(USA, 87 min.)
Dir. Renée Barron, Douglas Blush
Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp might have inspired one of the greatest Simpsons episodes ever, but the rock camp’s legacy reaches far beyond Springfield. This documentary by Renée Barron and Douglas Blush happily joins the cavalcade of “you had to be there” Boomer music docs. It’s a tale of the magic that happens when one can literally share the stage with greatness. Being there is a singular experience for rock fans of all stripes. The fantasy camp lets any rock fan become a rock star, even Homer Simpson. And it’s all due to the shrewd business savvy of David Fishof.
Rock Camp goes behind the scenes to learn how this sports agent turned rock ‘n’ roll power player brings some of music’s biggest names to jam with fans. Fishof, an Orthodox Jew and son of a Cantor, explains how sharing office space with concert promoters and music handlers taught him to see how rock could be way more fun than being a sports agent. Barron and Blush observe as the talkative promoter wrangles talent from his home office, taking calls at his desk or brokering deals while on the treadmill. In between the calls—it’s astonishing that the directors can get a word in to ask him any questions—Fishof recounts his time on tour with rock stars.
While he proved his salt handling The Association and The Monkees, the foundation for the camp was laid on tour with Ringo Starr. In true rock star fashion, Fishof reveals that the musicians pranked him by staging a knife fight. It turns out the rockers are both lucrative and fun company. Cue a brainwave to get the stars to jam and mingle with fans willing to pay to play.
Nothing but a Good Time
Rock Camp follows several music enthusiasts as they venture to the getaway. For some music lovers, the camp is an annual pilgrimage. For campers like Tammy Fisher, it’s a chance to escape the daily grind. Wailing on the drums releases steam, and jamming with like-minded fans offers a true escape. For other campers, like Scott ‘Pistol’ Crockett, camp is a leap to the spotlight from a life spent 20 feet from stardom. Crockett shares how he nearly made it after playing with the likes of Lenny Kravitz, but becoming a rock star just wasn’t meant to be. As Rock Camp displays the range of skill in campers who jam with the celebs, the film observes how becoming an A-lister (or B-lister, depending upon which camp one attends) isn’t solely defined by talent. Several of the campers could easily teach the camp counselors some tips.
The film admittedly loses direction and doesn’t have much of an agenda beyond advertising the camp, its appeal, and its legacy. While Rock Camp might not break any ground, it’s nothing but a good time. It delivers what it promises: lots of stars, (mostly) good music, and message about making dreams reality. Rather than wallowing in the archives of rock ‘n’ roll, though, it’s refreshing to see a doc that brings nostalgia into the present.
Rock Camp screens at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on June 14 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and online June 16 – 26.