Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kidstock 2017: Enter the Garden (part 2)

When I greet performers, as I did at last weekend's Kidstock in Clark Botanical Garden, I generally ask if there's something they'd like me to specifically record. This gives them a way to showcase material that might not be available online.

The Dirty Sock Funtime Band asked me to record "I Love It," as perhaps they haven't seen a decent version on YouTube. I was more than happy to oblige. "Just give me a sign or say something from the stage," I said. And lo and behold they did it again, mid-song... "Say, didn't we want video of this song?" Mike asked, as I scrambled to get out the camcorder...



Before the music started and during the breaks, the kids and I took several nature walks around the complex. Maybe it was shyness or perhaps just the chromosomes but neither of them had any interest in the dance school or movement instruction. Eventually, after refilling our water bottles, we'd find ourselves back in the chairs for each act.



As I said in the previous blog post, this was a late-arriving crowd. So they started to fill in during the DSFB and the place was at near capacity for Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights. Full disclosure – I played a part in booking the band for this appearance. There's been at least one female act at every event (except the first year), from Elizabeth Mitchell to Bari Koral to Milkshake. Ms. Leeds and the lads became the first to indeed "headline" the event, tho.



Another factor that worked in the Nightlights' favor was the weather. Temps and humidity were brutal to the earlier acts. While Joanie definitely suffered some schvitzing, the skies became overcast (and later drizzly). But in the meantime, she got in her full set and (finally) got a bunch of kids to move forward for some dancing in front of the stage.



Ultimately, Kidstock 2017 gets a thumbs up, although I was feeling trepidation as late as a week ago. The garden setting is different from the beach and the layout would not be conducive to a larger audience trying to view the musical acts. For a festival of this nature, tho, it was alright to get the kids to commune with nature, at least briefly.



For the second Kidstock, the town of North Hempstead printed up t-shirts and sold them. For the next four years, staffers walked around the grounds handing out t-shirts to children. Matthew wore one that he was given two years ago and finally grew into. Apparently the shirts are now all gone. They are collectors' items. Hopefully this year's edition was not the end of the line for Kidstock, too.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
The Softest Guitar On The Moon – Caspar Babypants
Soar  – Mo Phillips
Drink Up  – Train
Summer's Here – The Bazillions
Feels Like Summer  – Weezer

Kidstock 2017: Enter the Garden (part 1)

For seven years, the Town of North Hempstead has had mostly sunny skies for its annual Kidstock children's musical festival. This year, they added daylillies. After six events in North Hempstead Beach Park, Kidstock was shifted to Clark Botanical Garden for its 2017 edition. The change was mostly successful, as the scaled-down gathering featured three groups, Bach 2 Rock to promote music education, and wrapped up with the National Circus Project.



The beach location beckoned to many families with youngsters and the $10 parking fee was not a deterrent. It also got them to the park early, so that the first few acts played to larger crowds that emptied out. This generally meant that whoever had second (midday) placement became the de facto headliner. Call it the cranky toddler syndrome – most under-fives will empty their gas tank and melt down after 2-3 hours. Schedule a five-hour festival? Something's gotta give.



The principle was in operation here, although in reverse. Maybe because the event was in a different location, maybe because it was free, maybe because any number of variables. But this was a late-arriving crowd, which meant Bach 2 Rock opened to crickets (literally, since this is a botanical garden) and Alex and the Kaleidoscope opened to a mostly-deserted sun field. "You forgot the fans for the performers," Alex Mitnick joked to the technician at one point, while drinking copious water.



We arrived about 20 minutes early (the consequence and good fortune of the event shifting from late August to mid-September) and set up our chairs. The event had several vendors (mostly area dance and art instructors) as well as a food area set up in the parking lot – meaning attendees had to park across the road and take a hike into the garden. There are benches in numerous locations, all great for watching nature but only one near the stage area – and it was promptly "seized" by one grandmother and her family. There was a "Dance Zone" in front of the stage, which is fine when it's shady but deadly in the midday heat.



The crowd did begin to gather during Alex's set and was mostly in place for the Dirty Sock Funtime Band. A high-energy quartet, Matt kept asking "Where is Mr. Clown?" Sadly, this was a clown-free performance. "Perhaps he's at the Juggalo March in DC," I wanted to joke, but I doubt a six-year-old would have understood.



Whether it was the clown-free performance or the sun blasting down near the stage, but Matt chose to sit and watch quite contently. Ben, on the other hand, was the ideal participant for a concert. He spoke up, knew the songs from the introductions, and sang along. When Mike Messer (Dirty Sock frontman) jumped from the stage to engage the crowd (hiding in the shade), Ben was the lone exception in the sun ready to shout a line into the mic.

Part 2 to follow...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, September 18, 2017

Needed Me – Rihanna
Sunshine Sunny Sun Sunshine Day – Danny Weinkauf
Electric Blue – Arcade Fire
01 Gonna Be Great – David Tobocman
Who, What, When, Where, Why – The Bazillions
I Feel Better – Caspar Babypants
It's A Wonderful Life – Kepi Ghoulie

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Videos from Gustafer Yellowgold, Mariana Iranzi & Dana and Friends

There is only one Gusfer Yellowgold. No really, just Google him. Baconstein is coming! The eighth Gustafer Yellowgold CD/DVD, BRIGHTER SIDE, has been released. And with it comes the third video, featuring the so-named evil foe of the title character:




Mariana Iranzi is back with new music – she has issued the first video, "Carocol," a tale of a happy snail, from her upcoming CD, PRIMAVERA:



Dana (Cohenour) and Friends is back with a new video, for the kid's favorite, "Follow the Leader." It's for the wee little ones, but here it is:

Monday, September 11, 2017

Lead Belly Lives Again, Courtesy of Dan Zanes and Friends

If the kindie movement was a car, Dan Zanes occupied the driver's seat for more than a decade. The former New Hampshire-born rocker turned his attention to children's music in 2000 with ROCKETSHIP BEACH and nothing's been the same ever since. But Dan was not content to work the same mine for very long and kept leading audiences down different avenues; from sea shanties (SEA MUSIC) to Carl Sandburg/Mark Twain (PARADES AND PANORAMAS) to show tunes (76 TROMBONES) to latin rhythms (¡NUEVA YORK!).

It's been a while (four years) since the last Dan Zanes and Friends CD. A lot has gone on, including Dan and his fiancĂ© Claudia Eliaza pioneering a sensory-friendly folk opera, "Night Train 57" that debuts in Washington, DC in October. But Dan returns to his roots – as a seven-year-old in Concord – when he got his first library card and checked out a Lead Belly LP. His new CD, LEAD BELLY, BABY! gathers a host of notables to perform together and play homage of the songs of Huddie Ledbetter.

Lead Belly was dubbed "The King of the 12-String Guitar," however LEAD BELLY, BABY! is not looking to commemorate every song as if preserved in amber. These are lively arrangements, with "Cotton Fields" done in Spanish harmonies by Sonia de Los Santos and Elena Moon Park with additional vocals by José Joaquin Garcia. Every generation has its slang and catch phrases and Lead Belly captured the colloquialisms of his times, in songs like "Whoa Back Buck":

Whoa Buck – gee by the lamb
Who made the back band
– oh, Cunningham

Took my gal to the country store
I bought my gal some calico
Taking my gal to the party, oh
Thinking we can dance,
Will it settle our souls?

Smithsonian Folkways is releasing the CD, bringing the music of Lead Belly full circle. As a foundational artist of Folkways Records, Ledbetter passed away in 1949 right before the Weavers turned his "Goodnight Irene" into a worldwide sensation. But his children's music is the focus here, from "Skip To My Lou" (with Chuck D and Memphis Jenks) to "Boll Weevil" (with Aloe Blacc and Pauline Jean).

"Serious" intent is deadly when trying to get children to "appreciate" music. Dan Zanes and friends have spent the better part of two decades finding low-key gateways to introduce young audiences to important figures from the near- and far-flung past. There's a 40-page booklet that will allow adults to answer most general questions without scrambling for Siri or a search engine. Using Zanes' cachet and goodwill, LEAD BELLY, BABY! sets a place at the welcome table for a pioneering spirit in folk music, Huddie Ledbetter. 

LEAD BELLY, BABY! is available from Smithsonian Folkways, Dan Zanes' Bandcamp page, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is my video of Dan Zanes and Friends playing "Welcome Table" at KindieComm in 2014:

Friday, September 08, 2017

Preview: Kidstock Returns, New Venue

Long Island's children's music festival, Kidstock, returns on Saturday, September 16. This year, the event moves to Clark Botanical Garden in Albertson after six years at North Hempstead Beach Park.

I've attended Kidstock every year with my kids and they thoroughly enjoy the show. While primarily there for the music, they like the atmosphere, the clowns (the National Circus Company), and between-act educational pieces from Port Washington's Bach to Rock.



This year's Kidstock features two returning acts and one newcomer – Alex and the Kaleidoscope, Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights, and the Dirty Sock Funtime Band. We're familiar with all these groups (and broken bread with one of them), so this is almost a homecoming.

We've seen the Dirty Sock Funtime Band twice – indoors and outdoors. In looking at their website, their live appearances are sporadic at best these days, so take advantage of this opportunity.


Joanie Leeds is making her Kidstock debut but has appeared on Long Island before. This is a nice open setting (and good weather is expected), so turn out for this free concert experience. The press release is here if you need further information.

Laurie Berkner Band Dance Remixes It Up

Laurie Berkner is more than an American recording artist of popular children's music. After more than two decades in the public spotlight, she and the Laurie Berkner Band have become a brand. That means you can attend regular Mommy & Me classes where her songs are played – or go to specialized sessions that feature her music exclusively with instructors taught by her, personally. You can buy her music, videos, books, toys, towels, and even a bag to put everything into.

Children's music is no different than any other genre when it comes to the tropes of extending your catalog. When in doubt, release a greatest hits compilation. Or do a CD of contemporary standards. For pete's sake, Mariah Carey has recorded TWO albums of Christmas songs and BOTH contain "All I Want For Christmas Is You." And then there are artists whose songs are re-interpreted in other stylings – the Beach Boys and the Eagles had CDs recorded by country artists. Brian Wilson himself recorded a horrific CD of tunes with a Disney-fied theme. Notice I'm not linking to any of these particular recordings.

Another insidious new trend is the dance remix (you can see where this is going). Why a three-year-old needs a remix of a song he just heard for the first time six months ago is a SMH (shaking my head) moment. I'm not saying that these remixes are done with bad intentions or that they are inherently bad simply by being produced and released. Laurie obviously feels deeply for the songs chosen for LAURIE BERKNER: THE DANCE REMIXES. If you chose to buy the physical CD, it comes with descriptions of how the songs, such as "We Are the Dinosaurs" and "Bumblebee (Buzz Buzz)" came to be in the first place.

Again, I caution any parent reading this far that as a critic I understand the paramount and over-riding number one commandment – THUS SHALT NOT OVERTHINK CHILDREN'S MUSIC. My kids have both been attracted to disparate songs and recording artists. Does that mean they have bad taste? No, it just means that their tastes are different from mine and different from each other, as well. Neither of them has displayed a predilection for dance music, although my teenager attends every school dance and does not leave until they turn on the lights and hose everybody out of the building.

Whether or not you're familiar with Laurie Berkner's music, the dance remixes are a different creation, engineered by Grammy winner Dave Darlington. If your kids like the EDM sound or you just want to get them moving and grooving, and want the neighbors to think you're running house parties, then LAURIE BERKNER: THE DANCE REMIXES could be your thing. It's all the favorites, from "Monster Boogie" to "I Really Love to Dance" to "Victor Vito." Alas, it must be too tough to dance with a "Pig On My Head." Unless that's being saved for Volume Two.

LAURIE BERKNER: THE DANCE REMIXES is available September 22 from Laurie's website, Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

Here is the flash mob video for the dance remix of "We Are The Dinosaurs":

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
Play That Song – Train
Everything Now – Arcade Fire
That's My Style –  The Bazillions
Blackberry Pie – Caspar Babypants
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Color Outside the Lines – Ralph's World

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, September 4, 2017

Every Day's A Holiday – Alastair Moock & Friends
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
Mystery – Dean Jones
Solar Flares – Mo Phillips
Blue Airplane  – Ralph's World
Feels Like Summer – Weezer
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Free Couch – Caspar Babypants
New Pair Of Shoes – The Bazillions