After a year away, Rock Camp returns to Houghton

HOUGHTON — It’s good to be back.

After a one-year layoff, PJ Olsson’s Rock Camp has returned, with local youths spending two weeks rehearsing for the big concert 7 p.m. Saturday at the Rozsa Center.

Twenty musicians are part of this year’s camp, most of them returnees, said Olsson, creative director for the camp.

“You really get to know these kids very well over the years,” he said. “Some of these kids we’ve worked with for eight years, and we’re a part of eight years of their life that meant a lot to them.”

With a veteran core, the campers got the ball rolling early, Olsson said. Wednesday afternoon, the bands were about to rehearse their grand finale for the first time.

Megan Happel is in her fifth year in the camp, which she compared to a family.

“It was kind of tough last year not being able to do it and not being able to see all these kids play music together,” she said. “But we came back after the year of break and we’re all playing together again.”

Her band is covering The Clash, AC/DC, Billie Eilish and a mashup of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and Rose Royce’s “Car Wash.”

Maddie Longpre-Harrer, in her third year, likes being in a place where everyone has the same passion for music.

“This camp, for me, is something I look forward to year-round,” she said. “… I get to come back here, meet up with friends who are far away, reconnect with everyone and just jam.”

Her band shares a love of classic rock, reflected in their choice of covers: Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, Dio and Queen.

She credits the camp with helping her come out of her shell.

“I was very shy growing up, and then I came here,” she said. “After my first year, I came back and I was like ‘I got this.’ It gave me a new confidence.”

Asked why people should come out Saturday Happel said, “Because we rock.”

“It’s really cool seeing such young kids get together and put on such a professional show,” she said. “So it’s kind of a novelty, almost.”