by: Lisa Keaton
For those of you who have wandered down to the Ninth Street area, underneath the [Durham old faithful] Cosmic Cantina late on a Friday or Saturday night, you may have heard a variety of live music sounds emanating from the open doorway of the one and only Crazy Camp Music Park. Following in the footsteps of what older denizens will remember as The Lounge (a similar outfit), the premise of this establishment is that anyone can play any of the instruments that they provide – including its full drum kit with Plexiglas surround – in any form of collaborative mayhem that may be afforded by other musicians in attendance on a given night.
Currently, Crazy Camp, which is quite literally modeled after a playground – replete with a teepee and swings crudely cut out of lightly-whittled logs, and even at that a mostly open area of space atop a slate-stone floor– is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings. Although, rumor has it those business days are soon to be expanded, and perhaps the ambiance will be shifting somewhat too …
But, for now, the deal is that a live recording occurs once patrons begin playing, and there is a whiteboard upon which musicians can indicate their stop and start times, their playmates, mantras to rock and live by, etc. Often, one will not know the musician playing next to them, or they may leave before getting a chance to introduce themselves, so this board can prove to be quite informative. After the evening has ended, a URL link can be visited with the entire night’s soundscapes, so that anyone who likes can hear the impromptu creations again. Note, Crazy Camp has a full bar until 2am and is open until 4am, so those impromptu creations can get pretty wild….
As a singer-turned-thespian performer, who herself has been primarily trained in site-specific performance art, I appreciate Crazy Camp for being the very thing it purports to be: a free-for-all playground. I have never felt so free to get up and just do whatever, with no holds barred and no repercussions, as I do in this space. And I appreciate it all the more so for being the exact same space for someone who considers themselves a non-artist, the person who might wander in off of the sidewalk on a whim, the Duke student, or so many other demographics with a song in their heart.
Which is why, I might add, I had more than one jawbone to pick when Dave, who runs the bar most nights, showed me the floor plans of some soon-to-be-unfolding renovations that are slated for late Fall of this year. Without giving away too much too soon, suffice it to say that the place will become cozier for those patrons who might otherwise be unsettled or uncomfortable with so much freedom and such a lack of ground rules. While management of the Camp is still pleased as punch with a laissez-faire attitude being created by the space itself, the goal for the next quarter is to make it more of a sit-down and listen space. At first I protested this idea, thinking that as soon as butts rest more comfortably in booths, the impulse to get up and let the crying artist inside out to run and play might be muted to a great degree. However, I relaxed once I found out that the plan is to have more nights a week open for formal acts to be booked, and that these open jam sessions I am so fond of will simply be reserved to one or two of those nights.
I guess I am so fond of these open forums for freedom of speech because pretty much anything can happen and does happen. All manner of music is called upon, referenced, created. Sometimes it’s a strange new twist on a forgotten jazz standard, sometimes it’s a new emcee spitting amazing word-scrambles, sometimes it’s something mildly musical and utterly unintelligible – and I would argue that Durham and every city needs a space to let all that stuff out. Crazy Camp makes this space available and welcoming for anyone. There are no rules for how to jump in, or about who gets to play for how long. Even in the act of trying to add something of yourself for just two minutes, there is a performativity aspect that can only be – and must be – negotiated by each individual in their own way, according to the unruly spirit of whatever moment is already happening.
I recently took a new Durhamite, in fact, a Cuban native & professional jazz drummer, to visit this space and asked him what he thought Crazy Camp has to offer Durham.
Alejandro Enriquez Tarride responded
Freedom to people who need freedom expressing themselves with noise and music…
And when I asked him if he thought it was a good place for musicians to go to, even experienced ones who have been traveling all over the world like himself, he responded, “I think….it’s good for them to play with people who are not like that. Because maybe they have to listen to something and do it a little different. And in doing that, maybe they come to know where they are, if they are interested to know where others are at.”
So come check out Crazy Camp, if you haven’t yet! Let your artistic spirit wander for a while! And see where it’s at…
::AND DON’T FORGET!:: DURTY DURHAM’s Amazing one-of-a kind Music Festival– Jamnesia 2014 is coming your way, October 4th! Check out Jamnesiafest.com for the lineup and ticketing/camping information. Tickets are cheaper on-line than they will be at the gate. If you are interested in volunteering at DURTY’s 6th annual Jamnesia Music Festival, check out the Contact Us tab for a fillable application form.