Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Hour With Roger Day (Give Or Take a Few Minutes)

Does a grandfather count?

That's what I was thinking, selfishly, as the Roger Day concert started at the Great Neck Library earlier today. As the parade of children entered the family room and sat on the mat in front of the stage, I became very self-conscious as the only male parent accompanying a child. Except for one elderly gentleman, clearly there with his (one would hope) grandchild.

Roger Day at the Great Neck Library
In the end, it didn't matter. As an alternate question, Why Does Grey Matter is the name of Roger's fourth CD.  And a highlight of his set was a performance of "Sarah Bellum, The Brainy Girl," which featured augmentation from a pre-recorded track so Roger could walk through and dance with children in the audience.

We first became acquainted with Roger Day six years ago, when one of his songs ("It's a No-No to Kiss a Rhino") was played on the Spare the Rock (music for kids) podcast. Although based in Tennessee, Roger did perform concerts around the country. When we learned that he was playing in Roslyn - perhaps 20 minutes from our house - we didn't let a thing like restricted tickets stand in the way. My wife had a friend who grew up in Roslyn and her parents still lived there. On her next visit, the friend used her library card (still valid) and picked up three tickets. And Roger was surprised when I introduced myself - it's always nice to have fans in a new venue.

Roger leads a sing-along
It was another two years before Roger Day made his way back to the east coast. And it was unfortunately during a week that we had a pre-planned vaction out of state. The same thing happened when he returned on his next swing through New York. The years were slipping away (sob) and Ben was aging out of the children's music demographic. The timetable was getting appreciably shorter.

Then we saw the 2012 schedule for August and noticed the East Coast venues - one was in Great Neck - the library down the road from where I used to live, the library I had worked at while in high school. The library that housed Levels, the youth center I'd spend many hours from high school through the first few years of college.

And the best part? The concert swing occurred during the first week of Ben's summer break (between camp and school). And with a toddler in our midst, we were on hiatus from any out-of-state travels. Everything had come together almost perfectly - except for that restricted ticket thing again.

Luckily, I had a "connection" who will not be named. He (or she) would get the tickets for us. There was just one thing that couldn't be expected - a summer cold for Matt, which drive his temperature up to 102.4. That meant he would not be making the trip and neither would his mother. Ben and I went stag to the show.

Ben with Roger Day
And that was where I found myself - surrounded by mothers and children of all ages, while Justin from the library introduced us to "Roger Day's Big Dream" (it's Dream Big, Justin).

Right before the show, we re-introduced ourselves to Roger and Ben. Since we'd been listening to "Why Does Grey Matter" on the way to the library, Ben started to list a few of his favorite songs from the CD. Roger nodded that he would be singing "Sarah Bellum," but made no comment about "Inside My Cranium," another suggestion.

The show itself was entertaining. Roger has been doing his set long enough that it's well-paced and keeps the kids' attention. And they sing along and respond to the prompts to clap and roar. Needless to say, Ben did not look out of place, even with his height amongst the youngsters.

Starting with the title track of his third CD ("Dream Big"), Roger worked through his repetorie, singing "It's a No-No..." as well as "Zachary Hated Bumblebees," "I Like Yaks!," "Roly Poly," and "Mosquito Burrito" (see the video below). The kids ate it up.

Knowing that touring musicians need to sell merch to perpetuate their craft, I cringed when half the audience skipped for the exit after the next-to-last number, right before Roger made his sales pitch. This was why, I realized, Milkshake gave their spiel after their FIRST song when they performed.

We waited after the show to speak with Roger. Ben was remarkably patient as several little kids got autographs on ripped pieces of paper. We welcomed him to Long Island (and New York) and talked about some of the life changes we had been through since our last encounter in Roslyn. And Ben got a special moment when Roger took his guitar and the two of them performed an acoustic duet on "Inside My Cranium." Ben had a wide grin, evident in the picture of them that I took a moment later.

We'll look for the next set of concerts that bring Roger Day to the East Coast. And even as Ben "ages out" of the demographic, his younger brother is just entering it. So he'll no doubt be happy to share his collection and his musical memories with his little protege. And so will we.

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