Credit: Andrea Bauer

Girls Rock! Chicago End-of-Camp Extravaganzas

You may not think the Girls Rock! Chicago camps have anything to offer you if you’re not a girl between the ages of 8 and 16—even if you do agree that it’s great to help girls develop “creative expression, positive self-esteem and community awareness through rock music.” This can only mean, though, that you’ve never been to a Girls Rock! End-of-Camp Extravaganza. On a summer weekend afternoon, all the camper bands—many with mind-breaking kid-genius names like Contagious Love (of Chicken and Potatoes), Day Beard Knife, and Time’s Up, Tuna—take turns onstage at a hallowed Chicago rock club, each one playing the song they’ve written that week in front of a deliriously supportive crowd of kids and grown-ups. Levels of competence vary wildly; some of these girls first picked up an instrument less than a week ago, and during the five days of camp they’ve had maybe ten hours to work on their songs. But the enthusiasm in the room is consistently off the charts. The whole thing gives off so many good vibes your face will hurt from smiling. If you can leave a Girls Rock! End-of-Camp Extravaganza without wanting to start a band (assuming you’re not in one already), then I’m sorry, you’re probably a robot.

This year’s first Girls Rock! camp is under way right now, and wraps up with an afternoon show featuring 18 camper bands on June 26 at Metro; the second session ends with an extravaganza on August 6 at Bottom Lounge. The Ladies Rock camp, which doubles as a fund-raiser for the girls’ camps, runs July 22-24 this year, with a similar showcase concert at Schubas on July 24. It’s open to women 19 and over, and there are still slots open.

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.