Concert Recap: Justin Roberts (Getty Center, Los Angeles, August 2012)

I can get so wrapped up in the constant thinking about kids music -- the planning of shows locally here in Phoenix, among other things -- that sometimes it's hard to simply relax and enjoy music. (I do see "adult" artists every now and then, but not as often as I might otherwise if I didn't have, you know, a family.)

So it was oh-so-pleasant to be able to go to Los Angeles' Getty Center last weekend to see a performance from Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players. It was the first of three weekends of concerts in the Getty's annual "Garden Concerts for Kids" series.

I can't think of too many nicer places to see a kids music show, and evidently many Angelos agreed.

There were many -- many -- families wandering around the expansive Getty grounds.  They were in the exhibits, the courtyards, and they were on the lawn that overlooks the Getty garden.  (That picture at the bottom of the page shows the crowd after a number of them had left following Roberts' first set.  Really, the place was packed.)

Before getting into the show itself, a word about the Getty Center as a concert venue for family shows.

The weather was about 75 degrees, the lawn is huge, and they gave out lawn blankets to sit on.  Let me repeat: they gave out lawn blankets to sit on.  What drawbacks were there to the venue?  Hm. Let's see... I suppose that if the sun were blazing, the unshaded portion of the lawn might be a tad uncomfortable.  And, um, the nearby snack cart stopped selling ice cream at 5 PM, before Roberts and the band had even finished the concert.

And that's it.

Seriously, if this were a series that went on through the year (it's only 3 acts over the span of 16 days, primarily to preserve the lawn's health), it would be hard to think of a nicer free concert series anywhere in the country.




But you're probably reading to hear a little bit more about the show itself.  After finding a blanket with Lucky Diaz, wife Alisha Gaddis, and daughter Ella near the stage, we settled down through a long set featuring Roberts' many hits, not to mention a couple new songs from Roberts, one about being a robot, the other about being an alien.  They were fun songs (one had a particularly '80s-synthesizer sound associated with it), and I look forward to hearing them on disk.  (Roberts said after the show he's still recording a few songs for the next "rock" album; the lullaby album should be out this fall.)

The five-piece band is a finely-tuned piece of entertainment machinery at this point, with an excellent sound, interactive hand movements for many songs, and wildly digressive puppet interplay from Tim (drummer Gerald Dowd), Little Dave (multi-instrumentalist Dave Winer), and Willy the Whale (guitarist Liam Davis), who has a fallback career as a Billy Joel cover artist should Justin call it quits.



Aside from getting a kick out of watching Diaz and Gaddis enjoying the show with handclaps and accompanying hand motions (Gaddis and I bemoaned the loss of the "trick-or-trick-or-trick-or-trick-or" hand motions on "Trick or Treat"), a couple of personal memories:

1) Miss Mary Mack singing along with a fair number of the songs.  Just goes to show that even if your kids reach double digits and are out of the target range of kids music, if they've listened to it enough (and it's memorable enough), good kids music can appeal even to the tween set.

2) Little Boy Blue lost a tooth -- that's how hard Justin rocks.  OK, he doesn't really rock that hard, but I'm going to remember for a long time the look on Little Boy Blue's face when finishing up his ice cream bar (one that required a long walk back to the main courtyard) and losing a long-wiggling tooth.

So, your takeaways:

1) Justin Roberts, fun as always in concert.

2) Justin Roberts' new songs -- good stuff based on one listen.

3) The Getty Center Garden Concerts for Kids: don't miss.

Lovely all around.

[Disclosure: Thanks to Sarah W. McCarthy at the Getty Center for extending us a welcome to the Getty.]