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Cabin fever: Freefall targets young fans by rocking summer camps
By Jed Gottlieb
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Leave it to a couple of Harvard kids to discover rock’s last virgin market:summer camps.
     This summer Cambridge-based band Freefall will play 34 shows to thousands of pop culture-deprived kids at summer camps from Wisconsin to Maine.
    As Harvard freshman roommates last year, Freefall’s guitarists/vocalists Sam Lissner and Kevin Bombino hatched the plan as a great way to make a little money while honing their musical chops. Last summer the two, along with Lissner’s high school friend Neil Hartmann on drums, brought their highly commercial power pop to four camps. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. The kids screamed and danced and mobbed them for autographs. Camp directors wanted them back.
    “We put together a show that’s not offensive and is age-appropriate and high-energy,” Lissner said. “It’s mostly our original music with a few popular covers. It’s exactly what kids and camp directors want.”
    From the beginning, Lissner and Bombino have been Ivy League smart. In late 2005, they hooked up with Berklee bassist Ben Feltner to round out their sound. In March, they got a booth at the American Camping Association Convention, where they connected with dozens of camp directors and even picked up a sponsor, Simply the Best Inflatables, which is underwriting most of the tour costs.
    To further help Freefall maximize its profits, camps are often putting the band up after the shows.
    But that’s only the beginning of this outfit’s brains. Now they’re in the process of sending every camp an advance copy of their new CD to play during meals and activities, so the kids can get to know the Freefall sound before the show. And there are the 200 T-shirts and 1,000 CDs the band is bringing along to feed the always merch-hungry adolescents.
    “In terms of what most unsigned rock bands have to put up with, this tour will be incredibly lucrative,” Lissner said. “We’re not going to get rich, but we’ll make a little money and we’ll have the experience of playing before 20,000 people.”
    “Playing one of these shows will be infinitely more valuable than, say, an Abbey Lounge show, because there will actually be a captive audience,” Bombino added. “We’re not going to be ignored.”
    With no parents for miles and their first taste of live rock - or at least live pop - it’s no doubt that campers will be adding Freefall as their MySpace friends as soon as they get home. But all the new fans could damage Freefall’s budding reputation with college students. The band doesn’t want to be known as just kid stuff.
    “I’m very worried about that,” Bombino said.“But we can combat that with club shows.”
    Two key summer gigs for Freefall will be a July 16 date at New York’s Knitting Factory and an Aug. 8 show at the Middle East in Cambridge. It’s in front of small, skeptical crowds of knowledgeable, not newbie, fans that the band knows it needs to succeed.
    But before piling into a van and heading off for their first 2006 camp show at Camp Chi in Lake Delton, Wis., they’re staying focused on a summer of free Kool-Aid, cheering Girl Scouts and mosquito bites.


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bh.heraldinteractive.com: 0.031215:Tue, 13 Jun 2006 23:39:29 GMT