Feeling a little bit pwned, East Coast? First Kindiependent in Seattle, then AMFM in Los Angeles. And now Let's Play!, a San Francisco Bay Area collective of family musicians, has set up shop. It's a group that features (in alphabetical order) family musicians Alphabet Rockers, Charity and the JAMband, Frances England, Gunnar Madsen, The Hipwaders, Octopretzel, The Sippy Cups, and Rudy Trubitt. (And a little help from the local GRAMMY chapter.) The group doesn't seem ready to bust out a "Vagabond Worms"-style supergroup jam just yet, preferring at this point to just discuss items like "GRAMMY Awards membership and voting, favorite venues, PR and booking agent recommendations, tour tips, music licensing opportunities," and more. But still. Good news, even if you're just thinking about visiting (or touring) San Francisco...
I need very little reason to post anything related to The Hipwaders' "Educated Kid." So, here's the band playing the song live at San Francisco's cross-country traveling Tricycle Music Fest West last weekend, along with a whole bunch of inflatable guitars, natch. (What, no kindie Christmas songs, guys?) The Hipwaders - "Educated Kid" (Live @ Tricycle Music Fest West) - [YouTube] Here are a couple more videos from the band...
I've followed the Tricycle Music Fest at the public libraries of Charlotte and Mecklenburg Country, which brought some pretty big-name acts to that North Carolina neck of the woods -- They Might Be Giants, Gustafer Yellowgold, Father Goose, Lunch Money, Frances England, and so on. So it was with some sadness that I noted this past summer that the event was taking a hiatus. But never fear, Tricycle fans -- San Francisco is filling the gap. That's right, Tricycle Music Fest West is coming to San Francisco in October, Charlotte tricycle and all. No big national names, but for an area with so many great bands/musicians, you could put on a pretty good show with just local acts, and the Fest has. A big October 10 show and the main library will feature Charity and the JAMband, Frances England, and the Hipwaders, along with the Time-Outs, and the Devil-ettes and Pip-Squeak-A-Go-Go. Charity, Frances, and the Time-Outs will also be playing shows at local branches. Yay libraries! Yay music at libraries! Yay tricycles at libraries! (OK, I'm still working on that last one.)
I don't typically talk about single shows featuring just one performer, but I thought the latest effort from Gustafer Yellowgold deserved a brief mention. This weekend Morgan Taylor will premiere Gustafer Yellowgold’s Golden Heart Symphony, which will take place in the Presidio Middle School auditorium on Saturday, March 21 at 11 AM & 3 PM and Sunday, March 22 at 2 PM and 5 PM. (Again, that's this weekend, folks.) Taylor commissioned orchestral arrangements of many of the Gustafer Yellowgold songs and these concerts will involve Morgan, his full band, and a 52-piece orchestra of San Francisco’s finest public school music students. The whole extravaganza will benefit music enrichment in the San Francisco public schools, specifically the SF Unified School District's “Save the Summer Music Workshop” campaign. When I talked with Morgan and his wife (and bandmate) Rachel when they were here in Phoenix a couple weeks ago, the project sounded very cool. I mean, a 52-piece orchestra. I'm not sure there's another kids artist that would put 'em to better use.
An Open Letter to Residents of Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
So I've been getting newsletters from Elizabeth Mitchell on a regular basis talking about her late summer tour of the West Coast. I knew, therefore, that she was going to be singing with Renee & Jeremy earlier this month (Suni Paz in LA was a surprise) and Frances England and Charity Kahn this past weekend. I even knew (I think) that she was going to sing with Justin Roberts last month. (They sang the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning.") What I didn't expect is that nobody was going to upload any video to the Internet. C'mon, people! I don't have one of those
fancy iPhones or other cell phones with a camera in them, but somebody out there must've gone to the show with one in hand.
And now I hear that the lads from Recess Monkey are going to be joining Elizabeth on stage for their shows in Seattle this Saturday.
Seattle -- you can do it! Video! Video! Video! (Hey, I gave you, like, fiveRecess Monkey videos.)
(Note: Unless, of course, recording is expressly prohibited by the terms and conditions of the ticket entry. Then, er, forget I ever asked.)
When you receive as much kids music for review as I do, you have to guard against certain biases. Given the glut of material, what tends to get reviewed is either stuff that's in the traditional folk/pop/rock vein, but very good (see: Justin Roberts, Ralph's World, Laurie Berkner, Recess Monkey, etc.); not in that folk/pop/rock vein (see: hip-hop, country, jazz); and stuff that's just so out there that you have to tell someone about it if only to show what risks people are taking these days. (And then you have Dan Zanes, who in the Venn diagram of those 3 categories is the only one who intersects all three.) With the last category especially, there's some risk that the uniqueness of the material is outweighing, you know, the actual interest to the kids. So let me be clear, The Thin King, the debut CD from the San Francisco band Me 3 falls squarely in that 3 category. I mean, sure, it's got songs that would definitely be considered rock ("I Don't Know," perhaps, or "Apple," which is an appealingly crunchy and lo-fi mid-tempo rocker). But the more familiar-sounding styles are melded with subjects very focused on the natural world (hence "Apple," or "Tulip," and "Cows"), not in an educational way (which would be pretty conventional), but pretty much in an observational manner. (In this case it sounds a lot like Mr. David, or maybe a little bit like if World Party did a kids CD.) There are lots and lots of questions on the album -- "I Don't Know," for example, or "Cows." What is the album title, after all, if not a play on the word "thinking." Beyond that, you have odd little spoken-word interludes; the goofy trilogy of "Short Song," "Shorter Song," and "Shortest Song" (which, yes, is pretty much what the titles promise); and Pachelbel's Canon borrowed for "When It All Began." Oh, and just as you begin to think that band mastermind Jason Kleinberg is maybe a little self-serious, "Next Song" interrupts some mock serious banter with a request to "play the next song!," which results in Kleinberg mis-hearing and not playing the "necks song." In other words, the goofy 7-year-old humor fits in nicely among the more serious "thinking" songs. So, yeah, the 41-minute album's geared mostly for kids ages 6 through 10. You can hear some songs both at the band's website and their Myspace page, and samples of all the songs at the album's CDBaby page. The Thin King is one of the more unusual-sounding kids music albums of the year. It also happens to be a lot of fun. While it's not the most conventional of CDs, with its imagery and musical melding of styles, it'll certainly capture the imagination of some families. Recommended.