Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 1, 2014

I Must Be a Genius – Dog On Fleas
First Day of School – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
The Best Parts – Eric Herman
Midnight Memories – One Direction
Liza Jane – Jr. Madness
Every Day At This Time It Rains – Django Jones
All Together Now – Caspar Babypants
Tacky – Weird Al Yankovic
Manatee – The Whizpops!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 31, 2014

DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Dance 'Til I Drop – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Everybody Talks – Neon Trees
Smallest Breed – Django Jones
We Are All One Kind – Jambo
Are We There Yet? – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
NOW That's What I Call Polka! – Weird Al Yankovic
Coral Reef  – The Whizpops!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tonight – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Shine – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Robots From The 4th Dimension – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Sunflower – Josh And The Jamtones
Jump Right In – The Twigs
Hipster In The Making – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Word Crimes – Weird Al Yankovic
If I Could Fly – Riff Rockit

Whizpops Wave at the Ocean from Montana

Concept albums are hard to pull off. Most often kindie musicians feel the need to stretch their points to the extreme. This may stem from the fact that a great number of them arrived from the teaching ranks. It's just in their nature.

And nature is the theme of the Whizpops' third CD, SEA BLUE SEA. With two elementary school teachers and a biologist (!) in their lineup, the Montana-based group takes an aquatic trek beneath the waves to introduce the ocean and its denizens. The calypso beat of "Octopus" contains a jaunty, tongue-tying rap:

I'm an octopus and I'm a funky cephalopod
If I lose an arm I'll grow it back right where it was on my bod.
My pigment cells are there to change my skin with camouflage.
If a moray eel comes, I'm as elusive as a mirage.

"Manatee" sounds like a bonus track from Recess Monkey's 2013 release, DESERT ISLAND DISC. Not bad company to be in. "Dolphin Disco (Super Pod Party)" pleads with organizations like SeaWorld to let sea life swim free. "Manta Ray" has a Jack Johnson acoustic vibe. "Sea Turtle" features Margi Cates and girl group harmonies. "Coral Reef" delves into the dilemma of pollution with horns and rap lyrics. Paging Mista Cookie Jar or Secret Agent 23 Skidoo for an all-too-obvious guest spot. I guess they don't traveling that far in the direction of the northeast.

The Whizpops prove that the kindie attitude is alive and well, even in places that we don't hear from all too often. Who would have ever thought that we'd get an album of ecological enthusiasm from Missoula, Montana? It's tough to ace a concept album, especially when your topic isn't native to your environment. But the Whizpops care about kids and the SEA BLUE SEA shows they care about protecting the underwater world for generations of kids to come.

SEA BLUE SEA is available Tuesday, August 19 from the Whizpops website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video from the Whizpops' tune, "The Owl Song":

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why I Love The Seasons – Jon Samson
In The Group – Tom Chapin
Bigga Bagga – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
My Secret Robot – Justin Roberts
No School Today – Danny Weinkauf
Banana Pudding – Sugar Free Allstars
Upside Down – Ratboy Jr.
Backyard – Riff Rockit
Foil – Weird Al Yankovic

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 28, 2014

Peaceful – Cat Doorman
Garbage Bugs – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Music – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
My Sister Kissed Her Boyfriend – Trout Fishing In America
Continental Geography – Astrograss
Give Me Back My Hat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
New Shoes – Riff Rockit
Handy – Weird Al Yankovic

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 25, 2014

Life Is Better With You – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Future Days – Pearl Jam
Marsupial – Danny Weinkauf
We Can't Stop – Miley Cyrus
Always On The Run – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
I'll Be An Alien  – Justin Roberts
Tomorrow's People – Brady Rymer
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones
I've Got a Tiger By the Tail – Buck Owens and His Buckaroos

Riff Rockit: Bon Juvy For Kids

Sometimes it takes a real kick in the ass to want to make kick-ass music, especially for kids (where you have to call it kick-butt music).

Riff Rockit (aka Evan Michael) hit that life milestone as a teenager, overcoming childhood leukemia. Two battles with cancer took their toll, but also instilled dual missions – entertain and inspire kids and their families, as well as raise money for charities such as BeTheMatch, whose mission is to deliver cures for blood cancers.

His alter ego, Riff Rockit, engages younger audiences. Call him Bon Juvy (Juvenile). His stage show involves a puppet-playing band. Yes, you heard me correctly. Riff's new CD, IF I COULD FLY, is full-throttled hair-metal for the post-diaper set. Do I really need to tell you what "Backyard" or "Food Groups" are about? Although "Mr. Tux" requires a little explanation, since it's a boy-band tune about a black-and-white California kitten.

Continuing the dual theme, the title track is ostensibly about a boy recalling his first airplane trip and wishing he had wings. But knowing Michael's medical history, one can also wonder if IF I COULD FLY is his way of looking back to a time when he felt detached from his body, imagining a time when he could become more than his physical limitations. He spent significant time in isolation in the hospital, building back his immune system. Who wouldn't picture themselves taking flight to get far away from those conditions?

If you know hard rock, you know how the album sounds. If you know children's music, then you know that "Birthday" is a poppy celebration song and "Wintertime" is a snuggle by the fire ballad. There's an honest earnestness to what Evan Michael (and producer Bob St. John) put into Riff Rockit.

Did I mention that all proceeds from IF I COULD FLY are being donated to BeTheMatch? Or that free downloads of the album will be available if you make a voluntary donation to BeTheMatch? Or that his website has links to a half-dozen cancer charities? That's something that Bon Jovi has in common with Riff Rockit. [Bon Jovi is involved in a number of charities–Ed.]

IF I COULD FLY is available July 29 from Riff's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for Riff's song, "Pearly Whites":

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wake Up – The Neville Brothers
Me Time – Chibi Kodama
No, No, No – The Little Rockers Band
Closer To You – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Braces – Recess Monkey
Only Girl (In The World) – Rihanna
Mystery – Dean Jones
I Got This! – Princess Katie & Racer Steve

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Shot Reverse Shot – Jack Johnson
Stop Your Sobbing – Stacey Peasley
Dancing Bear – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Roar – Katy Perry
No Homework – The Bazillions
Slow – Trout Fishing In America
3 Pointed Back – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones
Prairie Boy – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Time to Dream – Randy Kaplan
Mr Wolf – The Short Films
I'm a Shark (I Rock, I Swim) – ScribbleMonster
Me and My Brand New Haircut – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Early Days – Paul McCartney
Lighter Feathers – Dean Jones
Be a Little Angel – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 21, 2014

Wander 'Round the World – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
It's Not Fair to Me – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Caught in the Screen – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Tambourine Submarine – Recess Monkey
Here Comes the Summer – Ponds & Fleshman
I Love the Rain – The Real Tuesday Weld
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
My My My – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Charms of Mista Cookie Jar's Three-Song EP

When you're only given three songs, you have to wonder "is the cookie jar half-full or half-empty"? But when the performer is Mista Cookie Jar (otherwise known in civilian life as C.J. Pizarro), you become an eternal optimist.

In addition to becoming the "go-to" rap guest star for other artists (see Joanie Leeds and Jazzy Ash), Mr. Jar has chosen to release a summer EP entitled 3's A CHARM. It's just that – three charming songs that can serve as an entree for newcomers or a time-filler until the next full CD.

"My My My" begins with the plaintive refrain, "My little child won't you stay young forever" and continues in that vein with horns and twinkling keyboards. With the accompanying vocals by 13-year-old Ava Flava, I was reminded immediately of the recorded rapport between Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and his daughter, Saki.

"Be a Little Angel" stays in that groove, asking kids to be happy. "Prairie Boy" is a story-song of a child "all alone on the prairie" but at peace with his life and in harmony with nature.

It's tough to criticize three songs. Perhaps that was Mr. Jar's motive – give the critic just enough to like, but not enough to find anything worth deconstructing. If that was his ulterior goal, than kudos! In the meantime, Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips are worth 10 minutes of your kid's time. Perhaps you'll be charmed as well.

3'S A CHARM is available on July 22 from Mista Cookie Jar's website, CDBABY, iTunes, and Amazon.

Here is a video for Mista Cookie Jar's new song, "My My My":

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 18, 2014

Delicious – Orange Sherbert
Look, Think, Guess, Know – Tom Chapin
Little Blimp – The Joy Formidable
The Flying Fox – Davy Andrews
Here Comes Peter Cottontail – The Hipwaders
Thinking Good Thoughts – Dog On Fleas
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
Breakfast – Ratboy Jr.
Domino Town – Dean Jones
Fancy (feat. Charli XCX) – Iggy Azalea

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lose My Mind – The Wanted
Anybody Got A Watch? – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Kangaroo! – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Blink Of An Eye – Frances England
The Bicycle Song – Eric Herman
Together We Can Fly – Danny Weinkauf
Little Cloud (Featuring Rachel Loshak) – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Snaggletooth – Dean Jones
Sittin On A Cloud – The Whirlygigs

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Size Of The Problem – Tom Chapin
Bananas (Plum Crazy)– Tangerine Tambourine
Duct Tape World– Recess Monkey
Danceology– The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Happy– Pharrell Williams
My Daddy's Record Collection – Sugar Free Allstars
If Red Tastes Like Strawberry – The Whirlygigs
Odd Socks – Dean Jones

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Effervescing Elephant – Cat Doorman
When You're Smiling – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Stand With Me – Dean Jones
Pendulum – Pearl Jam
Robots Can't Cry – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Gravy Stain – Mr. Saxophone
Thingamajig – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Lucky Penny – The Whirlygigs
Be a Mime – Eric Herman

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Day – Stacey Peasley
Rock Melon – Gustafer Yellowgold
Sisters and Brothers – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
You Can Do This – Hullabaloo
Show Me What You're Feeling – Tom Chapin
Big Green Party Machine – David Heatley
So Funny I Forgot to Laugh – Randy Kaplan
Batteries Not Included – Recess Monkey
Lookin Out The Window – The Whirlygigs

Friday, July 11, 2014

WhirlyGigs' One Man Band Has Simple Charms

I've lost count of how many bios I've read for children's music that start out: "I've always loved music but when my son/daughter was born, I channeled everything into them."

What usually follows is a lullaby CD or a bunch of simply command songs. However Keith Wasserman (aka The Whirlygigs) had the decency to wait before releasing his CD, GREETINGS FROM CLOUD 9. His daughter Lila is now five, which means Keith can tether his prodigious musical skills with subtlety and depth, producing a disc that could easily be mistaken for easy listening or soft jazz. Yes, a backhanded compliment.

Ably produced by maestro Dean Jones (Dog on Fleas), Keith's songs cover the standard healthy living/love thy family/let's have fun checklist. But he takes a left turn and steers away from expectations. "Don't Ask Me Why" is a jaunty singalong responding to a bevy of confounding queries such as "Why do I like multigrain bread?"

"Gingerbread Man" has both tuba and Halloween feel, "Arithmetic Blues" is a rumbling modern lament about having to learn new things as school, and "Every Day in Every Way" revels in how parents envelops and provide a child with the love they need, no matter where they are or what they're doing.

Wasserman's music can be slotted somewhere between Dog on Fleas and singer/songwriters such as Randy Kaplan. There's less of the storyteller element than Randy usually delivers on his CDs, but a similar, distinctive charm. Your very little ones will enjoy "Tickle Machine" and "Portobello Mushroom," even if they have no idea what the latter really is (yes, it's the punch-the-card healthy eating tune).

Keith is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help distribute his music. His CD is completed, you can grab it through the links below. But if you want to help him get to your neck of the woods for performances, or get his disc into the hands of discerning reviewers at quality publications (are there any of those left), click and check his info.

In the meantime, GREETINGS FROM CLOUD 9 is available through the WhirlyGigs website, CDBABY, iTunes, and Bandcamp.

Here is the video for their song, "Every Day in Every Way":

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 11, 2014

Dream a Little Dream of Me – Zee Avi
When You Wish Upon a Star – Gene Simmons
Change – Jack Johnson Feat. Ben Harper
Anytime At All – Caspar Babypants
Alligator – Paul McCartney
Apple Tree – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Ice Cream Girl – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
My Own Detective – Tom Chapin
Space Monkey – Davy Andrews
Now Let's Dance – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 10, 2014

Alive – Eric Herman
Shrimp – Recess Monkey
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
Copycat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Sirens – Pearl Jam
National Hiccup Day – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Alove Alliteration – Mr. Palindrome
Otis – Justin Roberts
Jam on Rye – Randy Kaplan
Beach House – The Good Ms Padgett
Electric Guitar – Laura Doherty

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Till the Sun Goes Down – Poochamungas
Electric Lady – Justin Timberlake
Raised by Trolls – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Cumbe – Crosspulse Percussion Ensemble
Speeding Motorcycle – The Pastels
Les Petits Poissons – The Good Ms Padgett
Mooshpie – The Whirlygigs
Hundredaires – Dog On Fleas

Padgett's Pageant of Pleasing Tunes

You know the difference between "family music" and "music for families"? Well, I do.

We've lived it. Lived both experiences. People who promote "family music" often say "in the spirit of..." or "reminiscent of..." Meanwhile, there's "music for families." And that's what I'm getting around to talking about with the Good Ms. Padgett and her new CD, IF WE MUST WE MUST.

With a background in preschool education, Anna Padgett is more interested in building a two-day conversation through her music, instead of delivering a message, like much of "family music." Her third collection, IF WE MUST WE MUST is titled after one of Mary Poppins' favorite phrases. The song becomes a chore mantra with the simple, repeated refrain throughout.

Padgett (and co-conspirator/producer Daniel Littleton of You Are My Flower) press a very gentle agenda with simple purposes. They can be silly ("Trees Don't Need Sippy Cups"), affectionate ("Mommy's Lips"), or scared ("No Such Thing as Monsters").

Padgett opens the disc with a cover of Jonathan Richman's "Get There Little Insect" and the rest of IF WE MUST WE MUST stays in his self-reflective groove straight through to the closing track, "Bedtime Castle":

I've got sheets and blankets and pillows with tassels.
And they're all piled up on my bedtime castle.
Sweet dreams are floating in the air. 
I've got bedtime stories in my head.
I can see stars from the tallest tower.
As my eyes grow heavy it's the sweetest hour.

Padgett is fiercely dedicated to her family as well, evidenced by her daughter Penelope's contributions. In addition to vocals, she and cousin Storey Littleton co-wrote "Dance Party Pizza Party." Partner Miggy Littleton plays a multitude of instruments on the CD and sister-in-(common?)-law Elizabeth Mitchell adds vocals.

The darkness stays far away from Brooklyn on IF WE MUST WE MUST. Sure there's a "Lollilpop Nightmare," but that's the extent of the trauma. Padgett would rather keep her music summery and accessible. The better to teach while not hammering home "family music." Her CD is for families. And that's the difference.

IF WE MUST WE MUST is available from Ms. Padgett's Bandcamp page, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of Ms. Padgett performing "Mommy's Lips":

Monday, July 07, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

H-U-L-L-A-B-A-L-O-O – Hullabaloo
Up Periscope – Recess Monkey
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
This Is How We Do – Katy Perry
Don't Touch My Stuff! – Trout Fishing In America
Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon) – Eric Herman
Bonsai – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Light of Love – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Luna Y Lucero – Sonia De Los Santos
Imagination – Shine and the Moonbeams

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 7, 2014

Getting A Sunburn – Recess Monkey
Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes – Kristin Andreassen
Turn! Turn! Turn! – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Otis Dooda Theme – David Heatley
Fortune Cookie – The Little Rockers Band
This Moment – Katy Perry
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Sunglasses  – The Que Pastas
I Love Music (feat. Wordsmith) – Rhymezwell
Me and My Brand New Haircut – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 4, 2014

You Got It On – Justin Timberlake
Sing To Me – Walter Martin
You Remind Me Of You – Jack Johnson
The Road To Gundagai – Band Of The South Australia Police
Take Your Kid To Work Day – Recess Monkey
A Million Ways to Play – Eric Herman
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! – Mr. Leebot
Brave – Sara Bareilles
Midnight Memories – One Direction
That's Just Us (Playing Rock-n-Roll) – Hullabaloo

Ben and Matt's Philadelphia Adventure (featuring KindieComm), Part 2

What do you do on a lazy Sunday? If you're a tourist and you're in Philadelphia, it would be wise to stay out of the expected temperatures in the high 80s. This was planned as our "down day," where the car would stay firmly parked in the garage and we stayed local.

Breakfast in the club lounge was equally crowded. Ben balked at saying hello to Justin Roberts but had no problem chowing down with Jason Didner and family, again on the couches. "Where's Joanie?" Ben asked at one point. "Maybe you'll see her at KindieComm," I said. The Didners were looking forward to the family concert. Jason spoke exuberantly about the conference and industry showcase. Apparently, it had been a rousing success.

I quietly assembled some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for us (my one cheap-travel tip for families). It's tough to find gluten-free choices at many venues and sure enough, although World Cafe Live is a great setup for music shows, the $10 buffet did not have enough options for the allergy-challenged. Nor did it need to, as we always come prepared.

After a quick swim, we headed out to World Cafe Live, a short walk from the hotel.

We arrived at the venue in plenty of time. Matt immediately perched on the floor with Andrea and I took a seat at a back table with Ben. The Didners arrived (or were already there). Their daughter took a seat next to Matt, waiting for the show to start.

Kids Corner host Kathy O'Connell welcomed everyone and introduced Sprout's TIm Kubart to the festivities. According to my wife, he is a favorite of our 10-month-old nephew, Jace.

First up were Trout Fishing in America. Keith Grimwood and Ezra Imlet have been making music for a long time. And they know how to do it right. Their brief set was a primer in making children's music look effortless and fun.

TFIA got a chance to drink some water and mop their brows, before returning to the stage to back up Justin Roberts. If you've never attended one of Justin's concerts, here's a tip – make sure you're in shape. Every other song has some sort of audience participation: hand claps, jumping, arm motions, etc. And if you're not dancing, you're singing along. His choruses tend to inspire an audience to want to join in.

I may mix up the next few artists, but you'll understand why.

Next up was Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. Ben has really enjoyed some of their songs and consistently chosen them for his playlists. He even chose their LISHY LOU CD for the car trip to Philly. However when I reviewed that disc, I had some issues with their choice of concept. It's basically a late '40s/early '50s kids radio program that is transitioning for television, with lots of goofy characters and silly puns. I just didn't "get" who they thought the audience was... I'm 51 and I never saw that kind of show. Younger parents (mid-30s) will have NO IDEA what it's about, unless they're huge old TV geeks. And little kids? They just wonder why Lucky and wife Alisha Gaddis are dressed in weird old-ish costumes. In other word, it's a period performance piece from a children's time machine.

I stressed that I felt the songs were the strongest part of the album and the sketches were the weakest. Once again, my opinion as a reviewer. And while Ben's playlists were initially re-tweeted when he chose their songs, that came screeching to a halt. In my mind, I manifested that this shutdown was in response to the nature of my review.

The following performer was Canada's own Jennifer Gasoi (a Grammy and Juno winner for children's music). We were not too familiar with Jennifer's material but the kids were delighted to have the introduction. This late in the program, it was lunchtime, so I broke out the sandwiches for everyone. We also bade farewell to the Didners, who skedaddled back to Jersey before Dan Zanes took the stage.

And herein lay my downfall. Turns out I've developed a peanut allergy in my advanced decriptitude. My stomach began to rumble and I broke out in a cold sweat. Hunger had cleared out some of the audience, who scattered to find food for their young 'uns. A few songs into Dan Zanes and friends, I took a bathroom break. Little did I know that the show was running ahead of schedule. My wife texted me, "Where are you?" By the time I exited to the lobby, people were making for the merch table to grab autographs before departing.

I shimmied between Dan Zanes and Kathy O'Connell and found my wife and kids. I knew my system was a time bomb, but out of professionalism and courtesy, we needed to do a round of goodbyes. Ben became recalcitrant and it took some coaxing, but he spoke with Ezra, Justin, Dan (who wished him a "mazel tov" on his recent bar mitzvah), and got a farewell hug and guitar pick from Joanie. My wife even spoke with Lucky and Lishy, to my relief.

The next hour is a bit of a blur. The kids watched my videos from the concert (and the Recess Monkey show) while I drank water and recuperated. Then we took a cab (iPhone in buttoned lower pants pocket) on a short 2-mile trek to the Please Touch Museum.The exhibits skew very young, but Ben needed some mental "time off" and Matt was excited to play with the faux cinder blocks and at the water table. I even got them on the last ride of the carousel.

After a failed attempt to walk from the museum back to the Zoo (a bad idea from the get-go), I called a taxi and we retreated back and waited for our ride. After some welcome A/C, dinner was at a Mexican restaurant. Our choices were limited – corn tacos were only available on one item, but it was a four-taco combo that we all shared. Sunday was almost over. The packing would soon begin, as we'd check out on Monday and leave Philly from the Franklin Institute. Boy could I use some sleep.

The kids would say that KindieComm was incredible. They got to see a bunch of artists from across the country (and our neighboring countries). The interacted in a one-on-one manner that most children don't get (for longer than 30 seconds after a show). My wife and I had some bonding time with other kindie-inclined adults. I met some people and got to match faces with email addresses. And I would do it again. Just not with a PB&J sandwich.

To be continued...

Ben and Matt's Excellent Adventure in Philly, Part 1

We're home! And to crib an oft-stolen line, "what a long, strange trip it's been."

But what family vacation isn't rife with at least a little tension, apprehension, misinterpretation, and euphoria?

Long story short, Kindiefest is gone. KindieComm is in. If the family was going to see a children's musical festival this year (well, other than Port Washington's emerging Kidstock), there was going to have to be a road trip.

Thanks to KindieComm, we even got a discounted hotel rate at the nearby Sheraton for two nights. But, the wife reasoned, why travel that far and only attend the family concert? The next thing I knew, I was planning three nights in Philadelphia and a fourth night stopover in Langhorne for a day at Sesame Place for the little brother.

Why was I planning the trip? Mostly because my wife was the lead organizer on Ben's bar mitzvah last month. Since that was an infinitely more challenging gig, I was content to fall back and book CityPass tickets and make advance reservations.

Now, you may very well ask, why didn't I attend the actual KindieComm children's independent music conference? After all, don't I review buckets of CDs every year? The simple answer is, I don't feel qualified. My goal is to applaud certain artists and critique others whose works I don't find as pleasing or professional. And there's always a low number of CDs that I receive (thanks, PR people) that never make it to the written page, because I just don't have enough positive things to say about them (pul-leaze no more lullaby CDs).

The difference between kindie music and major label adult release is that the vast majority of kindie music is produced on a shoestring (or via crowdfunding). Too many negative reviews will sink a fledgling recording artist. I don't want that kind of bad karma. And as a low-level blogger juggling home and work responsibilities, I'm kind of on the fringe of the kindie community. My contributions are not going to make or break somebody's career. Nor do I see that happening in the future, no matter how many Facebook friends or Twitter and Blogger followers I happen to attract.

So we packed the kids into the car after lunch on Friday and zoomed off into gridlock traffic on the Cross-Bronx Expressway, followed by stop-and-go traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, which led to bumper-to-bumper evening rush hour leading into Philly. All told, it took four-and-a-half hours to make the 121-mile drive to the Sheraton.

Ben was intrigued about the premise of KindieComm. In the past, he's had numerous face-to-face encounters with musicians he likes at KindieFest events. We have a photo of him with Cactus (aka Secret Agent 23 Skidoo) where Ben is wearing the rapper's hat. He once got loudly impatient while I was talking with Ralph Covert (of Ralph's World) and Steve Rosionek (of SteveSongs), leading to Steve patting me on the shoulder and delivering a sympathetic, "We've all been there."

But first we had to eat. We walked to a local barbecue place for dinner, then back to the hotel for some nightswimming in the pool to decompress. We entered the hotel lobby and ran into Joanie Leeds and husband Dan Barman. We exchanged pleasantries and driving horror stories and all greeted Head Deedle Lloyd Miller at the registration desk. This was little much for Ben. After a long day of driving, he just wanted the pool and barely said a word. Matt (not as familiar with their work, but he's got the excuse of being 3 1/2), was not much more conversational.

In the elevator, we reminded Ben that many more musicians were staying on the premises, and to prepare himself for sudden encounters. After swimming and bedtime, I went to the business center and promptly ran into Jason Didner. We talked briefly, but he was collecting milk for his daughter, and I didn't want to hold him up. Other sightings before I headed upstairs: Cactus (Asheville Skidoo), Billy Kelly, and Molly Ledford.

Saturday morning, the club lounge was packed for breakfast. Luckily Joanie and Dan suggested we all crash on the couches by the TV. Matt had never had Fruit Loops, which became his choice all three days at the Sheraton. Ben seemed to adjust to "normal" interactions with "civilian" musicians. Then it was off via cab to the Philadelphia Zoo.

I accepted my role of stroller-pushing, baggage-carrying videographer and we sweated through five miles of animal hijinks, before hightailing it back to home base. More swimming was in our plans, followed by Recess Monkey at Longwood Gardens.

I wore cargo pants the whole trip, with extra pockets for keys and cash. As I hopped across the back seat to exit the cab, I did not notice my iPhone slipping out. When I got to the hotel room, there was a minor panic attack as I went through every pocket. I grabbed Ben's iPhone and dialed my own number. Luckily, the next cab occupants were also tourists, heading to the Liberty Bell. "I'll meet you there," I yelped, and raced downstairs to grab another taxi.

I got to the Liberty Bell and called my phone. "Who am I looking for?" I asked. "I have red hair and my sister has green hair," she replied. Well, that made it easy to spot them. They were good to their word and the phone was only out of my possession for 30 minutes. Total cost = two extra cab rides (and some anxious moments). They wouldn't even take anything for finding and retrieving it.

Andrea was in the pool with the boys when I got back, by coincidence along with Jason Didner's daughter and her babysitter. I decompressed, knowing we had the hour-long drive to Longwood in less than 30 minutes. Matt crashed in the car and revived when we arrived at the palatial horticultural estate. A magnificent site for an outdoor show (look at the vids) and an expensive meal, subsidized by an OpenTable gift certificate that I redeemed for the occasion. By contrast, three nights later we ate dinner at Boston Market and spent one-quarter of the amount. And the kids ate more, go figure.

If you've seen Recess Monkey,  you know they play a tight set – Jack Forman acts as front man to set up most of the songs, Drew Holloway handles lead vocals and guitar duties, and drummer Korum Bischoff provides a steady beat. We saw the trio in January at Symphony Space promoting their 2013 beach CDs. Now they were hyping WIRED, their latest release. Yes, three CDs in less than 14 months.

Matt studied the January show like it was religious instruction. He came home and repeated the set, number by number. He did not want to get up and dance, he did not want to clap along, he just wanted to observe, wide-eyed, taking everything in. Ben always acts like it's an episode of NAME THAT TUNE. By the time Jack was mid-introduction, he shouted, "Fish Sticks!" like it was a revelation.

Afterwards, Andrea dug the "business" t-shirts that the band was hawking and bought one a size large, so Matt could wear it to their next show we see. We chatted (briefly) with each member of the band. Jack even remembered talking to our niece on Kids Place Live a day earlier, playing "Crazy Train."

It had been a long day and we trudged back through the topiary to the car, for the long, winding drive back to the hotel. They collapsed in the room while I limped to the business center (my new nightly routine) to sync the photos and videos from my phone, Ben's phone, YouTube, and the Facebook album.

The adventure was starting and we still hadn't gotten to KindieComm, the Please Touch Museum, the Franklin Institute, or Sesame Place.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 3, 2013

S.S. Brooklyn – Lloyd H. Miller
I Am the Wind – Underbirds
Duck Ellington – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Ice Cream Soup  – Jambo
Dance 'Til I Drop – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Imaginationology – Jon Samson