While Seattle and Portland are still overrun by garage band wannabes with ego for sale, Boise seems to breed musicians that would rather have fun and make a few bucks than go the route of so many puffed up artists. Not that they arent artists with skills to match, they just go about their art in a less assuming way that invites crowds to get up and bust some booty moves instead of brooding in a corner sipping gin. At least, that is the priority for Band Camp (in addition to friendly rounds of tequila).
Band Camp is one of those groups that defies the rock stereotypes of artistic pissing contests and a sound that sours as angst gives way to steady employment. In fact, all six members of the band have real jobs and five are parentsthe kind who give up gigs to supervise Girl Scouts. Over the course of two decades, the group has gone from a ramshackle touring outfit of college dropouts called Stranger and later Targa to a rock band trying to play country called StoneCreek to a successful cover band called Band Camp (a nod to American Pie). John Booe, Rarig Rasmussen and Todd Schoonover are the original three, and the childhood friends have fondly labeled themselves the Glimmer Twins and the Chauffer, respectively.
Rarig and John are a handful. They get this glimmer in their eyes, and Ive basically become their babysitter, Schoonover laughed. But thats what distinguishes uspersonality and attitudewe book ourselves as a party band, and we deliver. Having transformed from stage performer to special effects technician to sound guy, Schoonover explained that the thrill for him is watching his band-mates charm an audience. The crowd is number one. We invite them up on stage to sing and the guys go out and play in the crowd; we try to make them feel like theyre part of the band, Schoonover said.
Glimmer Twin No. 1 on vocals, keyboard and guitar, Rasmussen had similar things to say about the essence of Band Camp. Having toured for nearly ten years as a professional musician, he knows how it feels to be fulltime, but theres something about having a laugh and sharing it with others that keeps him playing at the same handful of Boise clubs.
We keep it fun, which was something I had to get used to, Rasmussen said. All of a sudden youre playing for the audience instead of yourself, but its something I would never give up. You hear about bands who dont get along and its a job, but weve always been an incredible family, and Im just happy to still be doing it.
Glimmer Twin No. 2 on drums, vocals and harmonica, Booe attributed the bands success and affectionate dynamics to the fact that they dont take themselves too seriously (he swears by Sammy Haggar and the curative powers of a good old fashioned dog pile).
Music is the best thing in the world. Its an ego thing, but at the same time were pretty humble. We know were not going to be the next Zeppelin, but were great at being ourselves, and we can copy anybody, he said. His bio on Band Camps Web site talks about music as a lifestyle, and for Booe, that means biannual trips to Cabo, getting paid to goof around with his best friends and trusting that they will love him no matter what. None of us are rockstarswe wouldnt be in Boise if we werebut we get to have fun and make idiots of ourselves and know that if we do, someone will be there to pick us up.
These someones also include real estate agent/super dad turned singer/guitarist Greg Goodrich, ex-karaoke queen Amy Balliet, and spanking new, Portland-born bass player Wes Kelley. Greg brought the band back from the dead in 1992 after Targa broke up, and he is considered the straight man of Band Camp. Balliet styled Patsy Cline and Bonnie Raitt tunes in karaoke bars until she was discovered by Buck Naked only to be snatched up by the lead-singer-less boys of Band Camp.
It was a really hard decision. I was with a bunch of really great guys who taught me everything I know about performing, but it was hard going back and forth to McCall, she said. Band Camp offered me a chance to stay in Boise, and I liked the five-piece harmony, major teamwork and personality. Aside from the fact that theyre all crazy and wild, these guys have really good hearts, and I feel entertained while were entertaining.
Despite having only a few weeks of Band Camp under his belt, Kelley already feels like part of the family.
As soon as I heard the drummer, I knew I wanted to play with them, he said. Theyre all great players, but they dont do it for the money; theyre there to have fun.
All of the coinciding mentions of the words fun, family and heart might make someone think the members of Band Camp had rehearsed their testimonies, but hearing just one song is proof enough that they are words to live byespecially for a bunch of grown-up kids who are still in it for pleasure.