This year, I'll be going to summer camp.
Not just any summer camp, mind you. Rock 'n' Roll summer camp.
No, this isn't some kind of hokey day camp filled with hootenannies, hoedowns, and ad hoc jam sessions. I'm talking about a real camp-like experience -- the kind you might have had as a kid, one preoccupied with traditional activities like nature hikes, volleyball, cookouts, and nightly sing-alongs. Although in this case, the nightly sing-alongs come courtesy of big-name rock stars and counselors who happen to be upper-tier musicians. This particular camp, for example, happens to be spearheaded by none other than Todd Rundgren. Todd Rundgren of "Hello It's Me," "Can We Still Be Friends," and "Bang the Drum All Day" fame. Todd Rundgren, as in one of my personal heroes, a wizard, a true star with a 40-year rock 'n' roll trajectory. That Todd Rundgren.
It's a pretty wild idea, but it promises to be a great time. Taking place at the Full Moon Resort in New York's Catskills Mountains from July 23 through 27, it offers both ordinary adults and adults with a stubborn connection to their wayward youth (yours truly being among the latter) a chance to interact with real-life rock stars while retreating from the pressures and stress of everyday existence. Yes, there is the possibility of communal bathroom facilities. But no, internet and cell phones will be out of bounds. And I gotta tell ya -- I can't wait!
Rock 'n' Roll summer camp may seem a novel idea, but in fact, it's part of music's continued integration into the realm of modern-day holiday possibilities. Take music cruises, for example: They've become a big draw in recent years, meshing onboard entertainment with the aura of a music-festival experience. It's the perfect get-away for music enthusiasts who desire to immerse themselves in the music they love, be it bluegrass, jam music, oldies, jazz or rock 'n' roll. Likewise it gives fans an opportunity to get up-close and personal with their musical idols because, after all, when a celebrity is with the masses out at sea, there's no escape.
Likewise, pay-for-view one-night concert events, interactive exhibitions, battle-of-the-band competitions -- all these activities have helped remove the divide between artists and their legions, helping to make fans feel like they're actually part of the proceedings and not just uninvolved bystanders.
Rock 'n' Roll summer camp seems the next logical step in this progression, given that the musician that the camp is conceived around will presumably be very visible and accessible. The online material describes it thusly: "Full Moon Resort welcomes the second year return of legendary rock pioneer, Todd Rundgren with his 'Musical Revival Camp.' The camp promises to be a rocking frolic, including workshops, performances, and Todd's special brand of summer camp activities."
In a promotional video, Todd volunteers to lead nature hikes, host poolside activities and cocktail hours, and also conduct a daily cooking demonstration, all in addition to nightly performances that will feature him and some famous friends (ex REM guitarist Peter Buck and former Turtles/Flo & Eddie vocalist Mark Volman are among those being touted). Yes, there are bound to be a few fanatics determined to monopolize Todd's time, but hopefully everyone will give our celebrated camp counselor some personal space so we can all relish his presence as he assumes the role of an affable host.
In fact, Todd should feel at home in these environs. He spent the early part of his solo career producing and engineering at Bearsville Studios, which is located in nearby Woodstock. So I expect an earful of anecdotes. He could very well raise the bar for other famous hosts that will offer similar camp experiences at the Full Moon Resort this summer, among them Richard Thompson, Dweezil Zappa, Alex Skolnick (Testament) and Chris Broderick (Megadeth), Umphreys McGee, Three of a Perfect Pair (ex members of King Crimson), and ex-Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Granted, you have to be a real devotee to shell out upward of a couple of thousand dollars to spend a week with any of these musicians. However, there's certainly something to be said for having the opportunity to share such a unique experience. And let's be honest... who doesn't wish that they had thought of this idea first?
I gotta give the owners of the Full Moon Resort credit. For them, it apparently wasn't enough to have a beautiful resort in the lush surroundings of the Catskills (once known as the Jewish Riviera, owing to the legions of New York suburbanites who made the area ground zero for their summer retreats). Aside from the so-called Music Masters Camp series, they have several topnotch concert venues on the premises, gourmet dining facilities, and a variety of accommodations from luxury camping to upscale inns.
No, Mom's not around to sew my name into my underwear or to send me weekly care packages filled with home-made snacks. And chances are I won't have a chance to get too homesick because... well, my wife's coming along, and it's only a week in duration anyway. But I do hope to live out a rock 'n' roll fantasy and, with it, abide by that mantra that one is only as old as he feels.
And I suspect I'm gonna feel about 16 years old. Which is only a few years younger than I often feel anyway.
Only this time, I'll have an excuse.