January 15, 2021 Rock Camp, The Movie (Documentary Review)
Much as Dee Snider and Twisted Sister demanded their right to rock back in the ‘80s, long before and ever since, fans have been consumed by the feral need for their Rock-n-Roll fix. With molten Metal bubbling inside their veins, a special crop of these music lovers dream of one day taking the stage alongside their idols.
And in life, sometimes dreams do come true—which is where Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp enters our story. Detailing its development and evolution, along with personal anecdotes from rockers and campers alike, Rock Camp, The Movie arrived to select theaters (see below for list), as well as virtual cinemas, on Friday, January 15, 2021. But if you prefer to imbibe at a later date, don’t fret: the documentary will also be released to On Demand on February 16th thanks to Mad Pix and Cedar Hills Media.
Directed and produced by Doug Blush (Of Two Minds documentary 2012, Beyond Laughter and Tears: A Journey of Hope documentary 2016), co-directed and edited by Renee Barron (On the Road with Austin & Santino series, Eat. Race. Win. documentary short series), and produced by Jeff Rowe, Rock Camp, The Movie welcomes its viewers to Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, where civilians and Rock gods commingle to share their devotion to music. Its inception begins with founder David Fishof, a booking and sports agent who has worked with the best and brightest for decades. Understanding the value of connecting artist to artist, Fishof began the camp back in 1997 and, over 5,000 campers and 70 camps later, he continues to make dreams come true with his proud addition to pop culture.
Though the documentary has no shame in its frequent name dropping, its focus is often on the campers themselves and, for four spotlighted individuals, their own personal journeys. So, yes, this is an 88 minute advertisement for Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, but it is also an uplifting look at the ability of music to both inspire and unite. These positive side effects are demonstrated perfectly by Tammy Fisher, an accountant at a high-profile agency in New York City, who is also a wife, mother and grandmother, talented drummer and die-hard KISS fan. Like many, she finds relief from the stress of her day to day through music. This is a sentiment that is echoed by Alice Cooper, who remarks on the ability of 9-5 life to wear people down and age them, which can be countered by the freedom of Rock-n-Roll, an elixir that keeps us young.
But the age of campers covers the spectrum, from teenager to retiree. Thus, we next meet a skillful young guitarist named Blake Meinhardt and his father Bill. Placed on the autism spectrum at an early age, and still an introverted individual, Blake comes alive through his fret work. Camp, therefore, is a time when he can scream loudest through his guitar. This is a feeling that is shared by Lachlan Keller, whose father, Scott, says his normally reserved son blossoms behind the drum kit. And dad is a rocker too: a talented Metal guitarist who is ready to introduce his second son, Jackson, to the therapeutic benefits of Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp.
Then there’s the exceptionally skilled drummer Scott “Pistol” Crockett who unfortunately missed his opportunity to play alongside his friend Lenny Kravitz on 1989’s Let Love Rule. These days, camp has given him the opportunity to show off his chops, meet new faces, and challenge himself to play outside of his comfort zone. He’s a blues rocker who is a ray of rhythmic sunshine, and the perfect example of how camp is not simply for beginners. As KISS’ Paul Stanley notes, “It’s not about how good you are, it’s about how much you enjoy playing.”
With the focus on Fisher, Meinhardt, the Kellers, and Crockett, moviegoers are able to see the personal side of attending camp. From check-in to meeting their counselors, naming their bands to performing on the big stage, we’re given a behind-the-scenes tour of Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp from diverse points of view. Fisher struggles with her confidence when she moves from behind the drums to the frontwoman role, while Keller revels in the experience and the time spent with his sons. Crockett easily keeps up with the Metal classics that are new to him, and Meinhardt, though shy and silent, bleeds his emotions through his art.
And then there are the counselors. We hear most from several of the Vegas captains—Teddy “Zig Zag” Andreadis (Guns N’ Roses, Alice Cooper, Carole King), Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder, Whitesnake), and Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio) being the stand-outs with their easygoing demeanors. But there’s no shortage of Rock-n-Roll titans here, with frequent commentary from the likes of Roger Daltrey (The Who), Gene Simmons (KISS), Nancy Wilson (Heart), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake), Lita Ford (The Runaways), Spike Edney (Queen), and special appearances from the aforementioned Paul Stanley (KISS) as well as Dave Mustaine (Megadeth).
If that’s not enough star power for you, toss in Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, Allman Brothers Band), Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Richie Faulkner and Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Sammy Hagar (Van Halen), Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Tommy Lee (Motley Crüe), Mike Inez and Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Joe Walsh (Eagles), and many, many more. If their face is on RockCamp.com, it’s a safe bet that they will turn up at some point throughout the film.
The downside, if you’d like to consider it that, is that there’s a definite limit to Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camps’ musical reach—particularly in this film. You won’t see any giants of Punk herein, forget Death or Black Metal, don’t even think about any ‘core bands, and though Blues Rock is touched on, what is spotlighted is largely Classic Metal and Hard Rock. The bulk of the counselors and commentators are men (white men, at that), almost exclusively representing bands whose heyday was in the ‘70s-’90s. That is, at least, in the documentary.
So you’re safe to expect tons of Simmons and Daltrey, but don’t search for Corey Taylor, David Draiman, Maria Brink, or M. Shadows. And forget Shagrath! Again, in fairness, that’s just the film. The “Rock Star” section of the Rock Camp website is a who’s who of Rock-n-Roll, from The Eagles to Black Eyed Peas, Deep Purple to Korn. Rock Camp, The Movie, therefore, is merely a taste and not the full red carpet treatment. What it provides, however, is enough to put a smile on the face of any rocker, even if the idea of jamming on stage with Sammy Hagar has never once crossed their mind.
Through its straightforward structure and well-done, no-frills cinematography, Rock Camp, The Movie shares its focus between the story of Fishof and the birth of the camp itself, the personal details of some of the campers, and anecdotes from the artists who have become involved in Fishof’s pop culture phenomenon. Neither all business nor all play, the documentary finds a good balance with its material, but it is still largely an enticement for your participation in a future camp experience. If you can set that aside, or if you are a passionate lover of any of the musicians mentioned or depicted herein, then, at the very least, Rock Camp, The Movie is worth the price of admission. Though if you don’t know Megadeth from Metallica or Slaughter from Styx, this is not the documentary for you. As such, Cryptic Rock gives the film 3.5 of 5 stars.