the campers felt being on the stage playing their hearts out, us professionals were like kids, smiling and singing and playing with all of our passion for the stage. Paul Stanley and Eric Singer were in the wings with Carmine and David Fishof and a few lucky campers too, beaming with delight at what we all accomplished Monday night.
As you may know, that high of performing is a tough one to come down from so we all were joking backstage and congratulating each other. Gary Burr and his famous song-writing producer friend Mark Hudson invited me to a late after show dinner at Jerry's, so after saying my final goodbyes to my camper band and guests and counselors, I was off to grab a bite and wind down from this amazing evening.
I hope you all get a sense of what these camp experiences are about. They are hard work, and yet totally rewarding. The campers get so much from it, but so does everyone involved in the event. From Steve Vai, Brian Wilson, Paul Stanley (thanks for being such a trooper Paul!), to the wedding proposal I forgot to mention onstage at the HOB evening, the action never stops and never ceases to make me smile at how music means life, love and one of the most incredible things we have the pleasure to experience in life.
I want to thank everyone who put on the event: David Fishof, Joy Earl, Alan from SIR and their crew, and the counselor helpers like Katie (you made my life much easier!) and Courtney and Deby, all the crew at SIR, the wonderful people from GIBSON, and all the sponsors like Moody Straps and Marshall Amplification who make the event a reality.
I also want to thank my band, Charles, Don, Jason, Marti, Denny, Bob and Joe, as we had a great time together. I appreciated them working so hard to make me proud. We all had an amazing experience at the camp. A special thanks to all the counselors for making this camp a total success. You are all special in my heart as talented musicians and, more importantly, great people. I look forward to working with you all in any way possible in the future.
I also look forward to being involved in more of the Fantasy Camps in the future! But at least for a few days, it is time for some REST!
PS - Don't forget you can always check out the Official Rock n' Roll Fantasy Camp Page for upcoming dates and locations!
- Day 4: February 18, 2007 -
Sunday was jam filled with events and jamming and recording. We started after breakfast with running down the tunes over and over. We knew the genius Brian Wilson would be visiting, so we wanted our surf song to sound great. Over and over and we got it tighter and tighter, improving all the time. We knew we needed our Journey song tight as well because we would record it later in the evening. So we worked that one over and over as well, fine tuning the arrangement and guitar parts and vocals. The Beach Boys song would be performed for the entire camp at the big SIR soundstage as well after Brian Wilson's band performance, which everyone was excited to see later in the day.
But before I tell you about that, Dickey Betts' son Duane came in to jam with us. As his father will jam with us at the HOB during the Journey song, I asked Duane to do his magic. I grabbed a very cool black Les Paul from the Gibson people who are set up outside my rehearsal room, and off we went, with him playing sweet riffs similar to his dad.
About an hour later Brian Wilson came in, and I have to admit I was nervous performing for him. He is such a genius, and as much as my bass playing is good, I was still nervous. He enjoyed the song and then asked us to play the Journey song as his musical director Jeff Foskett worked with the band the day before and told Brian that we sounded good playing it. After some pix and autographs I took a deep breath and realized that my group has finally became a band after hard rehearsals for the third day. Brian approved!
We took a break and then it was time to see Brian perform on the main SIR soundstage. I have always heard how tight and perfect his band can play those Beach Boys songs, but I have to admit I was completely blown away. His band (and it was only half of them) pulled it off so well, and Brian who is so eclectic on stage, was singing great and making jokes with his MD Jeff. Everyone was so excited to see him in this performance and once again magic came to the SIR soundstage. I will never forget how good they sounded and how impressed the campers and counselors were. Brian then invited campers on stage with the band, and the finale brought the house down as we say in the biz! What a high to see this event.
We had dinner and then it was time for us to play the Beach Boys song on stage. We were band number 10, so I heard the other bands doing very cool and interesting versions of the tunes. It felt great to perform on the big stage and my band played well. In about an hour we then were asked to record the Journey song, and we nailed it in one take. The only band to do that! So we were proud and then it was time to jam a bit in the room. BUT then Dickey Betts decided to visit the camp, and he was ready to come into our rehearsal room. Joe our drummer wanted to watch, as he was a bit sore with all the rehearsal. Sandy Gennaro sat in on drums and we jammed the Journey tune ³Anyway You Want It² for Dickey and his son Duane to take solos on.
It was quite exciting to hear him and I always loved Dickey's playing. We took pix and it was finally time to say goodnight to the camp. 14 hours seemed like a long enough day, and tomorrow will be final rehearsal and the big finale performance at the HOB with Paul Stanley and Dickey Betts. My band drew FIRST so we will kick off the big show, with ³Shout It Out Loud². Should be quite interesting! Very excited to play again with Paul on stage. So look for my next blog for the news and thanks for experiencing this incredible event with me.
- Day 3: February 17, 2007 -
As you all know, as a former member of KISS for 12 years, I was so excited that at this LA 2007 Camp Paul Stanley would be one of the special guests. So of course we were busy all morning getting the "Shout It Out Loud" tune, as I wanted it to be great for Paul.
We rehearsed that one, and our cover choice, which will be "Anyway You Want It" by Journey. My singer Marti, who has strong pipes, was very excited that the band was getting it together quickly. We also had to work on the Beach Boys song called "Surfin Safari" and getting the cool vibe for that material... being so different from KISS and Journey really put my band through the paces! But that is what the camp is about, a crash course in learning and playing music along with meeting the stars.
The afternoon came quick, and sure enough Paul arrived promptly and with his tech Francis who also has worked with me. Paul was absolutely excited about the bands, and I was shocked at how patient he was showing them guitar riffs, bass parts, and vocal notes in each room. I accompanied him through about 9 of the 13 rehearsal rooms.
The campers were so excited and they were blown away with the fact their idol was in the same rooming singing and jamming with them. I caught some great performances and I must say that Paul was overwhelmed at times, and gracious with the admiration of the campers. He took photos and signed things for them, and before I said goodbye to Paul I told him what an amazing job he did being at the camp, and that I looked forward to the event at the House of Blues on Monday.
My room was filled with press, and video with the stage lights on, but we got through the KISS song with smiles on our faces. I did my best Gene on bass, and just asked Paul to sing along as much as he wanted. I was proud of my band. I also need to tell you all I forgot one of my guitarists in my line up from my Day Two blog! I have been working very hard, so this blog is not easy to keep my wits! Don is the forth of my guitar players and he is quite a KISS fan as well, so playing for Paul was a dream for sure.
A few deep breathes after the day with Paul, and I shouldn't forget Mickey Hart from The Grateful Dead stopping by to meet the campers, and it was time for a great dinner. Sadly I spilled a nice latte on my pants and shirt and had to get back to my house for a quick change, as I committed to more work of course! An hour later I was back and did a great interview for a HBO production on the world of guitars, and it was always a pleasure sharing my passion for the instrument and the players who made it famous.
I took the night off early, if you can say it was only a 12-hour day! But I wanted a good rest as two more exciting days to go with the camp, and tomorrow would be time to prepare for the great Brian Wilson and Dickey Betts.
More coming. BK out!
- Day 2: February 16, 2007 -
>Exhausted would not be quite the word! But the excitement keeps you going as things happen so fast at the fantasy camp. Today it was time to get to work with my camper band, after a great breakfast off to the rehearsal rooms, and get to know the players in my band. I am very pleased with my group, and for now we are using the name Psycho Circus after the KISS album and song!
One of my four guitar players has that tattooed on his arm, so that gave me the idea for the name of the group. We started with learning the KISS song needed and we were fortunate to wind up with "Shout It Out Loud". That song has plenty of cool guitar harmonies and parts to make my guitar army sound powerful but tasty. I am playing bass which you all know I love doing. I have to do a bit more learning of Gene's parts, but I am definitely excited about this KISS tune being my group's first song.
My drummer Joe is from PANAMA! Yes the country with the Canal as he says! He is big fan and very happy to be in my group. I have a returning camper from last NYC FC, Charles who is a doctor. Always good to have a doctor in the house! Next guitarist is Bob who is a huge guitar freak, and owns some very cool guitars. Also a KISS fan, last but not least is Jason from Florida who sports some KISS tattoos and is the one with the Psycho Circus on his arm. On keys is Denny who is so excited to be in a band and is helping me with the vocal parts for the group. My secret weapon is Marti my female lead vocalist. She is very dedicated and has a good strong voice.
We worked on "Shout It Out Loud" for over three hours taking it apart and getting it right. We took our lunch break and then it was back to jamming our next song. We had a walk through by Scott Ian of Anthrax who loved hearing our KISS tune. He is a big fan everyone knows. He then jammed on Bob's Gibson and showed his famous rhythm style. We took pix and he signed things and then we made a big turn by learning our Beach Boys song. "Surfin Safari" was our pick, and I was amazed how quickly that took shape. I came up with a cool ending and look forward to having it perfected by Brian Wilson's musical director tomorrow.
Next guest to pop in our rehearsal was Brett Michaels from Poison, and he as always was very cool with me and my band, signing and taking pix. He stopped by later, as I had an emergency with Kelly's band, as he needed some chord help with his band's KISS song. When Brett came back we rocked our KISS tune with him singing along with Marti. That was very exciting, and I was busy playing bass and trying to take photos and that is not easy to do at the same time!
Brett and Scott did some questions and answers for the entire camp and then we all jammed a cool version of "Sweet Home Alabama" with Brett singing lead with the counselor band. Dinner was next and then it was time for my master class on being versatile in the business. I love talking about my experiences so it went by fast, but it was time to say goodnight and try to get some rest for another big day at the fantasy camp.
MORE TOMORROW. Paul Stanley will be doing a walk through and that is going to be quite interesting for me to have him finally get a chance to see what the camp is all about. BK out!
- Day 1: February 15, 2007 -
Hello everyone! Fantasy Camp is here again, and since I was asked to do a blog for this event - one that is hard to describe, just experience - I will try my best to share with you all the LA 2007 Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.
As usual, day one was jammed packed with excitement. I have to admit it has been a tough day one for the counselors, as actually it is day two. Wednesday we kicked off rehearsing songs for the campers and between learning some Queen songs, Bad Company and Free, Steely Dan, and Go Go's songs my head has been spinning!! We don't have a counselor bass player, so I have been sharing the duties with a few others. But I do love playing bass as well, so I have been getting my fingers in shape. Some of you know I have recorded bass guitar on some KISS tunes in the past.
So really Wednesday we got set up with our gear, and of course Gibson was there in full force with some fine guitars. I brought some of my own instruments as I live here in Los Angeles. The counselor band was asked to perform Wednesday night for a charity that was put together by a camper named Laura Sperber. She is a coin collector ... how is 5 million for a nickel sound!! She's got one! Her guests were all in the coin field, but it made for a great night and of course kind of rehearsal for the Camp. We all celebrated the start even though the event was separate of the Fantasy Camp, but for us players, it was a great dress rehearsal of the songs we would play for the campers.
So day one really started with a catered lunch for VIPs and some of the returning campers. I had to get back to SIR to work on the Steve Vai performance with Simon, and Teddy and Skunk as we knew Mr. Vai is a professor of guitar. One we were done around 2PM the audition process started for the campers. I have to say that this year's campers seemed very talented. We all were impressed with some of the jams, and we applauded many of them. That took 3 hours, and then suddenly Steve Vai appeared and did his Q and A. I must say he is VERY knowledgeable about all things, no only guitar playing. After an hour of his sharing it was time to play!
I was asked by Steve to play bass with him and Simon Kirke on Drums and Teddy Zig Zig on keys and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter played guitar for rhythm support. We played a song of Steve's called "Crying Machine", which we extended of course for him to play. It was simply amazing the way he plays the guitar. The crowd was in awe and I must say I am familiar with his playing but in this setting he was just magical. Campers in the crowd had their jaws drop! I suggested to him we jam over this Hendrix tune from the Woodstock performance, which I went over with the guys in the afternoon rehearsal and Steve jumped right in, again amazing the crowd. His guitar speaks, and cries and laughs when he plays. He asked Skunk to trade off riffs and that was just over the top. What an amazing performance and the camp is always full with magic like this.
Steve then did a meet and greet with the campers and of course he proved he is a total gentleman and class act. Cocktails, sushi and dinner followed and then Mr. Fishof the promoter of the camp dressed as Gene Simmons (KISS make-up I mean, and David is more fitted to be Gene than Paul Stanley!!) to greet the crowd and announce which band each camper will be in. Lynn Hoffman from VH-1 is our host, so the two of them with Kelly Keagy from Night Ranger gave the news to all the campers. They all came up band by band to meet their counselor and to get ready to rock the next morning and rehearsals begin at 10 AM.
The counselor band then had our performance to entertain the crowd, and we rocked the campers with a short set as things ran late (as usual)! We did "Black Friday" by Steely Dan, and "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" by Bad Company, and ended with a spirited "We Will Rock You" and "We are The Champions" by Queen. Spike, Queen's keyboard player is here this year, and he is quite the expert on all things Queen and more.
I was happy with day one and that it went as smooth as it did as jammed packed as the schedule can be. Great catering this year as well... which makes everyone happy with all the hard work.
More tomorrow. BK out!