Friday, June 26, 2015

Live Recess Monkey: Return to the Big Apple

The last time we saw Recess Monkey live it was kind of a compromise. The Seattle-based band flew to the East Coast and appeared at Pennsylvania's glorious Longwood Gardens. We took our first family vacation in several years, packed up the kids, and drove from Queens to see them at the outdoor venue (and attend KindieComm the next day). Despite temperatures hovering around 90 degrees (and Jack Forman declared on-stage temps closer to 100), it was a delightful early-evening performance.

This year, the band returned to Manhattan for the first time since January 2014 for a morning concert in Madison Square Park. Even better, the show fell on the exact Thursday of the week when both of our kids were on break from their schools and had yet to start their summer programs.

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has booked a wonderful series of kids concerts for the past several years. The problem is our younger son was, well, too young to schlep that far into the city so early in the morning. And our older son was in a summer program that was walking distance to the park. I pitched walking kids over for the concerts (and volunteered if they needed more chaperones) but my assumption is the summer program was very formalized and if something was scheduled "on the fly," it would mess up their routines. Plus loud music is tricky for children with autism and they may have felt some of the performers skewed too "young" for the older grades.

Recess Monkey easily defies those expectations. They are one of the rare kindie acts we can listen to repeatedly as a family and not roll our eyes or gnash our teeth. In fact, it was only on the 20th or 21st listening that I picked out an amusing key lyric from one of the songs on DEEP SEA DIVER. Okay, I can't remember which one, offhand, right now. Just go with it, folks.

We got to the park as they were opening the "stroller park" and letting people grab places on the lawn. We secured a nice spot (a wee bit too close to one of the speakers, but hey we were arm's length from the band, as you can see from the videos) and the kids began to give "status" reports on band members Jack, Korum Bischoff, and Drew Holloway ("Jack is checking the set list... Korum is in the booth...Drew is not wearing glasses").

Unlike an "adult" performer like James Taylor, who played eight songs from his last CD when we saw him in 2002-03, Recess Monkey are not married to their latest material. They did play 3-4 songs from HOT AIR. But they were more concerned with getting the crowd of youngsters on their feet and interacting, to classic older songs such as "Flapjacks," "Jet Pack," and "Twins."

After the show, Jack remarked that some of the band's East Coast shows have been met with harsh temperatures. In fact, their 2013 Madison Square Park show was performed in 90-plus degree heat. But on June 25 the weather was agreeable and so were the kids in the audience. Well, until the final song and the nannies and camp programs began to quickly disperse, but that's another story.

Drew is a reliable and enjoyable lead singer. Jack provides narrative and instruction between songs. And Korum anchors the trio with robust drum beats. Even when they lost sound early on, they vamped in professional style and never lost an easily-distracted demographic.

Recess Monkey does a fun show. They deliver an interactive show (Jack ran through the crowd early this time, although no conga line as in previous concerts). While our older son has mostly "aged out" of the kid's music demographic, this is one act he clamors to see and hear. And his younger brother listens to their Pandora station and routinely selects their CDs for rotation in the car.

Kudos to the group for their continued ingenuity and to Madison Square Park for bringing them back to NYC. It was our third Recess Monkey concert in 18 months and the first in a year. Seems way too long a gap, so let's see what 2016 brings!
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