Camp Chronicles (10): Campfire's Stoked; Anticipation Builds for the Surf Beat to Begin

Editor’s Note: These chronicles started out as “letters” from Sierra Surf Music Camp.  But the story was bigger than a letter.  We hope that you are not exhausted yet.

By the time that the Motrin and wine kicked in, Becky reminded me twice, “The show is starting soon!  Get up, the show is STAR . . . TING SOOOON!”  That meant leave a comfortable chair, walk to the amphitheater, and carry Brett’s double bass gig bag.  My powder blue, cheap Made-in-China No-Name bass was on injured reserve.

No matter what your age, one thing is on everybody’s pre-gig check list -- albeit written or mental.  Whether you are one of Paul’s prodigies or an old guy the last stop on the way to the stage is “the facilities.”  Becky just would have to wait.

The entire camp was gathered at the Donner Mine Camp Amphitheater.  Bench-style seating was built into the small hill on two sides of a large concrete area which would be our stage for the evening and into the night.  A camp fire was burning brightly and vigorously in the corner near the meeting point of the hillsides.  As the evening daylight passed into darkness the flickering of the fire gave the amphitheater a glow accented by rising sparks disappearing into the night.

The preparations and wardrobes for the first outdoor evening event of the camp varied.  Don was not going risk any cold and wore gloves while loosely tapping the strings on his bass. 

Becky and Jean put on insect repellant to ward off any swarming, stinging, sucking or biting bugs incited by the sunny day.  The bugs not only would have to overcome the repellant but also would have to chew through coats to get to Becky and Jean.  

Paul Johnson, who always looked chilled and seemed inseparable from his parka and bucket hat, was in a ball cap.  Parka, yes; bucket hat, no!  One brave soul was in flowered board shorts and a sleeveless tee.

The back-line of the stage was set with Fender Showman Amps, huge (to me) speaker cabinets, reverb units, and one of Dusty Watson’s blue sparkle drum kits.  The amps were warmed up with volumes all the way down.  Matt Quilter had dialed in the tone settings before the campers started arriving.

Anticipation was building.  Seemingly boundless energy filled some of he younger campers.  They were ready to play and were not going to sit still in the meantime.  Posing for a group photo meant that they sat in one place only long enough for “smile!” - click - “that’s good.”  Then they were released to bounce from seat to seat, level to level, side to side.

That group photo was the last housekeeping event.  The moment of truth -- for some campers their first performance before an audience -- now was only minutes away.

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