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 aren't 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 parents--the 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 I've basically become their babysitter," Schoonover laughed. "But that's what distinguishes us--personality and attitude--we 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 they're 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 there's 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 you're playing for the audience instead of yourself, but it's something I would never give up. You hear about bands who don't get along and it's a job, but we've always been an incredible family, and I'm just happy to still be doing it."
Glimmer Twin No. 2 on drums, vocals and harmonica, Booe attributed the band's success and affectionate dynamics to the fact that they don't 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. It's an ego thing, but at the same time we're pretty humble. We know we're not going to be the next Zeppelin, but we're great at being ourselves, and we can copy anybody," he said. His bio on Band Camp's 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 rockstars--we wouldn't be in Boise if we were--but 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 they're all crazy and wild, these guys have really good hearts, and I feel entertained while we're 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. "They're all great players, but they don't do it for the money; they're 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 by--especially for a bunch of grown-up kids who are still in it for pleasure.
For a list of events and information, visit www.bandcamp.us.