Where the girls run the show

Posted: July 21st, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Features, Music, Top Story | No Comments

By Joyell Nevins

Local lesbian musician helps mentor girls in the ways of rock n roll

S-A-N Diego, wuh oh!
Where the rock meets the roll
S-A-N Diego, wuh oh!
Where the girls run the show

Laura Payne, shown here performing with Rhythm and the Method at South Bay Pride, will teach girls bass at the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls. (Photo by Traci Smith)

Damn right. As a girl, I might be slightly biased. As an aunt, though, and a member of society, I am justifiably ecstatic by the presence of a “Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls” in San Diego, of which the above is part of their theme song. Melissa Grove and her dedicated team of volunteers — including local musician and proud LGBT activist Laura Payne — have taken a concept started by Girls Rock Camp Alliance and made it thrive in San Diego.

Forty girls from the ages of 8 to 17 come to the camp for one week. With the help of band coaches, mentors, and “roadies” (camp support team), they get an instrument, form a band, get a name, a logo, and a song. Then they get to perform that song live on stage at the House of Blues at the end of camp.

Seeing the power of music and how it moves and changes the girls is one of the reasons Payne signed up.

“I started learning music at age 7 and found it to really fill my heart and soul like nothing else,” Payne said. “I was a shy kid, so music was my preferred way to express myself. To this day, I simply could not live without it in my life.”

Payne continues to use music to express herself emotionally, socially and even politically. She plays bass with the newly formed protest song cover band, The Resizters, whose mission is to #Resizt hate, intolerance, ignorance and greed; who recently played a gig for the San Diego Area Chapter of NOW; and performed to a rousing crowd at San Diego Pride’s SheFest on July 8.

In addition to The Resizters, Payne also jams with indie-rock band Ingenue, rock and blues Rhythm and the Method, and the swing jazz Big Band Ambassadors.

Each of the groups Payne plays bass with has a mission behind their music, just like the rockers at Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.

Payne on stage at House of Blues (Photo by Stray Shots – Frank Rodrick)

The woman behind the camp insists it’s more than simply teaching chords and stage presence.

“I am a dream pusher,” Grove explained.

Because while music is the vehicle — and what a rockin’ vehicle it is — the point that Grove and the other volunteers are driving home is one of strength and confidence.

“This is an empowerment camp using music as a structure,” Grove said. “I want to show the girls that anything is possible.”

The camp also includes workshops about self-defense, image and identity, and even a female music course called “Herstory.”

Payne, who volunteers as a bass instructor, said she is grateful that her employer, Live Nation Entertainment, also sees the value of the camp, and gave her time off to mentor the girls.

“I was fortunate to hear and see a few female-fronted bands like Suzi Quattro Heart and Joan Jett when I was young which inspired me to learn, play and grow as a female artist,” she said. “Knowing how powerful this type of inspiration can be, I’d like to pay that forward to the next generation of female musicians as best I can.”

Check out the song titles from last year — bands such as Funky Munkies, The Flaming Pop Rocks Sunset and Xtreme 5 wrote songs like “Stay Strong,” “Capable,” “Superheroes,” and “Take a Chance.”

In “Stay Strong,” the lead sings, “They push you down, I get back up. They do it again, I fight for the love. I will stay strong. Even when it’s tough, I get back up. I know who I am, without a doubt. Baby, make the sun come out.”

“Take a Chance” has now been adopted as one of the band members’ fight songs, with lyrics like, “I want to be who I am, don’t want to be afraid” and “I am unbreakable, nothing can get on my mind.”

Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls’ band, Strange November (l to r) Sydney Palmer, drums; Charlotte Coppo, electric guitar; Audri Castelli, electric bass guitar; Parys Townsend, vocals (Photo by Sharisse Coulter)

One camper’s mother, Melissa Mitchell, blogged about her daughter’s transformation over the week:

For her to go all day — all those days — without being sick, anxious or having to call mom was a true miracle … Friday night, after the last day, I took her to dinner. She told me she got to write her own fight song. She told me she’s brave now. She’s strong now. She won’t be scared of school now, and if she is, she knows she can get through it.

That metamorphosis is what first gave Grove the drive to found San Diego’s Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls. The aunt of seven and great-aunty of 12 growing girls took part in a “Ladies Camp” version up in Los Angeles, hosted by her friends in the band Raining Jane.

“I walked in there, never having played more than three notes in my life,” Grove said. “I was all uncomfortable and insecure, but by [the end] I’m on stage rocking those three notes in an original song in front of 200 people. It was transformational.”

She came back to San Diego and for several years kept bringing up the idea of a camp here to her friends who work in nonprofit — Grove herself works in the marketing and nonprofit field. Finally, those same friends turned it back on Grove.

“They said, ‘who’s going to start a San Diego version? Why, you are!’” Grove recalled.

Once Grove made the decision to go for it, people came out of the woodwork to help, including parents, both mothers and fathers, friends, family — and the support she’s received has been “overwhelming.”

Payne was connected through fellow musician Veronica May, who actually helped write the theme song. Grove had recruited May and other local musicians Megan Combs, Jessica Bell, and Angela Trone to come up with a camp anthem. The women spent two days in a room to create something remarkable — and they did it without catfights or egos.

“That [session] set the tone for the camp,” Grove said. “There’s really no room for drama in this camp. We learn to be advocates for ourselves and advocates for each other.”

Camp is ready to rock and roll next week. The public is welcome to cheer the campers on at the Rock n’ Roll Camp Showcase at noon on Saturday, July 29, at the House of Blues, located at 1055 Fifth Ave., Downtown.

For tickets or more information, visit or email Go to the “Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls San Diego” YouTube channel for performances from last year’s camp.

—Joyell Nevins is a local freelance writer. Reach her at or find her blog Small World, Big God at

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