Skiffle: Rock Stars & the Rock School

Thursday, I went to the Skiffle at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center for a chance to hear Mike McCready of Pearl Jam play again.  Having been shut out of the Hendrix tribute at the Tractor Tavern this coming Wednesday (a benefit for Soulumination).  I didn’t have much hope, but tickets were only at the door for this one.  I figured they’d be long gone, or gone after a long line by the time I got there after work.

I was wrong.  I was one of the first ones there.  The kids were still setting up when I got there.  Not only that, I could hear some familiar guitar licks from the start of “Little Wing” and realized Mike and the other current rock stars were warming warming up in the theater just behind the ticket tables.  I even caught a glimpse of Mike before they closed the doors.

So I wandered around the arts center (formerly a school), taking pictures (of course) and checking out the merchandise table.  I bought a Rock School t-shirt.

This “skiffle” (old slang for “rent party”) was a fundraiser for the Rock School, Arts Corps, and Youngstown Cultural Arts Center programs.

I was as intrigued by the fact the Rock School students would be performing that evening as well as the current rock stars, not to mention an auction of art, some involving guitars, created by musicians and students earlier that afternoon.

When I wandered back over to the ticket table after 6:15 pm (having already bought my ticket once they got set up), I heard music.  As the entertainment in the theater was supposed to start at 6:30, I figured it was one of the Rock School bands warming up and asked if we could go in yet.  They said, “sure.”  So I went in . . . and it turned out to be Mike and the other members of Bison doing a last sound check of Little Wing.


In addition to Mike, there was Dave Dederer (The Presidents of the United States of America), Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) and Kelly Van Camp (The Dusty 45s).

There were just a few other people in the dark in the theater, along the wall and near the sound system.  I moved fairly close along the wall and tried to be unobtrusive as I snapped a few pictures on low light setting with the flash off.  Towards the soundcheck, Mike asked, “Where’s Emi?”, who someone finally found.  Emi (Emily) was one of the Rock School students who they needed to soundcheck Little Wing as she was doing the lead vocals.

Then after a little time for a sound check for the students and checking technical equipment (all done by students as well), it was time for the Rock School students.


Irene Muller was first up, with an acoustic guitar.  I was impressed both by her song writing abilities and her poise.  I remember one about riding buses and the people you meet.  Then there was one she wrote, on the way there(!), about a boy she broke up with.  She kept her cool, even while dealing with a heckler (well, a mock heckler, I suspect), a boy who wanted her to play some Yellowcard (she said she’d learn some by next time and look for him in the audience), then Long Time Gone, a song the Dixie Chicks had covered (she said she just didn’t know it well enough, you really wouldn’t want to hear it at this point).


The next act was also acoustic, Magnolia Way, two girls who harmonized together beautifully.  They did, I believe, a mix of their own songs and covers (doing the Long Time Gone song the boy had asked for). Emi joined them at one point, then more young musicians came out and they transformed into Los Pantalones.


Okay, am I getting old, or are the drummers getting younger?


It wasn’t just a gimmick.  He was really great!  They really rocked out.  At one point, the older boy took over on lead vocals.  I believe the song’s name was “Lauren”, he said, “It’s about a girl.”

By the time Los Pantalones left the stage, the room was getting pretty packed.  Must be time for Bison. . .


They started out with “(She’s a)Witch” by The Sonics (with Dederer taking the lead).  Then it was time for Mike, with Jimi’s version of “All Along the Watchtower”.  Then Duff was up front for Iggy Pop & The Stooges “I Want to be Your Dog.”  Then they brought up Emi to sing lead on “Little Wing,”  with Mike playing his stinging lead guitar.

Emi’s smile when she finished.

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She really held her own, as you can see from the video her friend YouTubed:

Just a little nervous, but how many teens get to make a debut with a rock star supergroup?

Next up was the auction.

There were autographed guitars:

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They had groovy artwork:


They had smashed guitar artwork:

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By Camille Bloom of Camille Bloom and the Recovery (I’m thinking maybe before the recovery?)

All created by the musicians and students earlier that day. All going for hundreds, sometimes over $1000.

No, I’m afraid I couldn’t afford anything!

Next up was Camille Bloom and The Recovery. Camille was one of the Rock School teachers, so not surprisingly, she and her band rock too!


I really like their sound, and great lyrics as well.

Here’s a clip from a previous show on YouTube:

That pretty much wrapped up the evening for me.  I didn’t stay for much of the hip hop that followed.  I felt bad, but then again, it is a generational thing.  The kids really crowded the stage (and many of them were just sitting for Mike and the others in Bison

Hey, what do you want?  I think I’m even older (but just by a few years) than all the “really old guys” as one of the Bison members (I think it was Dederer) put it in thanking Emily for coming up and singing with them.

But I have seen the future of rock and roll (and I’m glad there is a future).  It’s going to be a few years yet before any of them sign away their life on the hood of a parked car.  At Dick’s Drive In, perhaps, unless they go veg.  This is, after all, Seattle!

Check out my Skiffle photo album on Flickr:

Note: I’m not the best photographer in the world.  That’s why I used one of my friend JoJo’s photos for the header of my newly re-designed blog!


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