Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Willie Mae Women's Rock Camp Experience!

I am back!! And I am tired, very very tired.....and it feels very very good.....

I hope my friend and partner in crime (her words, actually.... and her words play a big part of this story, and well as her banging!!) finds a moment to settle back in her very busy life and reflect on the past weekend....it all happened so quickly and my head is still spinning...

The Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls was founded in Portland Oregon to be a summer camp for young girls to learn about making rock music in a supportive, female environment. Now, you may wonder why that is important.....but it is.

I guess that women wanted the experience too, so they started the weekend camp, twice a summer, for women over 19....it is a very intense three days, and a certain portion of the tuition is a fund raiser for the girls camp....and the Showcase at the end is also a fund raiser....

So, all last week, work was very difficult and stressful and way too plentiful!!! I finished, very tired and somewhat late, on Thursday evening....and decided NOT to meet Karen at her daughters' (yeah, both of them!!!!....may be she will post a bit of that to her blog???....see my blog list...) play, The Music Man. I was just sooooo tired.....

So, i drove to Hudson and went for a walk on Warren Street (a neat place!) and got some ice cream and moseyed down to Karen's house.....getting there about 10pm....greeting her dog (who i swear remembers me!!!), playing some guitar, thinking about the next day.....finally going inside and (i believe) falling asleep until the dog noses me and wakes me and karen and girls are home!!!!

So starts my Week End!!!!!


So there i was. At karen's home, looking forward to going to Rock Camp, and not really having the slightest idea what that might mean....i was so nervous i couldn't sleep very well (see post below!). When i went downstairs, karen was getting ready to leave her house, and in general, rushing around her kitchen while i wondered what i could do to help without getting in her way (i suspect that most women, when in hyperdrive, prefer that you don't interrupt them or slow them down til it is DONE and i wanted to respect that!) Well, i don't think i did very much, if anything, and we hit the road...stopping for coffee....(if you have traveled with me, you know how important a point that is in my life....lol)

When we get to Brooklyn, we of course, have no trouble finding Flatbush Ave, but the camp was at a certain address on Flatbush Ave Ext that didn't seem to exist.....i don't know how many times we crossed the Manhattan Bridge before we just decided to park and walk to FIND the place.....which was in a building that did not have the name of the place listed in the directions, instead being a high school.....and didn't have a building number in sight....well, we finally figured it out.....lol

We had to show ID and met some nice workmen who spoke no English including, NO....lol.....(get your minds out of the gutter, they really were NICE .........and they really didn't understand NO!!!)

We entered, way late, into a wholly different world, which we would gladly come back to for the next three days.....a group of women from all walks of life (teachers and nurses and healers and homemakers and students and administrators and......married and divorced and single and gay and bi and young and older and middle aged and.....), who were here for one reason this weekend.....to learn or improve some musical skill....AND it was ok to have never touched the instrument you were going to PERFORM with on Sunday night....

yeah, perform-
in two days-
at the Knitting Factory-
in TWO days-

....with an instrument you may never have touched until that Friday.....

They assured us that it would all be ok and we would put on a MORE than adequate performance. I am sure that I am not the only person who had been onstage in the past that thought , 'ah, yeah, sure.....this is gonna be interesting'....

So, we played some of those get -to -know -you type touchy -feely kind of new -agey get -in -sync games, and then had to quickly go around and meet some folks until you could get some names of some people (we are talking maybe two or three questions each person) that you would like to 1) Write a song with 2) Practice intensely with 3) Get on a Fucking Stage with......

Karen and I agreed, put each other on our lists....lol....and we went in search of some compatible folks....with no time to compare lists we handed them in and went off to instrument instruction.

Karen went for drums so you will have to ask her about that....and i went off to vocal class. First, we had to introduce ourselves and i was second. I basically commented about a recent experience i had with listening to a tape i had made...how very different i sounded in my head from what you all heard outside of my head....and how terrible it was, and how i wanted to fix it....

They weren't impressed to say the least (two teachers.....Beth and Evelyn) and i was basically told that no one likes how they sound on tape and reminded that i need to sing for myself instead of worrying about what others thought....kind of a real hard thing to do, don't you think???..but i have been told that before.....

Well, first thing they did was teach us a song and we started singing together....as they called out our names, we were to sing the thing solo. Of course, I had forgotten during my intro to say that i don't remember words so well, and i was chosen long before i got the words learned and straight....lol.....so i made up some.....shortly after that we had to sing a verse or so of a song we think we do well, so i picked angel from montgomery......

unfortunately, i am really dependent on my guitar.....and didn't know what to do with myself without it and really sucked

oh, sorry....i ROCKED!!!

at rock camp you weren't allowed to suck, YOU ROCK got shouted at you all the time PARTICULARLY when you sucked and knew it....for me, it started to be an insult, i didn't know if people were trying to cheer me up for a shitty performance or really liked it.....lol!!!!

well, even if i rocked, evelyn got up right to me and said, you weren't in that at all, i don't believe you......and i hesitated and admitted, no i wasn't, i wasn't ready to open up, i was too nervous....and at that moment, i was too flustered to absorb what she said after that, but it had to do with finding your own real voice and singing for yourself.......

i got to tell you guys, what really flustered me was that she saw that so clearly, because although i knew i sucked, *I* had no idea that i wasn't present in the music until she said so....


first lesson, something that a lot of my mentors have said to me, particularly about performing....be present, be real, take what you have in the moment and offer it out there...yeah, i remember just now, evelyn said to me that music is a gift that i can give out but i can't control how another person takes it, all i can do it put it out there and make it be real....

well, my moment was over and i listened in amazement at all my peers singing their songs....and every single woman had an amazing voice and some had experience and took lessons and all kinds of things......there was only one other person who hadn't had some training besides a workshop or two and she was a drummer who was actually just sitting in to our class.....

hmmmmm......i know i shouldn't compare myself to others, either, but it sure was hard, sitting there with those women with angels' voices while i quaver and go off key....lol.....

(Hey, look at my hero.....!)

After lunch we got our band assignments.....Karen on drums, me on vocals, Aurora on bass, Harriet on guitar

You all know how i feel about my singing, and karen, aurora and harriet have never played their instruments.

at all-
as in, never.....

so we get some instruments and plug in and set up the mic and talk a bit about what we know and where we are from and stuff like that....and Aurora starts a bass line....if she ever comes here, i hope she will comment on where it came from, because i never asked while we were there.

(also, if any of my band mates remember differently from me, please pipe in!!!! it is not like i am known for my wonderful memory...but this is how it plays out to my recollection!!!)

Anyway, we are trying to chat over this, but Aurora keeps it going. She likes it, and you know, it did sound good.....had a good groove, and she was movin' to it.......so i picked up a tele sitting there and said, here are the chords that go to that bass line and started to play it, stopping to show Harriet how to make the shapes on the fretboard, and some where in all that karen found a beat on the drums that set the pace and laid down the groove.....and we played that for a while, over and over......and then i started to sing a tune, just la la la so that we could get some ideas on how a melody could go, and it wasn't too long before i found some lines that sounded good and my partners looked happy with.....

I left for some reason and came back and they had words written on the blackboard that with only a little tweaking, fit the melody i had been singing.....when we left that day, we had a riff, a chorus, and a cool chord progression with promises all around that we would work on some stuff this evening....

Well, karen and i went shopping and we ate at a really fine restaurant and while she did her at home stuff, i played some neil young on guitar and then she came outside with me to work...it must have been late already...... i played her what we had already written and then worked out some more chord progressions while she wrote lyrics and picked up the guitar and sang them for me to the chords i had worked out.....but it wasn't long before i HAD to go to sleep....it was after 1pm AGAIN!!!!


I was still dosing when karen opened my bedroom door and told me it was a quarter to nine....i JUMPED out of bed, showered and came down to tim, karen's husband, making me breakfast and lunch and coffee.....(ah.....lol!....I had broken their coffee pot at some point in the past.....) and we quickly got out on the road...only to cross the Manhattan Bridge AGAIN at least twice before settingly down in a lot.....

luckily we late and missed some of the warmup get to know you type stuff.....but we were there for vocal lesson!!! i didn't sing, but some did and we spent the bulk of the time working on a few peoples songs before going off to band practice.......we worked out our song and started practicing in ernest.....working on dynamics and chord changes and builds and ebbs ....and teachers and roadies and techs came in and out and made comments (i didn't know at that time what 'YOU ROCK' meant....lol) that all sounded really positive....and i was absolutely amazed at how easily that song came.....how easy it was for me to sing and get into, how easy to write it (ok karen did the writing and i can't say if that was hard.....) but the music was easy, it just wrote itself, we found it in the chord progression....at one point, a teacher came in and corrected us for some things and we all kind of felt it...our confidence leave, taking that joy with it.....until Harriet, bless her, brought it up and in the end, we just said....just LISTEN to it first....and they did, and they were pretty pleased....i noticed the roadies who came into our rooms kind of grooving to us and singing the chorus right along with me, and i thought....i am not the only one who find this song kind of catchy.....

we did other things at rock camp too, like learn to silk screen tee shirts (designed our own logo!!!) and talk about being a women in the usa and how to write songs and stuff like that.....but the main thing, for me, was writing that song, creating that sound with those three other people, none of whom had played their instruments before that day......Aurora, who never made another bass lesson after the first one when she choose the pink heart bass and claimed it as her own......Harriet, who sat and worked on that guitar riff she had until it was integral to the song.....and Karen, who played those drums like she was on a mission from god!!!!....(ok, ok,, ok, rusties know who KAREN says that about...lol.....but she really amazed me with what she did in just a very short time on drums).....the drums really carry this song....

that night, karen took me to another fine dining experience in greenwich village....thank you once again!!!...then home and not too long at all before BED!!!!


ok, i admit it
i was nervous
and i took it out on others

they may not have even noticed, or maybe they did, but i was upset that people weren't as prepared as i had hoped they would have been a couple hours before a show.....in the final rehearsals we sucked.... we really did...... but we had sounded better the day before, so i think that we had it....worried though about if we could pull it off that night

remember, this woman right here (ME!) couldn't remember Needle and the Damage Done, a song she has played for many years, because she had stage fright so bad.....so i was frightened i would do something really assholey like...forget the words.....prompting a lesson from me to my bandmates on what to do if somebody forgets something or messes up in some big way (to be translated 'how to cover my fuck ups'...lol)

at vocal lesson, it seemed that my song and vocal performance went over well.....i like the feel of the song, although i don't think i would ever be that sort of woman!!!! The song (i just realized i didn't tell you!!!) was named 'Sugar Daddy' and meant just what you think.....after all, i growl out 'PLANT ME A MONEY TREE!!!' repeatedly throughout the song......and we, naming ourselves after the pink heart bass, were called 'Candy Hearts' (i even played karen's pink strat in the show!!!!)

We get to the club (of course, circling around until we honed in on the place.......) and it is pretty cool, down a flight, there is a bar and a stage and a sound board.....and we are going to play in just a short time with a bunch of folks who also don't know anything about their instruments...but they do.....lol!!! they are going to perform!!!!

And perform we did.....to houseful of folks cheering each band onto and off of the stage....it was so cool.....WE REALLY DID ROCK!!!!!.....Eleven bands of women who creatively took the task at hand and did their best....it was SO COOL!!!! i hope to have some audio (if not video) at some point to show you!!!

For all my fear, we got up there and we rocked the house.....Karen keeping the beat so well on those drums, Aurora with her pink bass, rocking out, Harriet playing that cool guitar line she had worked out, me trying to be the rock singer.....but i think it worked. I think we did it.

This was such a great experience! It helped bring up my confidence, i am inspired to keep writing and working and playing and looking for opportunities to put it out there....

Thanks to karen for being such a good friend, support, and drummer (karen, you are a DRUMMER!). Thanks to Aurora for her coolness and for making sure those shirts got made!!! Thanks to Harriet for her steadiness and care and honesty and courage....Thanks AGAIN to karen for putting me up (and putting up with me) for three full days....

This was the first camp of this year....if you have ANY interest at all in creating music and wonder what it would be like to be onstage and rocking out to a houseful of cheering fans, the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Ladies (the 'ladies' was chosen with the sarcasm it implies, btw) is the place to get the experience in a safe, supportive environment. Not everyones experience was as wonderful as mine, and some women were very frustrated and challenged.....but overall, your chances of a great time are pretty darn good....and all at a really good price for this sort of thing.....and they will help you find cheap (or free) accomodations....there are openings at camp in august....i fully intend on doing this again.....great time!!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008


I know this is long, but read it if you can...there are some really cool things in here, i think.....

This is Neil Young, talking about the things he has learned in life....

A best moment in music? Sometimes when I'm playing my guitar, I get to a point where it gets very cold and icy inside me. It's very refreshing. Every breath is like you're at the North Pole. Your head starts to freeze. Your inhalations are big -- more air than you ever thought there is starts pouring in. There's something magical about it. Sometimes when it happens, you wonder if you're gonna be okay. Can you handle it?

Yes, there was something good that came out of having polio as a kid. Walking.

The sound of a harmonica hits you directly. There's no language barrier.

The wisest person I ever met had to be my companion in the hospital a few months ago. I was recovering from complications after an operation to remove an aneurism in my brain. She was about eighty-five years old and maybe five feet tall. An old black lady from South Carolina. This young nurse wasn't really in touch with what she was doing, and the old lady would tell her how to do what she needed to do without telling her. She never talked down to her, just gave examples. I felt that this old woman must be deeply religious, but there was nothing forceful about her. I woke up one morning at a quarter to six and looked out the window. Fog was on the bridge outside the room, and I said, "Well, that's just beautiful." And she said: "Yes, it is." She turned toward me with this eighty-five-year-old face that didn't have a line on it, no strain, nothing, and she said: "So the master's not taking you. It's not your turn."

Courage is a mindless thing. People say, "Wow! How could you do that?" And you say, "How could I not do that?"

It's like having two eyes. You either look through one eye or you look through the other. Or you look through both of them. Sex is sex. Love is love. Love and sex is clear vision.

There's something peaceful about boxing. If you beat the hell out of a bag or go against a competitor, you and your reflexes will be so at one that you won't have time to think about anything else. You have to be totally yourself to box.

When I was six, I really didn't know what God was. But I did know about Sunday school. I was reading a lot about God, but I was bored. I couldn't wait to get out of Sunday school. God was secondary to the whole thing. But as time went by, I got more and more angry, to the point where I didn't like religion. Hate is a strong word. But I just kept getting angrier and angrier...until finally I wasn't angry anymore. I was just peaceful, because I thought: This is not fruitful for me. I rejected the whole thing and found peace in paganism. Jesus didn't go to church. I went way back before Jesus. Back to the forest, to the wheat fields, to the river, to the ocean. I go where the wind is. That's my church.

Epilepsy taught me that we're not in control of ourselves.

Most people think it's the other way around: that time is going faster and we're doing less. But really time seems to be going faster because we're cramming so much into it.

Our education system basically strives for normal -- which is too bad. Sometimes the exceptional is classified as abnormal and pushed aside.

One thing that has come out of having children with cerebral palsy is strength. At first it made me very angry. I was almost looking for a fight. I was always looking for someone to criticize my son in my presence. I would envision different scenarios in which I would become violent reacting to people's reactions to my children -- especially to my severely handicapped child. Eventually, he taught me that was not necessary. Just by being himself. By being a gift to us. He showed us how to have faith and belief and inner strength and to never give up. I look around and see people hurting themselves for no reason. Drinking too much. Taking drugs. Beating themselves up in some psychological way. That really bothers me, knowing that these people got everything they needed to succeed. All they have to do is believe in themselves and in the gifts they're wasting. And yet there are all these other people on the planet who have none of the gifts that are apparent. The gifts are all locked up inside, yet their spirits are so strong that they just keep on going. And I think: This person who has this spirit, why can't he have some of the outward gifts?

Maybe this is a little too thoughtful, but we're all just passengers in a way.

The best is approaching. I have everything -- well, not everything, but a lot of things that I've accumulated through my life experiences. It's easier to communicate through music than it ever has been before. It's easier to play. It's easier to sing. It's easier to write. Nothing is forced.

When my doctor discovered the aneurism in my brain, he said I'd had it for about a hundred years. He told me I'd had it for such a long time that I shouldn't worry about it...but that we'd have to get rid of it immediately. Yeah, that's Zen medicine. He's very wise. I trusted him completely. All the people who took care of me were absolutely the best at what they do -- even though there was a complication, a complication that has a one-in-twenty-seven-hundred chance of happening in my type of operation. They go into your brain through an artery in your thigh. Later, when I was out of the hospital, my leg exploded. I was out on the street and it just popped. My shoe was full of blood. I was in some serious trouble. I was about fifty yards from the hotel and I just made it. The ambulance came about ten minutes later. I don't know if I need to go into this. I don't know if the event is important. But the result was. That's what led me to that lady. The wisest person I've ever met.

--------neil young, in Esquire, 'What I've Learned'

Friday, July 18, 2008

Willie Mae Women's Rock Camp

I am sitting now in my friends Karen's house, unable to sleep because of excitement over going to this Rock Camp (in NYC).....I hope to have fun!!! Karen hopes to play drums, I want more instruction in singing, and the other offers were bass and guitar.....as Karen wondered...how will she learn drums in three days??? We will see....watch here for more....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Crave Flowers

I crave flowers.
Don't get me wrong, I don't care for flowers on my clothing, jewelry, walls....I do like cut flowers, especially in the middle of winter.....but nothing, no nothing, beats having flowers growing and living and changing and being right in front of you in the summer time.
Those are the flowers I crave.
And today, I planted some, bought from an old, tired woman who was friendly at least, in my new planters. I looked at my work today and kind of laughed at it's smallness....but perhaps that is enough.
There used to be two other trees in this view....but they are gone now and the open space and sunshine is welcome....it means I can have flowers.
I crave flowers.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Neil Young - Time Fades Away - Oberhausen 2008

HERE IT IS! Time Fades Away...and it does...

James Taylor

James Taylor was amazing....he is promoting is upcoming album of covers (interesting that it seems to be the big thing these days to do albums of covers...). The band is tight, his energy is high, the show is definitely a feel good one....

Recommended, if he comes your way