Rock ’N’ Roll Fantasy Camp can be life-changing at all skill levels
By Matt Kelemen
Photos by Tommy Casey/Box 24 Studio
“Well, what shall we play then?” asks Jack Bruce, bassist for pioneering British power trio Cream, as he straps on a bass and prepares to play with our Rock ’N’ Roll Fantasy Camp band, Los Rudos Blancos. My bandmates and I have been part of a veritable rotating supergroup for several days already at this “blues boutique” edition of the camp. Warren Haynes has borrowed my glass slide to play the Allman Brothers’ “One Way Out” after I sang “Stormy Monday” during his visit, and our band has yet to back Blues Traveler’s John Popper, who will be sitting in with us on harmonica when he visits our rehearsal space the next day.
Our “camp counselors” and co-bandleaders, Yes drummer Alan White and Ozzy Osbourne/Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo, have been mentoring us for several days through a set that includes Cream songs, so I suggest Cream’s version of Skip James’ “I’m So Glad.” I play Eric Clapton’s intro riff and sing his part in unison with Bruce. And it feels great—a little otherworldly, but completely natural. There’s really no time for my fellow campers to think about what is actually happening as they take turns soloing; we’re too focused on being in the moment and turning fantasy into reality.
Rock ’N’ Roll Fantasy Camp CEO David Fishof has been working on his jam-with-the-stars concept for 15 years now, having held camps in New York, Hollywood and Abbey Road Studios in England. Last year, he created a state-of-the-art facility in Las Vegas and formed a relationship with MGM Grand that allowed him to offer all-inclusive three- and five-day packages in addition to a “Rock Star for a Day” offering and corporate gatherings. Fishof kicks off 2013 with a Jan. 23-27 camp featuring The Who’s Roger Daltrey and guitarist Simon Townshend, Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins, and Buffalo Springfield’s Richie Furay. Camp counselors include Sarzo, guitarists Kane Roberts (Alice Cooper) and Howard Leese (Heart), drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath) and keyboardist extraordinaire Teddy Andreadis (Guns N’ Roses).
Music director Kip Winger is essentially head counselor, making sure things run smooth for campers at every level of playing experience and overseeing the bands’ recording sessions. Every consideration is given to enable a life-changing experience, from expert tech help to hot-and-cold buffet offerings. Daily presentations—the blues camp featured guitar workshops and a mind-blowing lecture on oscillation by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter—round out the daytime experience, while the bands head to MGM Grand’s Rouge lounge for nightly gigs that often feature surprise guests jumping up onstage.
Fishof gives major credit to MGM Grand President Scott Sibella and Vice President of Entertainment Mark Prows for helping turn up the Las Vegas experience to 11. “They have been amazing,” says Fishof. “They said, ‘We … want to give them the experience that you want to give them.’ I thought that was incredible. I’ve made this experience 300 times better. The fact that you can play live (while staying at MGM Grand) is amazing.”