When you’re a kid, summer camp always seemed like a staple. It was anywhere from 8 hours, one week to 6-weeks of pure summer bliss as someone else got to baby sit your ass as your mom and dad either had passionate intimate time or just laid around the house without being forced to listen entertain you for an entire summer.
I had fun at my camps. Day camps or sleep away, I liked the novelty of something new, the crafts and being in the pool. Summers in Texas are hard to do outside of the water, so we spend as much time in and near water as we can. The best parts of camp were learning new skills (even if they are useless in real life, such as archery or lanyard making) and forming some amazing friendships. Hell, you may even get a kiss or more at camp!
So this past weekend I got my chance to participate in an adult camp of sorts: Ladies Rock Camp. The camp, which is put on by the non-profit Girls Rock Austin run by local musician Emily Marks, is three days of music listening, learning and playing, and of course making music history. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Last summer, I finally gave into a desire I had had for a while. After years of being unable to volunteer at Girls Rock Camp, I finally had a free week in July to devote an entirely to being a counselor. It was an absolute blast! Even as an adult, I met some amazing women in the music industry, fellow rock enthusiasts, grad students studying Gender and Women’s studies, and just good folk that were easy to bond with. I also got to mentor some amazing girls who wrote an amazing song within a week, learned instruments, and blossomed before my eyes. This, I thought, was what was missing when I was young.
So here we were, this past weekend, a motley crew of women wanting the same experience as these young girls, since, hey, you can never be too old to go for your dreams, right? We gathered on a Saturday morning, nervous and curious, like we are 13 year-old girls again, all just wanting to be accepted.
But here are my thoughts: What we don’t realize is what we all come from a similar place: 1. We love music, 2. We are brave enough to sign up and perform, 3. We have more than likely been marginalized for who we were through the very tough years. So coming from that place we already know what it is like to be left out, made fun of, pushed around, isolated, alone, sad, wondering where we fit in. All of us. So it automatically makes us easier on each other. This group of women are (should be and were) the most welcoming and accepting group of women you will ever meet. They don’t judge because, well, they don’t want to be judged. They live the life they want under their terms.
Another thought is that these are women who also have a passion for music. Each one of us has dreamed of performing and creating. For the most part, all the attendees believe that we should be accepted, loved and appreciated for our ideas and creativity and not simply our bodies, as the rest of the universe seems to tell us women. There were women from El Paso, Texas (Woo! Marina and Chrissy—two AMAZING first time drummers), San Francisco (my good friend Sydney, who I met at Girls Rock Camp in July) and even as far as Seattle, Washington (wooo, go Jen—who was amazing front women!). And I say this with awe and understanding: they came JUST for this camp. This is a movement, people. This is inspiring. Women want the opportunity to express themselves in a way that they never have before. They want to nurture a side of them that they never thought they had. How POWERFUL is that? My band, The Red-Headed Step Daughters, totally rocked, but mainly because most of us had never performed professionally, or ever. I was the most experienced, and that was just from playing Red Hot Chili Peppers albums on loop in my room with my bass guitar for 5 years straight.
The other powerful part is that this forces our identity to change. I am no longer a girlfriend, working-for-the-man Monday through Friday girl who likes to run and listen to rock music. I am a musician. Simply by playing an instrument, I am a musician—an identity I never considered myself.
So as the weekend went on we formed bands, wrote songs, practiced, ate together, enjoyed lady bands (such as Butch County and the rock force of BugGirl), talked, drank coffee, discussed topics from feminism, old college boyfriends to the relationship of cats and lesbians, laughed, worked, moved equipment, switched instruments, bonded and built relationships that will more than likely last for years.
All the nerves and practice finally came to a head when we had a Showcase Monday night, where every band played their song (our was about a robot apocalypse, by the way) and performed for the most supportive crowd of family and friends. Every girl had a blast, and even more important, showed the young girls in the crowd that this is the example of empowerment, which can be shown at any age through any demographic.
Today, I am still getting over the weekend, as it was incredibly powerful. As the blisters on my fingers heal, I cannot help but feel completely comforted by this prickly pain on my finger tips. It reminds me that I haven’t played my passion in a long time—years even. I forgot how much pure joy playing gave me. It was even better to meet other women who knew exactly what that felt like.
The thing I always hated about camp as a kid was the end—that last night. When you had to say goodbye before loading up your crap, ending your friendships or summer loves, and moving back into the real world where you don’t get to laugh all day and eat on plastic cafeteria trays, swim for hours or play bad get to know you games. Leaving Ladies Rock Camp, you are suddenly thrust into the real world of bills, jobs, kids, partners, which only can feel like a buzz kill after being totally immersed in a world of total empowerment. But even having one weekend a year to pretend to be a music-obsessed teenager is enough to keep the dream alive. One thought to leave the weekend with: Keep Rockin’ Ladies! There will always be other ladies ready and willing to rock with you!