You’ve been hearing about it for decades, the amateur musicians’ version of various sports “fantasy camps,” but for rock and roll fans.
Pay $5000 (at first, now $5499, plus extras), jam and learn from your aged classic rock or metal heroes, hang with them in a nice hotel for a few days, soak up a little of the rock’n roll lifestyle. And in this version, you don’t have to take a “fan” cruise to get up close and personal.
“Rock Camp: The Movie” is yet another informercial for manager turned promoter David Fishof, 90 minutes of assorted people with the disposable cash to live out their fantasy — an accountant singing with Paul Stanley of KISS and an impromptu band campers and experienced rockers have formed for a weekend — Jurassic Waste, Stack of Yokos or Motley Jue.
Over the past 23 years, every network morning show, every cable network, even “The Simpsons” and “Bones” and other TV programs hyped this amusing, harmless indulgence into the popular “vacation” for well-heeled adults and the children of the equally well-heeled that it is today. It’s a movie that feels like a sales pitch, a hollow glossing of a Baby Boomer indulgence that doesn’t amount to much more than glimpses of scores of famous rockers who sell-their-services to this camp — Daltrey to Meat Loaf, Nancy Wilson to Rob Halford and other members of Judas Priest, Vince Neill to Lita Ford — and quick, dull sketches of those who buy their way into one weekend of the camp.
Filmmakers Renee Barron and Douglas Blush tell the story of how David Fishof went from being a Catskills resort kid to New York sports agent for the likes of Phil Simms and Lou Pinella, to an “outside the box” rock promoter whose brainstorms were all nostalgia tours, reuniting the Monkees, the Happy Together Tour and helping create and promote Ringo’s All Starr Band.
His friends, possibly parroting something Fishof himself says, credit him with “taking the yarmulke to a new level,” a smart promoter who used those oldies acts to create a camp for the now-well-off fans who grew up loving these musicians.
No, it’s “not hip,” Fishof jokes. But helping fangirls and fanboys (mostly) live out their dreams, if only for a weekend, is just good clean wish fulfillment, if a little pricey.
But listening to the assorted rockers fluff the experience in varying degrees of sincerity, meeting a cross section of campers for a recent Las Vegas Rock Fantasy Camp — a singing-drumming real estate trust’s accountant, a guy who seems to work for a church, parents of a teen with autism who comes out of his shell with his Gibson Les Paul guitar — one never shakes the feeling that this entire enterprise is seriously tone deaf.
It’s not their fault that this comes out in the middle of a pandemic and the recession it caused. But even without that, it’s nigh on impossible for anybody in this to not come off like a total douche. And no, I don’t think I’ve ever used that word in a review before, but it’s almost unavoidable here.
The kid with autism gets off lightly, and considering the other and better “kids learn to rock” camp documentaries, that’s a given. And not all the A, B and C-list musicians ooze bottom-line insincerity. Tony Franklin, former bassist with the ’80s super group The Firm, takes a moment to remember the lifestyle and how much the partying and touring failed to fulfill him, and that stands out.
California camper Scott “Pistol” Crockett, a drummer who was a high school bandmate of Lenny Kravitz and turned to religious work (It’s not clear what exactly he does.) has to learn to hang “with the metal guys,” and master the cowbell for his camp band’s cover of “Mississippi Queen.” He does, but truthfully, none of these “ordinary fans” has a back story compelling enough to hang the movie on.
Then there’s the dominant figure here, Fishof, a guy Simmons jokingly suggests “could be a recurring character on ‘The Goldbergs'” ( A Jewish showbiz stereotype?) When Fishof refers to himself as “Jewish Santa Claus” for doing this, Fishof’s not just confirming how tone-deaf this all feels (What’s Santa’s cut from the $5,499?). He’s proclaiming himself King of the Douches.
MPA Rating: unrated, pretty darned clean
Cast: Paul Stanley, Nancy Wilson, Rob Halford, Lita Ford, Gene Simmons, Roger Daltrey, Sammy Hagar, Tony Franklin, Spike Edney and David Fishof.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Renee Barron and Douglas Blush. A Madpix release, on Amazon, etc. Jan. 15.
Running time: 1:28