Tales from KindieComm Part 2 – The Music

In the previous post I wrote about the larger event and the mingling of kindie artists.

Today’s post about the musical performances is a natural extension of that, because of the way the musicians continued to mingle onstage, forming some first-time-ever collaborations that did great justice to the music. There also some mind-blowing cross-generational music making as well.

Saturday night’s show was set up as an industry showcase, mostly the playing of kindie music for fellow musicians, radio hosts, bloggers, TV programmers and booking agents. A handful of kids happened to be in the audience, including Holly (age 3) and Clair, Lena (“Songs by Lena”) and Brian Smith’s 1-year-old daughter. Their impromptu playdate to the beat of the music was adorable to witness.

We caught the first three acts of Saturday night’s showcase before it was time to get our little peanut into bed. Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer filled the air sweet harmonies and heartwarming messages until it was time to rock. Flashing a glittery Fender Telecaster they launched into a rollicking rockabilly song about air guitar antics that opened up and used plenty of space for some rippin’, twangin’ guitar solos by Marcy while a roomful of actual guitarists played along on the air version of their instruments. Joanie Leeds’ husband and drummer Dan Barman joined an impromptu band behind the duo that made it sound like they’ve all been playing together for years.

This mingling of kindie artists in new pickup bands continued on into Jazzy Ash’s set where she and her pickup band which included Washington D.C.’s Uncle Devin on drums made a tasty musical gumbo with the best available ingredients of the moment, playing “Baby Salmon” and encouraging the crowd to swim upstream, the show-stopper “Throw Me Somethin’ Mista,” a song strong enough that even without the signature rapping and storytelling of Mista Cookie Jar as on the recorded version, takes on a life of its own. Having beads thrown from the stage throughout the song certainly helped transport us to Buorbon Street from where we were. Holly was thrilled to catch an easy necklace directed right to her and to give her mommy a turn wearing it! I sure felt like a big kid jumping for beads, almost catching one and accidentally deflecting it to Jennifer Gasoi who already has a certain shiny gold decoration or two to her name (You’re welcome, Jennifer!)

2014-06-28 21.03.29All the fun and revelry of the previous two acts set the stage nicely for the acoustic stylings of Nick Bayard who had a stunning surprise up his sleeve. I had been intrigued during the breakouts and networking sessions by an 11-year-old boy who appeared perhaps more poised and businesslike than any of the adults in the room. It turns out this youngster is Nick’s stepson Ukweli, a strikingly skilled singer and guitarist in his own right. As they sang their folksy “Pirates on a Train” with tight harmonies and precise guitar rhythms, my jaw literally dropped, like it does when I’m watching Eddie Van Halen crank out a great solo, like when Bruce Springsteen hangs upside down from a mic stand at age 53. That moment between Nick and Ukweli ranks in my very top live musical moments I’ve witnessed, and probably will for life. The sound of their harmonies still rings in my ears days later as I write this. The family connection; the cross-generational and cross-racial connections, united in song. Then came the fun song about the pancakes, a pure innocent fun moment, a release after an absolutely striking moment before.

There were so many wonderful acts to follow whose records we love at home, but who were on past Holly’s already-delayed bedtime, so we will subsist on YouTube videos of those performances as they continue to surface. I heard great things about Joanie Leeds, Recess Monkey, Play Date, Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly, Diggity Dudes, Alex & the Kaleidoscope Band, Alphabet Rockers, Walter Martin and Zee Avi. If you saw them play, please comment on their performances below!

The next day, the music was intended for kids & families and open to the public. This was the WXPN Kids Corner Music Festival in the same venue, the World Café Live in Philadelphia. Trout Fishing in America, an acoustic duo with multi-generational appeal (they perform as a kids act and as an all-ages act under the same name and with overlapping repertoire). Their musical might showed up as they filled the big room with pulsating sounds of bass and semi-acoustic guitar alone; the rhythms were in overdrive without drums. The songs included some daring tongue twisters and fun mashups of nursery rhymes and Led Zeppelin tunes. They flexed some instrumental muscle on a rollicking “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly, segueing into “Tequilla” by The Champs.

When their set was over, they took on a different role, as Justin Roberts’ supporting band, offering rich textures to Justin’s more down-home acoustic-based numbers. The arrangements were variations on the arrangements on Justin’s recorded albums with the Trout Fishing boys improvising their own fills and licks that created new moments in familiar songs. Justin’s understated but pitch-perfect showmanship comes through mostly in the audience participation moves he teaches the big and little listeners before beginning each song and the overjoyed participation he gets with every chorus. It’s like a little pebble making big ripples. Justin appeared to be having more and more fun with the show as it went on, saving a little “rock star” pose for the closing chords of “Willy was a Whale,” an in-band request from Ezra of Trout Fishing in America.

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band at KindieCommThen came the acoustic version Luck Diaz and the Family Jam Band, an act with ways of presenting itself unlike any other. Lucky is clearly the musical Maestro of the group, singing lead, playing sophisticated guitar chords and rhythms and keeping the beat on the bass drum (think Mumford & Son).  But he’s not the group’s frontperson exactly. That role goes to his wife, Alisha (Lishy) Gaddis, who is center stage as the band’s MC and 2nd singer. This works well for this band because she’s not tethered to an instrument and can call upon her acting and dancing skills to lead the kids through fun activities with her grand gestures.

There is plenty of fun banter and interplay between the two, with multi-instrumentalist Michael Farkas adding those all-important fun noises between vocal phrases and just below the surface of the melody. Some fun improvisations were added to the kindie radio staple “Thingamajig.”

The elegant Jennifer Gasoi (winner of this year’s Grammy and Saturday night’s Mardi Gras beads) came along next as the leader of a trio with standup bass and electronic piano. Her lighthearted manner puts kids at ease. She created two standout interactive moments with the kids, one where she chose a young volunteer to join her onstage and bring large wooden figures of butterflies and ladybugs to life. The other during “I’m a Bubble” happened when she danced into the audience area with a light-up handheld bubble maker during an instrumental break of the song, delighting the children around her.

We had to get on the road for the sake of our partied-out daughter after Jennifer, which leaves us an excellent excuse to cross the river and catch Dan Zanes in New York when we can (or Dan, if you’re reading this, persuade you to put on a northern New Jersey show!!!!) Fellow KindieCommers, if you want to add your observations of Dan’s set (or any of the musical portions of the event), I’d love to hear it.

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