Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp – Part 2

Dave Amato and Me

I am sitting in my hotel room high above Universal City at 10:45 p.m. pondering the events of the day.

For those who many not know, REO Speedwagon is my all-time favorite band, and today, my band got to perform the song “Tough Guys” on stage with Kevin Cronin and Dave Amato.

We chose “Tough Guys” from the list of songs to perform with REO simply because it wasn’t the typical “Roll With The Changes” or “Ridin’ The Storm Out” that we assumed most other bands would be doing. It was upbeat and rocking, with some cool little guitar harmony part that our counselor, Craig Goldy (Dio) had taught us.

One of the sticking points in “Tough Guys” is an unusual chord progression that happens really quickly after the guitar solo. It’s a musical break where the guitar plays an Em – C progression. If you’re not careful, you’ll fly right by and miss perhaps the most important part of the song.

As a band that had formed less than 24 hours ago, we butchered that progression more than a dozen times before we were finally able to play the song straight through without a hitch.

Prior to jamming the song, Kevin and Dave did an hour long Q&A session where people from the audience could ask them about their music and career. One of the campers asked Kevin how the band keeps things fresh after playing their catalog of hits hundreds of times.

Here’s where fate stepped in.

Kevin said that the band always tries to change things up a little every night, and that one of the things he always looks forward to was performing “Tough Guys”, because there’s a quick little section in the song ( Em – C ) that breaks up the monotony.

At this point, I turned around to my fellow bandmates with a sly smile. They all nodded in agreement.

An hour later, our band stood side by side with Kevin and Dave on stage and watched as their eyes lit up when we told them we were doing “Tough Guys”.

There simply aren’t enough words to describe the feeling I had standing on that stage playing with those guys. It was a moment that was gone before it even started, but as a kid who spent hours locked in his room learning every song from their “Hi Infidelity” and “Wheels Are Turnin'” albums, it was a dream come true. Then afterwards, to have Kevin give us kudos for remembering the Em-C chord progression was something even more special.

In the end, we were the only band out of fifteen that performed “Tough Guys” with REO Speedwagon.

Although still high from our triumphant performance, we knew there as no time to rest. We still had a Foreigner and Night Ranger song to learn.

The Foreigner song would be a no brainer.

And then came the hardest decision of the entire camp. Which Night Ranger song to do?  Our decision would be the song that we’d perform with the band on The Whisky A Go Go stage in just two days.

The list of songs to choose from included Night Ranger hits like “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” “Sing Me Away,” “(You Can Still) Rock in America” and “Sister Christian” as well as a few cover songs by Damn Yankees and AC/DC.

For me, there was really only one song I wanted to do — and I was beyond excited when the band all agreed as well.

For those of you who can’t make our show Sunday night, here is the song we’ll be performing with Night Ranger at The Whisky on Sunday night.

Saturday is going to be another busy day. We’re starting off with rehearsal, followed by a visit from Jeff Pilson and Bruce Watson of Foreigner for a Q&A and jam session. We’ll then be playing our very first show at The Lucky Strike on Hollywood Boulevard.

Tonight we sleep. Tomorrow, we rock!

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