By Garrett Neese, Daily Mining Gazette Writer
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HOUGHTON – It’s still coming together for the kids at the PJ Olsson Rock Camp; the group members are playing together, finding out their influences, seeing where they’ll go as a band, hashing out their creative visions.
But in little more than a week, they’ll be showing their finished products to the Keweenaw.
The students of the PJ Olsson Rock Camp will be playing a concert at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Rozsa Center. Tickets will be $5 for children and $10 for adults.
The camp is an outgrowth of one done by Olsson last year, in which 18 teens came together in one group to play several songs for the Arts & Music Festival in Houghton.
This year’s is bigger – 35 students, who will form seven or eight groups, plus four or five singer-songwriters. The campers auditioned for PJ live or by video, playing as well as answering questions such as “What kind of music do you like?” and “How important is writing your own music to you?”
On the first day Monday, the participants split into groups and decamped to practice rooms in the Rozsa. The sounds of kick drums and bass bled through the walls; in one room, the group listened intently to Lady Gaga to arrange a cover version.
The Rozsa’s art gallery was converted into the “metal room,” with live and electronic drums, six amps and a PA system.
True to form, Olsson said, the metal kids were already clashing on their vision.
“You know what I’m letting them do?” Olsson said. “Trainwreck. So they have to listen to each other.”
Things were already going smoothly for one group, whose members were running through covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival, 4 Non-Blondes and Moby.
Upstairs, several of the singer-songwriters were seated in a circle, where they’d been sharing songs.
The Rock Camp is giving them the chance to play, and to encounter other musicians.
“It’s nice to meet people who are into the same things,” Brooke Basto said.
Tia Swanson agreed.
“My friends like music, but they don’t play,” she said.
The singers will be backed by some of the other musicians. Swanson and Caitlin Polakowski, also members of last year’s camp, each got to perform a song of their own at the Arts & Music Festival.
“If I have the opportunity, I sing on stage, but I’m always by myself,” Swanson said. “Last Rock Camp was the first time I was backed by a band, and it was really cool.”
In addition to practices, the campers will also meet periodically to get lessons on everything from songwriting to crafting their image.
“We don’t just want them to come together and play,” co-organizer Todd Brassard said. “We want them to personify the group they want to be on stage.”
Many of the campers were returning from last year’s inaugural camp; it even spawned a band, The Adventures of Darrell & Friends.
Olsson said his goal is ultimately to build a scene for younger bands in the area.
“I believe if we do it over and over and over again, we’ll have 25 bands in this town that we didn’t already have,” he said.
For more information, go to pjsrockcamp.com.
Garrett Neese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.