The Rock Camp Movie

I couldn’t turn it off.

Rock and roll is a religion. It’ not taken seriously, but to a certain segment of society, it’s everything.

We’re not talking about people who go to the show to hear the hits, we’re talking about people who know all the album tracks, who don’t talk during the show because they’re afraid they’ll miss something.

And today’s generation is…missing something, that is.

It’s all we had.

That’s hard to comprehend in 2021, where more stimulation, more entertainment than you could consume in multiple lifetimes, is at your fingertips. We were truly bored, we were not all connected, but the music got us through.

Now anybody successful is considered a rock star. But that’s not the way it used to be. “Rock star” was a state of mind. A decision to go down the road less taken with no safety net, no backup plan. Most people turned back. Some burned out, some died, but then…there are the icons. Not only do we know their songs, we’re convinced we know them, and if we could just get closer, we’re dying to get closer.

Our last dying wish would be dinner with a rock star. We’re loaded with questions. But most people never get the opportunity. But if you pay for Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp…you’ll get the opportunity to hang with a musician or two who’s a household name, and a bunch of supporting players, who might have portfolio, but you’re unaware of it.

Summer camp…if you haven’t been, I feel sorry for you. The rest of the world falls away, you form tight bonds and then it ends and you’re depressed, you can’t wait to go back, but another year has to pass. David Fishof has tried to recreate this experience. For those who can afford it. Which is not many. And it’s also for players, and most people can’t play, but if you’ve got the talent and the bread, if you want to participate, it could be a dream come true.

Not that the idea is not entirely ersatz.

David Fishof is a hustler. A teddy bear who knows how to make money. He repped athletes, and then he went into music, putting together Ringo’s All Starr Band tour. And that’s one of the most interesting arcs of the movie. How Fishof is a promoter, someone who makes something happen, out of nothing. People talk, but few do. Actually, few attempt. And the first camp, back in the nineties, was a financial disaster, but Fishof kept on. Very little is easy in this world, even though media tries to convince us we’re one step away from stardom. No way. You’ve got to climb mountains, you’ve got to be parched and starve, you’ve got to be broke, and you have to be able to write a song as good as “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” and have the inspiration to put a bagpipe in the track. That’s what separates the winners from the losers, the stars from the also-rans. Writing the songs. Anybody can follow in the footsteps, but can you blaze the trail? Few do.

So making a movie about the camp. Whose idea was this? I mean isn’t it just a giant ad for the camp, quite a good one? Yes. But when they roll into the Fishof life story you start to roll your eyes, he’s not a star. But he’s the star of this movie.

Yes, about halfway through you realize…THEY’RE MAKING A REAL MOVIE! Most rock movies are not. Here the production values are a ten, and there’s a story. But do we care about the story? NOT REALLY! We just want to see the stars, get closer to the music.

So, it dawns on the viewer that the producers are taking this seriously, I’m sure in the back of their minds they thought awards were possible. They’re not. So, you’ve got an autistic kid. Sorry. But many do. How many have the money to send them to ANY KIND of camp? Very few. Which means the life stories don’t really ring true. And they’re somewhat artificial, especially when the drummer Pistol tells his story to his lined up family, it’s awkward. But ultimately his tears are real.

I mean who is out of the loop?

Maybe youngsters, maybe hip-hop fans. But for the rest of us, this music is in our DNA. But it’s fading into the past. Heroes die with barely a blip anymore. Len Barry? Gerry Marsden? Leslie West? Is it really tragic? No, it’s sad. They lived long lives. Good for them. But their songs, their songs will live on forever…1-2-3!

So, the Fantasy Camp is basically merch, golden circle, access for the superfan. But the paid access you get at a show…is not really access, the acts punch the clock. But at the Fantasy Camp the musicians let down their hair, literally, and hang with you, you get to know them, what’s the value of that…PRICELESS! It’s kind of like baseball fantasy camps, but different. Baseball players are athletes, one-dimensional, stars, but…the musicians WROTE THESE SONGS, the message is key, and their lifestyle is one you’d like to emulate, as you pay attention to every word.

And there’s no doubt in my mind all the performers do it for the money. However, some of the performers are A+. Jeff Beck? That’s like hanging out with Albert Einstein! It doesn’t get any better than that. But, BUT, you realize as the movie unspools that not all the stars appear every year. They don’t make this obvious, but it comes clear. Yet, yet, YET, you go and have fun, memories are made, ones that a very few have access to.

So, at the beginning of the flick Alice Cooper says the guy sitting next to him on the airplane is younger than he is in age, but older in mind-set. Most people live lives of drudgery, but musicians, musicians have FUN! At least they used to. But music is a game of musical chairs. If you’re a hitmaker, the front person, the star, you can cash in your fame for mazuma for the rest of your life. But if you’re a supporting player? I mean what has Tony Franklin been living on all these years? And musicians are famously bad with money, they get it and they blow it, oftentimes with nothing to show.

And from the very first minute I was wondering who would pay to see this movie. I mean to open it in theatres would be ridiculous. What this is is a Netflix movie. And I won’t say it’s riveting at first, but if you’re a member of the congregation, you’re willing to hang in there, for the experience, isn’t that what the show is?

Not that this film will ever become a landmark. But never underestimate the power of stars and music. “Eddie and the Cruisers” was a stiff in the theatre, but on HBO it became a phenomenon!

So, the bottom line is this is a giant advertisement for Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. But I’d be lying if watching it I didn’t want to go.

I wince when I think how far rock has fallen. Used to be every few years it would be reinvented. But grunge was the last new iteration, and those performers long in the tooth…you’d notice them in the grocery store, but you wouldn’t get hot below the waist.

But once you did.

We all want to rock all night and party every day. Well, at least those reading this screed. And we know the power of the riff. When I heard “Cold Gin”…my insides warmed, my head nodded, THIS IS IT!

Not that I’m a KISS fan, my buddy Gene Simmons is an overconfident blowhard in this flick just like he usually is, but he is humanized when he talks about teaching sixth grade. We all started somewhere, some made it everywhere. We’re dying to know how. We want to get closer to the secret. We want to figure it out. We want some of their magic to rub off on us. And it does in this movie.

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