7/22 - 7/26/12, at Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH
If you've ever dreamt about jamming with your favorite musicians, are between the ages of 13-19, and have a passion for music, then Camp Electric is the place to be! Camp Electric, the Christian music industry's premium music camp, is a five-day-long intensive learning experience where campers are taught by some of their favorite artists in the industry. Some of those artists include Ben Kasica formerly from Skillet, Trevor McNevan from Thousand Foot Krutch, the entire Diverse City band, TobyMac, Jamie Grace, Michael Gungor, and many, many more. Guitar, vocals, bass, drums, keyboard, live sound, songwriting, and video recording are among the tracks you can choose from for your intensive study.
Having been a camper five times (four years, but twice in one year), I wanted to share a little about what goes on at Camp Electric through the eyes of a camper.
Sunday 12:30PM- After I unpacked the car with my stuff, I headed to the registration tables set up in the main lobby. Once I got there, the chaperones gave me my lanyard with all my info on it, as well as a "swag bag" courtesy of the Camp Electric sponsors and TobyMac himself. After I got my dorm key and meal card, it's off to the dorms to find my room, chaperone, and roommate. Thankfully everything is fairly close together so it wasn't too far of a walk. After getting settled in my room, I headed over to the student center, where most of the campers would hang out during free time. It was wonderful seeing so many familiar faces and seeing teens everywhere with guitars and makeshift drums playing music together.
Sunday 4:30PM- It's time for orientation with John Nix, our camp pastor. Now, this is where the real fun begins. Dare I say it's my favorite part of the whole week? Well, it's definitely one of the highlights for sure. All the campers head into one of the auditoriums and we're told about what we can and cannot do, whom to contact when there's an emergency, and a general overview of the week. The reason why it's one of the best parts of the week is because John Nix is quite the comedian when it comes to telling the rules. After a good hour or so of laughing (and learning about the rules, of course), it's time for dinner.
Sunday 5:30PM- It's not every day you get to hang out with bands like Fireflight and eat dinner with them. They were all so nice, and it was great to meet them. Mealtime is one of the best parts of camp, once the rest of the artists get to campus; it's one of the most exciting times of the day if you're willing to seek out the instructors and eat with them.
Sunday 7PM- One of the many great things about Camp Electric is the private concert every night. But I'll talk more about the concerts later on...
Sunday 9:45/10PM- Every night after concerts, Camp Electric always has some sort of food for the campers. Usually this consists of pizza or Chick-Fil-A. Along with food, the performing artists typically do autographs afterward. After the signing line had died down, it was time to head back to the dorms for showers and lights out.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 8AM- Devotional time! After breakfast and before morning worship, the chaperones would lead their group of students in devotionals written by John Nix. They would usually last about 30 minutes or so, and it was one of the best parts of camp. The theme for Camp Electric this year was "Famous Can Be Hazardous To Your Health," and our theme Scripture was "He must increase, and I must decrease."-John 3:30.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 9Am- Morning worship is kicked off with about four or five songs from Rush Of Fools, and then teaching from John Nix. These teachings usually include a good balance of Scripture and thought-provoking questions, as well as personal stories from John. ("Men don't play with dolls, they play with action figures!" - John Nix)
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 10:10AM- After morning worship, it was time to break off into our instrument clinics. My track for the week was electric guitar, so I went to the clinic that included electric and acoustic guitars. For the three days we had clinics, the guitar instructors were Ben Kasica (Skillet), Tim Rosenau (Diverse City Band), and Randy Williams (Jeremy Camp, Big Tent Revival and PRS Guitars). Each instructor took time to speak about their experience and how they started playing music, took some Q&A's, and showed us different things on their guitars. For all the other instruments/tracks, this was basically the same format that their morning clinics will follow, just with different instructors for each track.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 11:30AM- One of the most unique things about Camp Electric is having Tom Jackson as an instructor. Tom Jackson is a "live show producer," which means he works on artists/bands live show to make it more "memorable." I'll admit, the first time I heard we had to take his class, I was skeptical, but Tom knows his stuff! He's worked with artists like Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, and Robert Pierre. For the first day, Tom took a local college praise band and he worked with them on one of their songs. Initially, Tom has them play through it as if they were performing, and from there he works his magic. Watching the transformation from when the band first started with Tom, to the final product, was really cool.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 12:30PM- Lunch time! Now this is where the action is. One of the coolest things about Camp Electric is you have the opportunity to eat with your instructors, as well as the bands who are playing that night. If you get the chance, take advantage of this time, and get to know the instructors.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 1:30PM- The all-camp session can be many different things; it can either be a speaker, worship, or a concert. On Monday, it was a We As Human concert, Tuesday, illusionist Maze came and performed for us, and Wednesday our instructors put on a "camp jam" session. I loved how it was always something different for us each day.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 2:30PM- After the all-camp session, we break off into our skill-level specific classes for two hours each day. The class sizes are about 15-20 kids on average, with some classes having only six or seven, such as live sound and songwriting. Each day we get a different instructor, and it's very similar to the larger instrument clinic that happens earlier in the day. The main difference is that in the afternoon sessions, there's more one-on-one time and you get more time to talk and learn from the instructor. For the three days of lessons, I had Ben Kasica, Tim Rosenau, and Kevin Huguley from Rush Of Fools.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 4:30- From 4:30-6:30 after afternoon classes, there's free time. During free time, there are several different activities to choose from. Activities like Rock With The Band, where students can play songs on stage with the Diverse City band; the Drum-Off, where drummers challenge each other to see who is the best; Mark Harris offers a songwriting session, free time with KJ-52, where you hang out with KJ and work on music together; practice rooms and the coffee shop are open; or you could simply hang out with some friends during this time.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 6:30- Like lunch, dinner is one of the best times at Camp Electric. Where else can you grab a burger with members from Royal Tailor, Paramore, Skillet, and the like? These guys are all such great people, who are full of knowledge and wisdom; it's certainly worth it to take time to eat and talk with them.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 7PM- The concerts start off with worship from our house worship band, Rush Of Fools, and are typically followed by KJ-52. Below I've listed reviews of each concert at Camp Electric.
Thursday 9AM- For the last day of camp, we have morning devotionals and one more worship service. It's usually an emotional time for everyone, as the tiredness and realization that we're all leaving sets in, but pastor John Nix reminds us that it's not 'goodbye,' it's 'see you later.' Because once you're part of the Camp Electric family, you're part of it for life. We may all go our separate ways, but once we reunite next summer, it'll be as if we never left. We'll pick up right where we left off.
Sunday night- The evening always opened with about 4-5 worship songs from Rush Of Fools. They played some of their own songs, modern worship songs, and they even threw in a Newsboys song. After Rush Of Fools was finished, KJ-52 came and got the crowd jumping. He performed a mix of his songs, some Top 40 stuff, and a little freestyle rap. KJ-52 is also known for throwing different items from his merch table into the crowd, and Camp Electric was no exception. Every night he gave away t-shirts, necklaces, and sunglasses.
After a quick set change, Fireflight was up as our headlining band for the night. They were definitely high energy the whole night. Fireflight performed a series of songs from all four of their albums, and lead singer Dawn took some time during their set to share their faith with the audience. Towards the end of their set, their drummer, Adam, performed a drum solo that got the crowd pumped. To close out the night, Fireflight ended with "Unbreakable," one of their most popular songs. Every member in Fireflight has great stage presence, and they put on a wonderful live show.
Monday Night- While Trip Lee was our headlining act, there were two performances prior to his. The first was a surprise guest, B. Reith. B. Reith was one of the vocal instructors that week, but no one knew he was also going to perform for us. Even though B performed solo tonight, with just his guitar and laptop, he still put on an engaging show. While he had a few minor setbacks, such as forgetting the lyrics to one of his songs, he handled them with class and continued on with his show. Because of the way he handled himself that night, I think he walked away with more respect and a few more fans from the audience.
After B. Reith, pop/rock band and Camp Electric instructors Royal Tailor were up next. If Hawk Nelson is CCM's Jonas Brothers, then Royal Tailor is their Jackson 5. Although a fairly new band on the market, they know how to party and get the crowd engaged. Performing cuts off their debut album, Royal Tailor blends pop/rock and soulful music together very well, and they seem to be filling that void in the CCM market quite nicely. One of the things that makes Royal Tailor so engaging and fun to watch is lead vocalist Tauren Wells' break-dancing. Throughout their show, he'll incorporate some dancing, and he even throws in a backflip at the end. Overall, it was one of my favorite performances of the week, and although Trip Lee is great, Royal Tailor made it a tough act to follow.
After about 15 minutes, the stage was set for Trip Lee. I'll be honest; I'm not a huge rap fan, so I decided to step out for some air during his set. But from what I saw and heard, he put on a great show. He performed several songs off of his newest release, The Good Life, and closed his show with "Robot," which was the single of his new album.
Tuesday night- Opening us up was the newly signed techno-pop group, Capital Kings. Signed to Gotee Records, this duo, comprised of Cole Walowac and Jon White, is similar in style to Owl City. The really unique thing about this group is that the two members attended Camp Electric in 2008, when camp was in its first year, and were discovered by Toby himself. It's great to see fellow/former campers experience this kind of success. They played for about 20 minutes, incorporating their laptops and an electronic drum set. Really enjoyed their set, and I'm looking forward to see what they do in the future.
Also a Gotee artist and a Grammy Award nominee, Jamie Grace, kept things rolling smoothly as the night went on. Jamie performed solo, with just her guitar and tablet, and you can tell she really had fun up there. Jamie is one of the nicest, most fun girls you'll probably meet, and it shows through her songs and performance. Her set was fairly short, only about five songs or so, all off of her debut album, One Song At A Time. She ended her show with her single "Hold Me," and TobyMac came out on stage and sang backup vocals like he does on the recording. Jamie was a great intro into what the rest of the night held, and the night was still young…
One of the week's most anticipated shows every year is TobyMac's. And Toby never disappoints. One of the cool things about his shows at Camp Electric is that his entire band teaches there, so it's awesome to watch your instructors take the stage and rock out. Toby also makes it a point to make the show very personal. He pulled several students on stage to sing, and the Diverse City band brought up different students to play solos on their instruments. Toby played a good balance of songs from all of his records, and he also played his newest single, "Me Without You." Toby wrapped things up with the DC Talk classic, "Jesus Freak," like he always does, but this time there was a guest drummer, the original drummer for DC Talk! It was an unexpected but great surprise to see him on stage. Toby also did a signing line afterwards too, something he doesn't do too often, and so it was great to talk to him after his show as well.
Wednesday night- For the last night at camp, we had speaker Tony Nolan and the band Red as headliners. Tony Nolan is known for being the main speaker on the Winter Jam tour for several years, and he has quite a testimony. Tony shared about his life, and some different stories on how he came to know Christ. He then invited the audience to either commit/recommit their lives to God, and it was awesome to see how many students made that decision for Jesus that night. It was an amazing experience to witness, and you could feel the Spirit moving.
Within 20 minutes of Tony's sermon, the stage was set for Red! Red put on one of the most intense concerts I've ever seen. While they didn't have room for their full stage setup, it still was an incredible show. They opened up with "Feed The Machine" (or, as their set list stated, "Feed The Pony"), and from then on it was nonstop action. The way the front of the stage area was set up was interesting too; one side had a group of campers' just kind of rocking out to them, and the other side of the stage had a mosh pit of sorts going on. It was interesting to watch how much the students got into Red's concert. Lead Singer Michael Barnes shared the band's testimony and message they wanted the listeners to get, and bassist Randy Armstrong bantered with the audience in between songs. One of the highlights of their show was the drum solo by Joe Rickard. Like Fireflight and Skillet, Red has also incorporated drum solos into their sets, but the one that Rickard did was distinctively different from the others; he incorporated a fair amount of Dubstep into it. At first thought, Red and Dubstep seem to be an odd mix, but the result was very impressive! Red closed their show with their hit "Breathe Into Me," and was cheered on for another encore, which they performed "Lie To Me," off their album Until We Have Faces. Unfortunately, Red didn't do an autograph signing after their show, so that was probably the biggest letdown from a near-perfect concert.
Camp Electric is truly unlike anything I've ever experienced or done before, and it's changed my life ever since I started going 4 years ago. From the instructors to the chaperones, everyone is there to help you grow and to help guide you. Camp Electric wasn't created to help you get a record deal or "make connections" (although those things have happened quite a few times there), but it was created to help young musicians grow closer to the Creator, and to seek His will for their lives.
Along with the incredible instructors and staff on hand, you'll also make some of the most amazing friends you'll ever meet. When you go to Camp Electric, you meet 400-1,000 other kids who have the same passions and interests as you do. I'll be forever grateful for the friendships I've made over the years.
So whether you're a punk rocker, metal head, or aspiring worship leader, Camp Electric is a great place to grow your skills and to grow your relationship with Christ. I promise, you won't ever regret going. For more info, visit campelectric.com
-- Cortney Warner, 8/1/12