As any Nashvillian will tell you, the Rock Block is that stretch of Elliston Place that's home to Exit/In and The End. But this weekend, the local nonprofit Youth Empowerment Through Arts and Humanities will do its best to challenge the notion that there can only be one, transforming a stretch of Gallatin Pike into the East Side's answer to the Rock Block — for one day, at least. From noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, YEAH! will take over the lot behind B-Side Salon for a fundraising party to support their programs.
YEAH! began with the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp — the annual gathering of girls ages 10-17 who, among other things, form bands and play their first show together in the space of a single week. What began as an overtly feminist response to the largely male-dominated world of rock bands has since grown into a larger mission, with YEAH! forming the umbrella organization that oversees SGRRC, coed teen rock camps in Nashville, Murfreesboro and Brooklyn, and the shorter year-round music-education sessions known as — go figure — Rock Blocks.
A lot has changed since founder Kelley Anderson put together the first Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp as a college student. As Olivia Scibelli, the event coordinator for this weekend's YEAH! fundraiser, puts it, "Women are way more involved in music than they were even 10 years ago. ... It's so much more the norm." So she thinks the progression into a wider range of programs is a natural one. (YEAH! also recently formed a partnership with the Martha O'Bryan Center, offering a weekly Rock Block there — hence the choice of East Nashville for this event.)
Scibelli has been a volunteer at Tennessee Teens Rock Camp since it started in 2010. "You can get little boys and little girls together and from the very beginning, it's natural for them to all just be together," she says. "And be on the same team. Little girls shredding on the guitar just like little boys, and they don't even think twice about it."
But it's not like women don't still face obstacles and gender-based criticisms that their male peers are spared, even if the climate has improved. So while YEAH!'s programming has gone coed, the girls' camp will still convene this July as it has for the past 12 years.
"An all-female environment is always going to be really special and necessary," Scibelli says. She calls SGRRC "a place for young women to go and feel empowered," and she says the special kind of space it provides can help girls build the confidence "to also do something like the coed camp or form their own bands with their guy friends." She adds that it's fairly common now for girls who start out at SGRRC to use the experience as a jumping-off point for attending the coed camps — and for some, an all-female setting helps them overcome their initial uncertainty a little easier or faster. The camps complement, rather than compete.
"They're sister camps," Scibelli says, "and that's very important."
As for this weekend's party, it looks to be a good one, including sets by ascendant indie rockers Bully, power sibling outfit Jawws — including two former campers who were partly the inspiration for mom Cortney Tidwell's album Boys — and two groups composed of current teen rock campers: Roviet Sussia and 3rd Generation. The nearby Hop Stop will be serving up a special Rock 'n' Roll Hot Dog, proceeds from which will go to YEAH!, and Mickey's Tavern will contribute similarly with a drink special. Later in the evening, Cult Fiction Underground will host a beneficial screening of Detroit Rock City. Throughout the day, kids can sign up for any of the upcoming camps — Tennessee Teens Rock Camp, which runs June 9-13 in Murfreesboro and July 14-18 in Nashville, and the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp, July 21-26 in Murfreesboro — between getting their faces painted, taking photos in the booth or checking out the bands. Anyone interested can also sign up to volunteer or lend equipment. Do it for the kids!
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