Authenticity and enthusiasm comes at a premium in New York City. It figures, then, that I had to go to Brooklyn to see a brand-new Philly band to get my dose of both.
I was pretty short on moxie on Sunday afternoon. My fifteen hour Saturday in East Rutherford was punctuated by a three hour beer pong game at Chris and Meg’s. I went to bed many beers later at four a.m.
The Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls is a summer day camp that offers 8-18 year old girls the chance to learn how to play musical instruments, write songs, perform, learn about different types of music, and generally “rock out.”
The non-profit organization is named after Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, the original singer to record the hit song “Hound Dog” in 1953.
Every summer, this camp for girls opens itself up to women, which is where my high school friends Amie, Kirsten, Liz, Candace, and Lisa come in.
Now, these ladies always rocked. In my experience, they were the first to the party, and the last to leave. They were comfortable with a beer bong. And they were never afraid to play a little air guitar on their legs, or bust out the ABBA for some serious late night dancing.
Moreover — at least as far as I was concerned on this particularly hung over Sunday afternoon — they were always there for me. Somewhere, on some grainy VHS tape in someone’s dusty drawer, there’s me on stage at Conestoga High School’s annual “Lunch Munch” (an annual outdoor gig) and Kir, Aim, and the ladies are stage right bobbin’ and weavin’ and rockin’ out.
And let’s not forget that Amie taught me my first four chords: G, C, D, and Em. Not to mention my teaching philosophy: learn something you love. ( I learned REM’s “The One I Love,” which I later went on to record for my “February 25, 2005” CD.)
And so Abbi and I hailed a cab (one of those nice, spacious, air conditioned minivans, really) and set out for Studio B in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where Amie, Kirsten, Liz, Candace, and Lisa — better known as Black Judy — were participating in the big rock show that is the culmination of The Willie Mae Rock Camp For Ladies weekend.
Studio B is a big, empty warehouse amidst a bunch of big, empty warehouses on the predominantly Polish northern edge of Brooklyn. Liz and Lisa were out front hacking buts in the sunset as Abbi and I approached. Liz raised her drumsticks over her head. “Ben-jammin’! What’s uuuuuup!?!” She had her part down.
The four Excedrin I’d popped over the course of the afternoon were in full affect when Black Judy finally took the stage around 7:30. Amie had a heart shaped electric slung over her shoulder. Kir was rockin’ a white Strat, Candace black (upon which she ably rocked her solo). Lisa held down bass. They wore their instruments — and their ear-to-ear smiles — well.
Black Judy’s three minute debut — a sophisticated, hooky little pop number called (something like) “Sugar, Baby” — was, above all, authentic and enthusiastic. Which is hard to come by in New York City. So I was thrilled to shake off my soul-crushing hangover, head out to Brooklyn, and dance amongst eight-year-olds and hipster dads. Cuz we need more of that shit around here.