When I arrived at the Girls Rock Camp Fundraiser at the Wise Hall in East Vancouver, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The hall was dimly lit with candles and the stage was decorated with shiny streamers acting as a curtain to hide performers backstage. It felt vaguely like a middle school dance where organizers attempted to transform a gymnasium into a concert venue. But as the young performers took the stage, it was clear nobody in the crowd was disappointed by the venue’s amateur aesthetics.
Although the lineup included local superstars Vancougar and Carolyn Mark, it was the opening acts that drew in the crowd. The first half of the show featured participants of Girls Rock Camp Vancouver 2010, including Kerplunk, Clarice Scop and other former campers, showcasing their rock ‘n’ roll skills. They sang original songs, Ani DiFranco covers and even a memorable – albeit ear splitting – cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” as performed by the band Wildlife. One performer even recited an original poem. The entertainment was reminiscent of an amateur talent show but the roaring applause made me feel like I was in the presence of rock stars. By the end of the night, I was convinced I was.
Girls Rock Camp Vancouver, a nonprofit organization, provides a week long summer day camp at the Urban Native Youth Association on East Hastings St. for girls ages 8-18 to learn the ins and outs of being a rock ‘n’ roll musician. The camp’s mission is to provide young women a supportive and fun space to learn how to play instruments and write songs. Better yet, young girls get to explore their own creativity and gain confidence in their own voice. The night was a fundraiser to ensure funding to organize a camp for 2011.
In between acts, camp organizers Sarah Buchanan and Eli Leary acted as emcees to educate the crowd about the program and to encourage donations. It wasn’t a tough sell. The all-ages audience was made up of family, friends and community supporters. There were t-shirts for sale, a 50/50 raffle was held as well. In its third year running, the camp is already very popular. The 30 spots available each summer are taken quickly, and girls who don’t register in time are put on a waiting list. Since the camp partners with the Urban Native Youth Association, 10 of those spots are reserved for Native youth.
Buchanan was pleased with the turnout but said she is hoping to gain more visibility outside of East Vancouver and increase the number of camps they can organize each year in the future.
As the show went on, the pride in the hall was palpable. During intermission, a slideshow of photos of last year’s camp was shown, complete with audio interviews with the girls. It was the sort of thing that makes your heart melt. The Girls Rock Camp raised over $1,400 that night putting them in a great financial position to start making plans for camp this year.
After the intermission, Vancougar’s performance picked up the tempo. The energetic pop-punk sounds of the all-female band turned the Wise Hall into a dance party. Carolyn Mark followed soon after and ended the night on a softer note. Dialing down the volume with her folk and roots inspired tracks, Mark’s voice and acoustic guitar acted as a lullaby for all the kids in attendance. The second half may have featured experienced artists but it was the range of talent earlier on that demonstrated how rock-stars are born.