Thursday, July 03, 2014

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...
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