Locals live out rock and roll fantasies at camp with World Classic Rockers
When the World Classic Rockers and their students from their one day rock and roll fantasy camp blew away the crowd at The Frederick Brown Jr, Amphitheater in 2009, Amphitheater and Tourism Director Nancy Price knew she had to bring them back for an encore in 2010.
“So many people loved the show last year and wrote to us to please bring them back,” Price said. “It was the spotlight show that got the most write-ins on last year’s end of the season survey.”
With a whole new slate of students ranging from a middle schooler to the middle aged to teach, the rock band featuring members of Steppenwolf, Boston, Journey, Santana and Lynyrd Skynyrd, to name a few, took the stage last Friday with their local supergroup and rocked the house.
It was no small feat considering an almost 90 minute delay due to one of the heaviest thunderstorms of the season.
Friday afternoon started with the campers meeting the rockers for lunch at the guest house of the amphitheater. The musicians struck up an instant rapport, talking shop and shooting the breeze.
After lunch, the World Classic Rockers took the stage, jamming a bit and then introducing the song that would be the campers first number with the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” After the performance, the campers met with their “counselors” and got a quick tutorial in what they were expected to do. The campers, once notified they had been chosen, had a month to work on the songs so that they came in to the camp knowing at least the basics. After some practice, the band and the students played that song and then Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” before an empty house. Although they did their best to hide it, one could see many of them picturing the thousands of bodies that would fill those seats later that evening.
“The campers get star treatment and become rock stars for a day,” Price stated. “The memories will last a lifetime.”
Many of this year’s campers echoed that statement after their afternoon of practice with the rockers.
“It’s something I never thought I’d do,” said Hunter Callahan, 17, a member of the Dirty Roots Band that won this year’s Open Mic Contest and opened Friday’s show. “To be able to play with guys from Steppenwolf and Skynyrd. I saw Boston play at Chastain and now I’m on stage with one of those guys.”
“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” added Derek Wolter, 17, a member of The Beards. Wolter has performed at local venues and even The Masquerade in Atlanta, but performing at “The Fred” was his biggest venue to date.
While many of the campers this year grew up listening to the bands that featured some of the World Classic Rockers and were a little starstruck, 12 year-old Brian Buck, a student at Rising Starr Middle School, just thought it was “really neat” to drum with a rock band. Buck has been drumming for two years. He started when his mother found a drum set being thrown away and brought it home to him. He soon moved up to a regular set and started playing with the school orchestra. On Friday he teamed up with former Journey drummer Aynsley Dunbar to provide the backbeat of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
While every camper appreciated the expertise and the friendliness of each of the rockers, Dunbar seems to be a particular favorite each year. Peachtree City’s Tom Harrison, who played rhythm guitar on both numbers, was happy to turn down an opportunity to play lead for a minute and solo to play all of both numbers.
“I’m staying with Aynsley and Nick (Steppenwolf’s Nick St. Nicholas and founder of World Classic Rockers),” Harrison said. “That’s a world class rhythm section. How can you turn down lunch and a jam, a chance to play with pros a mile from your home.”
Several of the other campers had performed before crowds before and were looking forward to the show that night. Nichola Kouzes, the lead singer on “Sweet Home Alabama,” has a long resume of performances that included a stop at the White House to perform in front of President George W. Bush, but still couldn’t wait to sing the southern anthem. Kouzes, from Dallas, Texas, heard about the camp from her aunt and uncle who live in Peachtree City, sent in an application and flew in specifically for the event.
“It’s been awesome,” Kouzes said after the practice. “Everyone is real nice and we’ve bonded through music.”
Evan Stitt, the singer on “Magic Carpet Ride” had been on stage at “The Fred” before performing in some musicals with Twilight Theatre but admitted that the show Friday night would be a little different.
“It was a rock and roll fantasy and I just had to go for it,” Stitt said. “I just hope I remember the words.”
Scott Dees of Grantville also got to live out a rock and roll fantasy as one of the guitarists who got to take the master guitar during “Magic Carpet Ride” and solo.
“Getting to wail through the big amp is special,” Dees said.
The campers certainly had to have their share of jitters as show time approached and those jitters may have been replaced with a fear that rain might derail their chance of taking the stage at all that night. During the end of the Dirty Roots Band’s performance rain began to fall and before everyone could scramble from their seats to the the covered area by the concession stands it became a deluge. Trees were bending, lightning lit up the venue and thunder shook the bones of the crowd that moved their celebrations to the only dry part of the place. Word began to cicrculate that even if it was just one song, the show would go on. It appeared that most people were in it for the long haul and would stay. Their patience was rewarded.
Around 10:30 p.m., the World Classic Rockers took the stage, blazed through several of Boston’s greatest hits and then invited the campers on stage. Once the opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama” came out of the speakers, the crowd hooted their appreciation and began to dance. There were over a dozen new rock stars born that night and each of them was left with an amazing story to tell.