This weekend, we were hitting the kids music scene and rockin’ out!
Saturday morning, I made a solo trip to Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA to check out the Science You Can Sing To Swamp Stomp Boogie event presented by the Curiosity Zone. The Curiosity Zone, according to a lovely woman named Leslie who works there and invited me to the concert, is a science learning center that provides hands-on curriculum to enhance what kids are learning in school. They also do pre-school level science fun, which I will be sampling with C. later in the month (C. missed the concert because he was playing floor hockey with Coach Doug and Daddy). After seeing their fun approach to science and the concert, I’m very excited to take C. to their Science Story Time.
I walked in Jammin’ Java, which is a coffee bar/booze bar/music venue on Rt. 123 and they stamped my hand. There was a time when a hand stamp on Saturday morning meant I had a good Friday night. Oh, how times have changed when I’m hitting small music venues during daylight hours! There were some funky little science experiments set up for the kids to play with. My favorite was one involving dry ice, water, and dish detergent. If you pop the bubbles, dry ice smoke floats out. I could have played with it all day!
The music was performed by a guy named Ryan who wore slouchy clothes and played
guitar he had a partner named Mary who did little science experiments with lots of interactive bits for the kids on the mosh pit standing area at the front of the stage. The kids got into it all throughout. They danced, they cheered when Mary made water disappear by pouring into a cup full of the gel they use in diapers, and they loved it when the bubble machine came out. The music was hip. It was simple enough, and with easy enough lyrics that kids could get a lot out of it (the songs were about animals and other science facts) but not so annoying that a parent would want to drive into a wall if forced to listen to it 5 billion times in the car. Which is why I’ll be swapping it with the Sesame Street CD we’ve had in there for months. Gimme acoustic guitar riffs about penguins over Elmo any day.
Disclosure: I was invited to the Science You Can Sing to show by Curiosity Zone. I received a free CD of Swamp Stomp Boogie after the event.
On Sunday we joined some friends st Strathmore Music Center in Rockville, MD to see Dan Zanes. And OMG! Everything about the experience was cool on top of more cool.
Let’s start with Strathmore. It’s an historic estate located right on Rockville Pike. I’ve known about it for years but never been there. There’s a mansion that dates back to 1899 and the music center that was built in 2001. The music center is where the concert was and it was 100 different shades of wow. It flows from a pedestrian walkway from the nearby metro station where parking is free. The lobby areas are bright, with lots of windows looking out over the 11 acre estate the center and mansion sit on. And the auditorium we were in was sensational. It was all blond wood. The walls, the chairs, the floors. the railings. It almost felt rustic except that it was totally modern and sleek. Just gorgeous.
Now, Dan Zanes is a beloved children’s musician who I heard about from a friend when her now 7 year-old was small. Dan Zanes popped up on their tv while I was visiting and was a direct contrast to the previous video of Laurie Berkner. I know people love Laurie. So I won’t say what I think about her music. Let’s just say, I’d pay to hear Dan Zanes. I would pay to not hear Laurie Bernker.
Dan Zanes had a long career as a musician for grown-ups, performing with the Del Fuegos. He started doing kids music ten years ago and brings the kind of sensibility to it that really good musicians bring to entertaining kids: the music is accessible and cool without being boring or cloying.
When the band hit the stage with drums, upright bass, guitar, and trumpet, as well as Zanes on lead guitar, I thought C. as going to bounce himself into next week. I think I’ve mentioned before that my son will probably be voted Most Likely to Rush the Stage in high school. If there’s music, he wants to be right up next to it. We were in the balcony so that wasn’t possible so he had to settle for jumping around like a small, hyper kangaroo for the first few songs.
The songs ran an interesting gamut. There were Zanes originals, old sea chanties (yes, really), show tunes, a traditional Mexican folk song, and a bunch of spirituals sung with the Washington Performing Arts Society Children of the Gospel choir. Is there anything better than a bunch of young, rockin’ gospel singers? No, there is not. Everything had a beat that begged for clapping, dancing, and singing along and Zanes told the audience they could dance to all of it to their hearts content. And dance they did. The whole place was full of dancing kids and their equally engaged parents.
C. doesn’t have the attention span to last for a whole concert, even if it is only an hour. I mean, the kid is only two, you know? So we had to do a little time in the lobby running up and down the stairs. We made it back in for the finish where Zanes, his band, and the choir sang a waltz and filed off the stage and out through the house. They wound their way up from the lower lobby to the upper lobby and stopped to give autographs at the end. It was utterly charming.
I am a big fan of concerts like this because A) the music was great and B) I think non-threatening shows where a kid is allowed to enjoy it by dancing and clapping is a great way to show kids that going to see music live is fun. The last thing I want is for C.’s early experience with live performance to be an exercise in “Shh, be quiet!” That’s no fun and turns performance into something oppressive. Hopefully, this show will help set the stage for a lifetime of loving live music.