They Put the Amp in Camp
At the Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon, girls ages 8-18 learn to make noise and rock out. We headed up to Portland to see the camp in action: 1) for fun, 2) because it’s totally inspiring (see Today Show videos) and 3) because we’re about to start work on an awesome Rock Camp book, which will come out next spring to coincide with Girls Rock!, a documentary about the camp.
The book’s designer, Jake Gardner, and I arrived at Rock Camp HQ on the eve of 2007’s last summer session. Over the course of the coming week, 90 girls (with varying degrees of musical experience) would form bands–with names like last year’s “What Do U Want from Me” (pictured below), and “The Queen Lightning Cobras.” By the end of the week, they’d perform in a music showcase in front of 600 people.
On Monday morning, the girls poured in from surprisingly far-flung places: Two girls flew in from Sweden, one from Denmark, and others from all over the country. There was a lot of dyed hair and striped socks in the mix. You’d imagine that adolescent girls forced to choose their bands within one hour of meeting each other would be stressful. But the Rock Camp staffers handled it with ease, leading the girls through lots of relaxed and funny get-to-know-your-potential-future-bandmate games. Ultimately the girls gravitated toward their musical tastes –signs posted on the walls read emo, punk, folk, indie, hip hop, etc.–and formed their bands from there.
After band formation, the girls went to “Rock Block” for musical instruction from professional female musicians. Rock Camp is an amazing place, and has attracted a wide range of indie rock workshop leaders such as Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney and Beth Ditto of The Gossip. At this session, Ditto led vocalists in a warm-up in which each girl shared a dance move with the group (below).
Check it out: If you don’t have a guitar, you can use one from Rock Camp. I like the pink Daisy guitar in back.
By the end of “Rock Block,” Jake and I both decided we wanted to play drums.
With a half day left in Portland, we took a tip from the Rock Camp’s illustrator and zine-making workshop leader, Nicole Georges, and visited the Independent Press Resource Center (IPRC). The IRPC is right next to two of my other favorite Portland places: Powell’s and upstairs from Reading Frenzy. When we arrived at the IPRC, they were right in the middle of a Print Gocco demonstration.
A friendly intern showed us the library of over 4,000 zines and access to letterpresses (a privilege of membership).
Nothing beats finding yourself between a Rock Camp and a zine place.
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