In the July 28 District Extra, the byline of Carrie Donovan should have been included with the article "What I Did at Band Camp: Rocked the House." The credit line for Joe Davidson should have been included with the article " 'You Get Sneers, You Get Snickers' If You're Homeless and on the Street.". (Published 8/4/2005)
As Frogs in the Blender rehearsed for its first concert, Slickee Boys frontman Mark Noone stepped forward to help a cute blonde adjust her mic stand. It was already in the three-to-four-foot height range but needed to be lowered an inch or two for Ailis Grosh, who was playing a purple Daisy Rock bass.
Ailis, 10, is the youngest member of the Frogs. The band is composed of nine campers at the Middle C Music Summer Rock Band Camp in Tenleytown, which Noone is directing.
Noone is a bit of a local celebrity, with a rock-and-roll career spanning decades and a handful of bands, three of which are active. Myrna Sislen, who owns Middle C Music on Wisconsin Avenue NW, where Noone also gives lessons, calls him "a real Jack Black," referring to the star of the movie "School of Rock." He's been on MTV. He's played before thousands of screaming fans.
Not that the kids knew that when they signed up.
A few of the parents were familiar with his work, but they didn't realize he was involved with the camp. Susie Hirt, whose son Robert plays guitar, said, "Once we found out, that made it twice as exciting." Her husband was a fan when they met in the '80s. They used to see the Slickee Boys at the 9:30 Club back when it was on F Street NW. Robert's father even had two Slickee Boys T-shirts.
"I cut them up and used them to make a quilt," Hirt admits. She frets that maybe she should have saved one. "Maybe there's another one in the attic."
Rock-and-roll itself was the real draw for the young musicians, who said they modeled themselves after such bands as Sum 41 and Green Day.
Hannah Bredar, 12, learned of the eight-day camp, which was started last year, when she and her mother went to the store for sheet music. "I guess you could say we went in for Bach and went out with rock," she said.
Her mother, Jacqueline Bredar, imitated her daughter's reaction to the flier by shaking both fists. "I REALLY wanna do this!" she squealed. Hannah had started a band at school. The members had a repertoire of one song and called themselves the 7-Ups, even though there were five of them.
Noone didn't tell the kids whom to like, and he avoided playing records of his favorite bands: the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Roxy Music, Minor Threat. "I thought about bringing in a Ramones video, but I want them to think on their own," he said.
He did give all of them a Slickee Boys album. The director's eight-day disciples ended up creating a band that played music somewhat reminiscent of his own weird brand of rock. The Frogs sported sunglasses and capes, and some wore neckties as headbands. The song they wrote is titled "Frog Smoothie." They also covered classics such as "Hey Jude" and "Louie Louie."
At the end of their set, they did a choreographed leap. "We have to jump. We're frogs," Ailis explained.
Some of the kids, ages 10 to 15, have been studying their instruments for years. Some were newbies; they were assigned to play bass. All they needed to learn were the root notes of the chords, and plenty of rock songs have only three.
Noone studied guitar and voice at the University of California, Berkeley, but the instruction he gave was based more on experience gleaned from the road. It's not about throwing TV sets from hotel windows or playing amazing solos. It's not even about reading sheet music. It's about being in a band, taking votes on a name and song titles and making music as a unit. Stuff that makes a group of individuals a band.
And being in a band means you can't be shy when you're onstage. "Everybody's looking at me!" Hannah protested when she checked her mic level. Noone shot back: "That's why you're in a band. So everyone will look at you."
After playing night gigs with the Hula Monsters, Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, Red Toad Road or whoever is available, getting up in time for band camp can be extremely difficult for Noone. "This whole experience is very rock-and-roll, except for having to get here by 10 a.m.," he said.
Toward the end of the rehearsal, he told them that this was the part where the crowd would be screaming for an encore. "And we give it to them," said Ailis, the little bassist.
-- Joe Davidson