3rd Annual Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash!

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Ready to Melt Down?

River's Family Music Meltdown & Book Bash happens on Saturday, March 26th at JFK Middle School in Northampton, MA. (FREE) (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

That’s right, it’s the end of March so it must be time for the River’s Family Music Meltdown & Book Bash! It’s this coming Saturday, March 26, from 10 to 4 at JFK Middle School in Northampton — and it’s free.

Now in its third year, the Meltdown has become a tradition for families in the Valley and beyond, featuring music on three stages, readings from nationally-known children’s book authors, crafts, bouncing, local food, and much more!

On the music side, we’ve got familiar favorites and new-to-the-Meltdown acts. Joining the lineup for the first time this year is Grammy nominee Brady Rymer (supporting his forthcoming CD, Love Me For Who I Am, inspired by his work at the Celebrate the Children School, a New Jersey school for students with alternative learning styles. Other newcomers to the festival include Lunch Money, The Okee Dokee Brothers, The Bramble Jam, Joe’s Backyard Band, Brendan Taaffe, and the Spiral Up Kids.

Returning favorites include Brooklyn’s Deedle Deedle Dees, who will be doing a special Women’s History Month set (and handing out free posters to fans). Returning — but this time with full bands — are the Flannery Brothers and singer/storyteller/cartoonist Keith Munslow. Other returning performers include Mister G, Under the Tree Music, Aric Bieganek, Jay Mankita, and Ratboy Jr., in addition to puppet shows from Otter & Moo Puppet Theatre and Anna Sobel.

Local heroes Jarrett (Lunch Lady) and Gina Krosoczka serve as curators of the children’s book authors appearing on the main stage. This year, we’re thrilled to have Jarrett himself, plus Kevin Markey, Jef Czekaj, Jeanne Birdsall, and Jon Scieszka.

We’ll also have crafts, bounce houses, Lego Duplos, gymnastics, fencing demonstrations, circus arts, hula hooping, Mad Science, dozens of local businesses, and terrific local food.

We’ve got the full schedule, and links to videos for all of our performers, up at www.rivermeltdown.com, and you can follow the event on Facebook at facebook.com/rivermeltdown. See you Saturday!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (8-10 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (7-9 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and was a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com

2nd Annual Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash!

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Are You Ready to Melt Down?

On Saturday, March 27th, 2010, 93.9 The River presents the second annual Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash!  The event is at JFK Middle School on Bridge Road in Florence, MA from 10 am to 4 pm, and it’s FREE.

This year, we’ve got three performance areas and even more fun for everyone, including music, book readings, crafts, bouncing, local food, and more!

The music lineup is arguably the best kids’ music lineup of any event this year (Zooglobble calls it “a heckuva lineup” and Out With the Kids says it’s “outstanding”).  Check it out:

  • Elizabeth Mitchell and Family. Fresh off their appearance with Ziggy Marley on The Tonight Show, Elizabeth Mitchell and her family return to the Pioneer Valley with old favorites and, if we’re lucky, some new material from their forthcoming Smithsonian Folkways CD.
  • Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. Rani and the group’s first family CD, Ranky Tanky, has been a nationwide success and their live show is not to be missed.
  • Deedle Deedle Dees. The Dees rocked the Meltdown last year and will finish up the day on the main stage this year.
  • Royal Order of Chords and Keys (ROCK). ROCK’s singer Aric Bieganek has been entertaining kids in the Valley for a number of years, but just wait until you see this power trio bring the rawk.
  • Uncle Rock and the Playthings. Uncle Rock played solo at the Meltdown last year; this year he brings the Playthings (who played a terrific Iron Horse show last fall).  Supporting his new – and best – CD, The Big Picture, this former member of the Fleshtones is a favorite.
  • Dog on Fleas. It’s been a while since Dog on Fleas have played here, and hopefully, we’ll hear not just the great music from the full band, but some songs from lead singer Dean Jones’s insane genius solo CD Rock Paper Scissors (produced by and featuring the Felice Brothers).  Read the rest of this entry »

Family Music Review: Shall we rock a bit? Yes, we shall.

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Shall we rock a bit?  Yes, we shall.

This month, let’s look at some music that’s just good straight ahead rock for kids.  It’s not, to be clear, all head-banging, and some of the CDs below are certainly varied in styles, but these folks set out to make various flavors of rock records, and that’s what they did.

John Carlin’s first record, First Time for Everything, was mostly performed by Carlin himself.  It was a good guitar-based record, fairly straightforward but with some killer hooks.  Now he’s gone and gotten a full band, and it really makes the record come alive.  The songs have more energy – the second track, “Meet You At the Playground,” nicely evokes the excitement of outdoor play with a sweet mandolin track, while “A Dinosaur Named Fred” builds to an almost Buffalo Tom-esque chorus.  Most notably, the record incorporates music from around the world, especially Brazilian samba and bossa nova without feeling forced.  (There’s the “varied” part.) Plus he includes one of my favorite songs from seeing him live, “Eliza,” with a great organ part and some nice harmonies.

Rudnick is a Boston-area family musician with a familiar story – as parenthood began, his songwriting turned to songs for his kids. For over a decade now, he’s been releasing relaxed-but-never-sloppy music that just feels right, with intricate tunes and playful lyrics. There’s more than a little Grateful Dead influence here, both in the rambling style and the Americana reworkings of classic songs (“Old Joe Clark,” “Erie Canal,” etc.).  Rudnick has released a number of records, but this is probably is best.  One change, whether conscious or not, is that at least these tracks are, on average, a minute or two shorter than most of the tracks on past albums, and I think that makes them largely better.

The Sippy Cups’ previous full-length CD, Electric Storyland, is surprising psychedelic rock for kids – surprising because nobody had really done it before.  In retrospect, it seems obvious that music inspired by early Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and so on, mixed with modern alternative rock energy, would be perfect for kids.  The band has released one online-only EP, One Day Soon, made up of quieter music, since Electric Storyland, but the new full length has been a long time coming.

That full-length, The Time Machine, is similarly good, but with a different focus than Electric Storyland.  As the band members’ kids have gotten older, the songs seem to have gotten a bit more mature.  This is still kids’ music, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more about elementary school age kids’ situations and problems and joys than the previous record.  “My Daddy’s Lucky Charm,” for instance, describes how the title object keeps a family from unraveling; “One Day Soon” (which also is on the EP of the same name) sweetly deals with the aching desires of kids to be able to do more than they can; and so on.  The music is still largely along the same lines as Electric Storyland, with maybe a bit more modern rock vibe than classic or psychedelic rock – no matter the label, though, it’ll work great for your kids and you.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (8-10 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (7-9 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com

No Nap Happy Hour Music Series in Northampton

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Great Upcoming Shows and Announcements

Thanks to all of you who came out to the River’s Meltdown Music and Book Bash in March! We had a tremendous turnout, great music and authors and other entertainment, and I sure hope you all had fun. We’re already making our plans for next year…

I’ve got a ton of stuff to tell you about: a series of great shows at the Iron Horse, some super cool guest DJ sets on Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, and more.

FAMILY CONCERTS

First, I’m thrilled to announce that we’ve been working with the Iron Horse folks to put together an amazing series of shows over the coming months. The No Nap Happy Hour series will be on Sunday afternoons at 2:00 (1:30 doors) at the Iron Horse (downtown Northampton). Tickets available HERE.

The shows we can announce so far are below. It’s not overstating things to say that this is as good a lineup of family music as you’re likely to find anywhere in the country…and this is just the start of what we hope to be a long-standing series.

  • July 26 – Lunch Money.
    Check out this great NPR All Things Considered piece on Lunch Money HERE. – and also check out their website – www.lunchmoneymusic.com – and you should be convinced. I just saw them in Brooklyn this last weekend and their shows are fun, engaging, and guaranteed to make you and your kids happy. (Lunch Money will guest DJ on Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, on Saturday, July 25.)
  • August 23 – Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Trio.
    Justin Roberts (www.justinroberts.org) creates intelligent and whimsical rock for the whole family and is one of the true stars of the kindie rock scene, often playing festivals and the like. This is a great opportunity to see Justin and the trio in an intimate setting.
  • September 20 – Deedle Deedle Dees.
    If you were at the Meltdown, these guys need no real introduction; they co-headlined the event and rocked the house. They call themselves an educational rock band (see www.thedeedledeedledees.com), but that doesn’t remotely do them justice. Terrific musicians, witty songwriters, and infectious live, this show will be fantastic. They’ll be playing lots of new songs from the probably-by-then-released new record (which, yes, includes a song about me wearing a dress to school).
  • October 18 – Uncle Rock and the Playthings Trio kick off the series.
    Uncle Rock played the Meltdown and has done a number of solo shows here over the last couple of years, but this is the first local appearance by his great trio, the Playthings. Check out Uncle Rock at www.unclerock.com — it’ll be a great time.

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Secret Agent 23 Skidoo in NOHO this Sunday

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Sunday Concert: Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Secret Agent 23 SkidooRemember, folks, this Sunday (02/01/09), we’ll have Secret Agent 23 Skidoo performing at Lyman Hall at First Churches, downtown Northampton, MA. A portion of proceeds to the church’s capital campaign. (Enter across from the Iron Horse.)

SA23 performs positive hip-hop for kids with a sound that’s all grown up. Fronted by 23 (a/k/a Cactus from grownup band Granola Funk Express), SA23’s debut CD Easy is the first great hip-hop CD for kids, and the live show is a great high-energy party for the whole family. 23 did a fantastic show last fall, and this will be a great pre-Superbowl time for everyone. Hear and learn more at SecretAgent23Skidoo.com, and listen to the show this Saturday to hear more.

Mark Your Calendars for the River Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash!

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Uncle Rock tomorrow, plus other updates and an announcement

We’ve had some great turnouts at the shows we’ve had recently, and they just keep on coming…most importantly for right now, here’s tomorrow’s show:

  • Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 2:00pm: Uncle Rock at Northampton Community Music Center – $5! (net proceeds to NCMC’s scholarship fund) Long time Hudson Valley friend of the radio show and favorite visitor returns to town to rock out. Uncle Rock will appear on tomorrow morning’s radio show (93.9 The River, 101.5 in Brattleboro, also on 103.3 Valley Free Radio). NCMC has highly functional heat, so we’ll keep you warm.

Some other upcoming stuff to note on your calendars is below, including a big announcement of a kids’ music festival in the end of March. You can also follow our calendar at here.
(which is also on our page at WRSI.com) or listen to the show every Saturday morning from 7 to 9.

  • Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 1:00: Harmonica Pocket at Mass MoCA (we’ll have them on our show either that morning or the following week, btw) (this is not a show we’re putting on, but it’ll be fun) Fun indie pop for kids.  You can enter to win free tickets from Hilltown Families here.
  • Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 1:00pm: Secret Agent 23 Skidoo at Lyman Hall, First Churches – $7! (a portion of proceeds to the church’s capital campaign) – positive hip hop for kids with a sound that’s all grown-up. SA23’s show last fall was a highlight of the year, and this will be a great pre-Super Bowl show for the whole family. We’ll have you home in plenty of time for the game, I promise.
  • February 11 (and March 11), 2009 – Marcy Gregoire returns to Cup & Top for after-school shows; 3:00 face painting, 4:00 music.
  • Saturday, February 21 at 2:00pm: Elizabeth Mitchell at Northampton Community Music Center – $5! (net proceeds to NCMC’s scholarship fund) Can’t tell you how excited I am for this show. http://youaremyflower.org/home.html if you don’t already know about her.

And now, for the FESTIVAL ANNOUNCEMENT …

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Kids Music: Spare the Rock’s Best Picks for 2008!

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The Best of 2008!

For the third straight year, I’ve worked with Stefan from Zooglobble.com and Amy from TheLovelyMrsDavis.com to put together a consensus poll of DJs, reviewers, bloggers, and other people who pay a lot of attention to music for kids. The poll is called the Fids & Kamily Awards, and you can see the results at www.fidsandkamily.com, along with reviews by a bunch of different writers.

Below is our ballot for the best family CDs of 2008:

1. Here Come the 123s – They Might Be Giants (www.theymightbegiants.com). On their third CD for kids, TMBG continued what made their first two essential listening: a combination of hook-filled music with lyrics that will get parents and kids cracking up. Here Come the 123s is not really intended as an educational CD, and that’s good – instead, it’s pure entertainment.

2. Family Tree – Frances England (www.francesengland.com). This indie folk release was second place by the closest of margins for me; it might as well have been first. It rocks a bit more than her debut Fascinating Creatures, without giving up the immediacy and playfulness that made that release my favorite of 2006.

3 (tie). Pop Fly – Justin Roberts (www.justinrobertsmusic.com). Pop Fly was the overall winner in the Fids & Kamily poll this year, and Justin’s Meltdown came in first two years ago; clearly, he’s doing something that connects with listeners: note-perfect poppy alt-rock for kids, with humor that reaches both kids and their grownups.

3 (tie). Rock All Day, Rock All Night – The Nields (www.nields.com). The sisters Nields win the prize for the cleverest two-disc set idea of late: the first CD (“Rock All Day”) is the higher-energy dance-in-the-living room set of songs, and the second (“Rock All Night”) is for rocking to sleep – lullabies. Both discs are terrific, showcasing the gorgeous interplay of their voices. In a just world, “Who Are You Not To Shine?” would be a massive hit outside the kids’ music arena.

5. Songs With No Character – ScribbleMonster (www.scribblemonster.com). ScribbleMonster has released three excellent rocking kids’ records, all featuring character voices and proudly wearing the influence of The Replacements and various Chicago rock brethren. Here, the band drops the voices and delivers a terrific record that really flows. From the Blur-esque “All Ready to Go” to the sweet “The Song of LIFE” to the just plain funny “No Good Can Ever Come Of A Sleepover,” the release pulls off its ambition to be not just tolerable to parents, but actually for them as well as the kids.

6 (tie). Here Comes Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could – Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could (www.bradyrymer.com). Brady this year put together his best-yet record of friendly and loose, but never sloppy, kid roots rock. Featuring a number of performers from Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions along with Rymer’s long-standing band, it’s the perfect weekend soundtrack.

6 (tie). Easy – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (www.secretagent23skidoo.com). Easy is the first genuinely great hip hop record for kids, mixing, as the press materials suggest, old school hip hop with elementary school themes. Put together by hip hop veteran Cactus (of Granola Funk Express), SA23 throws hip hop, bluegrass, funk, rock, and more into the pot, and produces a terrific way to introduce your kids to hip hop with a positive message.

6 (tie). Tabby Road – Recess Monkey (www.recessmonkeytown.com). Barely a half-year after the terrific and ambitious Wonderstuff, the prolific Recess Monkey released Tabby Road. This record is their most consistent, with a steady stream of perfect pop melodies over sweet poppy rock.

9 (tie). Snacktime – Barenaked Ladies (www.bnlmusic.com). It might come as a surprise that BNL haven’t previously come out with a record for the kids. Happily, they haven’t dumbed down their often-overlooked songwriting skills for their jump into the kids’ music pool. Instead, they’ve retained the infectious poppy tunes, clever lyrics, and occasionally surprising insights. Snacktime is exactly what you’d want a BNL kids’ CD to be like.

9 (tie). Sunny Side Up – Egg (www.eggmusic.net). Like the band Cake? Like your kids? Want to combine those two likes? Egg’s for you. Not that they’re a Cake knock-off; that’s just the easiest reference to make (and one the band makes themselves). There is zero condescension here; it’s just great alt-rock that happens to be for kids.  Read the rest of this entry »

High Concept, High Reward (Music Review)

High Concept, High Reward
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Sesame Street Playground CD & DVD

Sesame Street Playground CD & DVD

CDs aimed at kids are rarely what the industry calls “high concept” – that is, with a Big Theme running throughout, or a clever idea at their core.  Sure, you occasionally get the food-themed record or the alphabet/number collections, but rarely anything more than that.  This month, a few releases that break the mold and, mostly, pay off with their gamble.

Putumayo Kids – Sesame Street Playground: There’s no better concept yet this year: Sesame Street songs from around the world, plus a DVD with a handful of videos from international editions of the essential kids’ series.  And Putumayo pulls it off, from the Dutch opening to a Chinese “Rubber Duckie” to a French “La Chanson de l’Amité” that sounds exactly as French as you’d hope, to the driving Israeli “En Den Dino.”  It’s not perfect – at least for me, I can think of a lot of U.S. songs I’d put ahead of “Elmo’s Song” to represent the domestic version of the show – but the highs easily outweigh the lows.  (And I probably just resent Elmo, coming as he did after I was done with the show.  Like Scrappy on Scooby Doo; can’t stand him either.)  The DVD just adds to the fun, giving kids a look at what Sesame Street is like overseas.  www.putumayo.com

Yes to Running

Yes to Running

Bill HarleyYes to Running: Harley is a very funny musician and storyteller, well known for both his kids’ stuff and his commentaries on NPR’s All Things Considered.  Frankly, his studio CDs have always left me a little underwhelmed, but this two-CD set, recorded live at a high-energy show in Montana, helps me understand his success.  Harley’s at his core a storyteller (even in his songs), and clearly thrives on audience participation.  You don’t need to get past the first track (“I Like to Sing”) to get a sense of the sheer fun that must be seeing him live.  The CDs also include several lengthy musical stories, including the very funny “Mom and the Radio.”  He’s utterly engaging and has a great sense of comic timing, and has a bluntness and self-deprecating wit that kids no doubt will love (noting that “only an idiot” would sled down a huge hill, and that they did, “because we were idiots”).  Add in his willingness to good-naturedly mock parents along with himself and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s not as big a concept as, say, Sesame Street Playground, but it’s definitely a CD that’s much more about the whole than any of its parts.  www.billharley.com

Spanglish Wrangler

Spanglish Wrangler

Will Thomas – Spanglish Wrangler: Now Miami-based Will Thomas performs relaxed alt-country with a blues touch, more or less, with lyrics in, as the title suggests, some Spanish, some English – Spanglish – in every song.  The arrangements and production have a bit of a G. Love/Jack Johnson/Ben Taylor vibe, with a couple of songs based on classics (“Cucaracha” based on Earth Wind & Fire’s “September,” and “They Call It Spanish Monday” on T. Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”).  If you’re looking for some Spanish language in your kids’ environment, this is a great, accessible, non-cheesy record, with some gentle humor (“Broccoli,” for instance, involves a kid’s bargaining for more – yes, more! – broccoli).  While there are a handful of songs out there with both English and Spanish (the Jimmies’ terrific “Spanimals” comes to mind), this is the first kids’ record I can remember that reflects the reality in many households of both languages intermingling.  It sounds effortless but hits the spot.  www.willthomas.com


Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (7-9 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (8-10 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com

Upcoming Family Concerts in Northampton

Upcoming Family Concerts in Northampton
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Hey! Don’t forget! This Saturday, 2:00, it’s Aric Bieganek‘s CD release show benefiting the Northampton Community Music Center! Just $5, and every penny goes to the scholarship fund at NCMC.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette calls Aric “the Jack Black of kids’ music,” and here’s your chance to find out why. His lyrics are clever, his songs catchy, and his shows irresistible, and you can be among the first to hear some of the songs on his new kids’ release, “Bright Lights, Big Kitty”! http://www.myspace.com/recessrock

Some other great shows coming up (all are on that calendar over to the right, too):

Sunday, Nov. 9, 4:00 pm – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo brings positive hip hop for kids to Northampton! Lyman Hall, First Churches (enter across from the Iron Horse). $7 at the door. 23 Skidoo will be on the radio show this coming Saturday, with the world premiere of a song done with Egg.

Saturday, Nov. 22, 2:00 pm – Dog on Fleas plays the second in our series at NCMC, again benefiting the scholarship fund. $5.

Saturday, Jan. 17, 2:00 pm – Uncle Rock makes his triumphant return to Northampton with the third show in our NCMC benefit series. $5.

Saturday, February 21, 2:00 pm – Elizabeth Mitchell finishes up the series at NCMC. I cannot express how excited I am about this show; we’ve been trying to set something up with Elizabeth Mitchell since we started the show. You. Must. Go. $5.


Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (7-9 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (7-9 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com

Music Review: Compilation Junction, What’s Your Function?

Compilation Junction, What’s Your Function?
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Compilations: All too often, as I’ve observed before (and as you’ve likely noticed), they’re leftovers or donated rarities that should have stayed rare. No matter how good the cause, the “unreleased track” from your favorite band frequently turns out to be something left over from a high school battle of the bands.

But for some reason, that seems not to be the case as much in family-friendly music. Recent years have brought, among other releases, the excellent Play and the mostly-great For the Kids series; go back a few years and you get Bloodshot Records’ The Bottle Let Me Down and the incredible Stay Awake collection of Disney covers from folks as varied as The Replacements and Tom Waits.

The pace isn’t slowing. Below, some fun records that will introduce you to a lot of bands you’ve probably never heard before, some from kid-oriented performers and some from performers who have never done anything for kids.

Ditties for Kiddies: This release of mostly bluegrass and alt-country tracks, benefits Little Kids Rock, a non-profit that brings free musical instruments and instruction to public school kids. You probably haven’t heard of almost anyone on this CD (I hadn’t), which makes finding its delights even more fun. The lead-off track, “Pickle Juice,” done by the Deep Fried Pickle Project (who put the CD together), is hilarious and catchy, and a sense of humor and whimsy that persists throughout the CD. Other highlights include “Birthday is Over,” done by Shinyribs (the solo project of Kevin Russell, front man for the Gourds) and my favorite song on the CD, “Daisy,” singing the praises of a VW bus, done by Deadwood Revival, with gorgeous harmonies and evocative lyrics. These aren’t kids’ bands, but you’ll wish they’d do more stuff for kids. www.cdbaby.com/cd/dfppap

High Meadow Songs: Along the same lines, musically, but with a bit more serious tone, is this release, a benefit for an arts scholarship program in the Hudson Valley of New York. Unlike Ditties for Kiddies, this record features a lot of performers who have done music for kids in the past – Dog on Fleas, Elizabeth Mitchell, Medeski Martin & Wood – but a number of more general audience performers too – Jay Ungar & Molly Mason and Debbie Lan, and others. It’s a gentle CD that works a bit more subtly than some. Mitchell’s “When Spring Comes” is a little bittersweet (“When spring comes, there’s nothing you can hide”) but overall joyous, and her “Handsome Molly” with Dog on Fleas will make you wish they’d do a full record together. www.highmeadowarts.org

Funky Kidz: No! Don’t run away, just because of that wacky “z” at the end of “kid”! This is so much better than you’d think given that spelling conceit! It’s made up of classic songs – both standards (“This Land is Your Land,” “Froggy Went a Courtin”) and more recent (“You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “Yellow Submarine”) performed by some of the best New Orleans has to offer, including Bonerama, The Radiators, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Ingrid Lucia, and more. Most attempted funk for kids ends up sounding like you’re in the New Orleans section of a theme park – not this. This is the real deal, and it sounds great. Just ignore that “z.” www.funkykidzmusic.com

Rock ‘n’ Roll Coochicoo Revue: All that folk and funk is fine, but you want to rock out some? This release, from the Boston area, may be for you. It’s smart, funny in parts, and pretty varied, featuring tracks from Tanya Donnelly (formerly of Throwing Muses and Belly), Bill Janovitz (from Buffalo Tom), and many other New England rockers. Chris Colbourn’s song about Emily Dickinson, “V for Verlaine,” may be the highlight for kids who want to rock and write poetry.


Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (7-9 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (8-10 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com

Be Really Good at What You Do

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Be Really Good at What You Do

What makes a CD work?

(The smarty-pants [smarty-panteses?] among you are already launching into a detailed discussion of microgrooves and laser technology. I don’t mean “work” like that, doofuses.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about that question lately, not just in the kids’ music genre but more generally. And I’ve realized that the key for me is for an artist to do what they do well. That’s why, more often than not, publicity material bragging about how a CD includes “everything from rock to hip hop to smooth jazz to klezmer music to dissonant modern classical” (note: not an actual quote) is a warning sign, not a positive. Sure, some bands can pull it off, but most of the time, that “jack of all trades, master of none” cliché turns out to be based in truth. So this month, let’s take a look at some records where the artists aren’t trying to be more than what they are, and it works.

Barenaked Ladies, Snacktime

With their frequent jokiness, it might come as a surprise that Barenaked Ladies haven’t previously come out with a record for the kids – especially since, as they point out, the bandmembers are now outnumbered by their kids (more than doubled!). But Snacktime is in fact their first full-length release for the whole family. Happily, they haven’t dumbed down their often-overlooked songwriting skills for their jump into the kids’ music pool. Instead, they’ve retained the infectious poppy tunes, clever lyrics, and occasionally surprising insights (consider the sweet “Things” lyrics: “There are things that make me mad, but you are not one of them/There are things that make me sad, but you are not one of them/There are things that make me Dad, you seem to be all of them.”). What you’ll mostly love, though, are the hilarity on songs like “Crazy ABCs,” with non-traditional words for each of the songs – i.e., “A is for Aisle,” “P is for Pneumonia,” and the like. Reunited with Michael Phillip Wojewoda, who produced BNL’s early Gordon release, Snacktime is exactly what you’d want a BNL kids’ CD to be like. www.bnlmusic.com

Daddy A Go Go, Rock of All Ages

Athens, Georgia-based John Boydston has been making straight-up guitar rock for families for going on a decade now, and his kids – quite young when he started – are now part of the band, playing on a number of the tracks here. There’s no mystery here, but sometimes you just want to rock out, and the Boydston clan provide a great soundtrack for doing so – even including a blistering cover of “What a Wonderful World.” www.daddyagogo.com

Dean Jones, Napper’s Delight

Jones, of the terrific Hudson Valley family band Dog on Fleas, has done more than come up with a great album title (referencing, of course, the groundbreaking “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill gang). Jones, while certainly putting together what could be considered a lullaby CD, hasn’t taken the easy way by just recording a bunch of quiet songs with acoustic guitars. It’s just as creative as any of his regular band’s work, but just happens to be mostly a bit mellower. It’s not a release that instantly grabs you, but if you get it, I bet you’ll pull it out pretty regularly – especially if you’re stuck in traffic with snarly kids. www.dogonfleas.com, www.cdbaby.com/deanjones.

Melissa Errico, Lullabies & Wildflowers

Tony-nominee Melissa Errico (for best actress in Amour) and frequent performer on Broadway, on TV, and in feature films, had a baby a couple of years ago. As with so many performers, the experience of becoming a parent – late nights, singing, and so on – triggered a record. But most performers don’t have the incredible voice of Errico. Listening to Lullabies & Wildflowers, you’re not remotely surprised to hear that she’s been successful on Broadway – it’s that kind of voice, pure, clear, and engaging. Unsurprisingly, the record is gentle and soothing. Even the slightly more up-tempo songs (the Gershwins’ “Someone to Watch Over Me” or Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” for example) will trigger at most gentle head-bobbing, not head-banging. The production is polished to a fine sheen, as you’d expect with her background and style of singing. That production approach occasionally makes some of the songs feel almost distant, which isn’t ideal for lullabies, and isn’t my cup of tea – but overall, that’s nitpicking. If you’re looking for a way to slow down at the end of the day, this will work wonders. www.melissaerrico.com


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings on 93.9 The River (7-9 AM, 101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio (8-10 AM). He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families.

Cookin’ Up a Rock ‘n’ Roll Casserole with Brady Rymer!

Hilltown Families & Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child Present …

A ROCK ‘N’ ROLL CASSEROLE MUSICAL POTLUCK
AND DEBUT CONCERT WITH
BRADY RYMER & THE LITTLE BAND THAT COULD!

Friday, April 25th @ 5:00pm in Northampton

Brady RymerBrady Rymer and the Little Band that Could are cookin’ up a rock ‘n’ roll casserole for their Northampton debut: a musical potluck supper!

Might just be the best-sounding band in children’s music.Stefan Shepherd of Zooglobble.com, heard on NPR’s All Things Considered

Multi-award-winning indie musician and From Good Homes founding member Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could invite families to share a meal and share the music at a high-spirited musical potluck supper at:

  • 5:00 p.m.
  • Friday, April 25
  • Lyman Hall at First Churches of Northampton
  • 129 Main Street, Northampton, MA,
  • Potluck contributions are welcome but not required.
  • Tickets are $7 per person. Infants free.

Co-presented by the local kids’ radio show Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child (93.9 The River, Saturday mornings from 7 – 9) and Hilltown Families (www.HilltownFamilies.org).

Brady Rymer toured and recorded with the RCA roots/rock band From Good Homes for thirteen years — sharing the stage with the likes of Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir — before parenthood broadened the scope of his music. Five albums and countless live shows later, this veteran performer has established himself as one of the country’s most captivating creators of music for kids and families. Combining a feel-good R&B foundation with traditional acoustic arrangements and a scoop of sunny 70’s optimism, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could have created a distinctive, modern American roots sound for families raised on rock ‘n’ roll. Every generation connects to this band’s strong, straight-ahead grooves, catchy choruses and irresistibly down-home, hip-shakin’ vibe.

Brady RymerPresenting music with the whole family in mind, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could are sure to play some of their songs about the joys of eating (“Cookin’ Saturday,” “Look at My Belly,” “Eatin’ Animal Crackers,” and more). They’ll also showcase rollicking, roots-y new tunes like “Road Trip,” a boogie-woogie piano-driven rocker about piling into the car and driving through the heartland on a family adventure, and “Jump Up (It’s A Good Day),” whose percolating groove and rich harmonies are as uplifting as they are infectious, bringing audiences to their feet – and some into the air!

Brady Rymer draws on his folk, country, pop and blues roots in songs for pint-size fans and their parents. Rymer and his Little Band That Could get the whole family groovin’. – The NY Daily News

In an era of character-driven entertainment for children, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could are the real deal, a soulful and spirited band bringing great musicianship, superb songwriting and pure joy to their performances for kids and all generations.

Lest anyone think this is musical Pablum, think again. His music has a rock ‘n’ roll heart. – The New York Times

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All Dressed Up and Somewhere Royally Fun to Go!

Royally Rockin’ Good Time!

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

Princess Katie & Racer Steve were a blast on Saturday during their afternoon costume performance at Lyman Hall in Northampton, MA. We had a terrific turn-out despite the rain, and Princess Katie had the kids rockin’ out and doing the tango, with the parents laughing and joining in. Big thanks to everyone who came out (and for dressing-up!). Click here to see photos.

P. Katie is a royal card, playing up the roll as a princess in caricature! The few weeks leading up to their performance she wrote several entries for Hilltown Families. Click here to read her entries. Hopefully she’ll continue to send us her updates from her Kingdom in NY.

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

The most memorable moment of the performance for me (albeit embarrassing) was having her sing Happy Birthday to me (and Liam of Spare the Rock fame). I kept shouting to my daughter (dressed in character as a cheetah), “Look honey, Princess Katie is singing Mommy Happy Birthday!” I felt like a little kid! It was great. But Persephone was too busy crawling around on the floor picking up confetti and streamers to be bothered. — I turned the big four-zero on Sunday (Liam turned six a few days earlier) and having the witty Princess Katie sing Happy Birthday was a memorable present. Thanks Katie!

Below is a low-fi video I took during the performance of their funky song, “Hey Claire!” off of their new CD Fast & Feisty. Click here if you didn’t get a chance to pick up a copy at the concert or couldn’t make it out. And be sure to check out their fun and interactive website at www.princessracer.com. BTW, our next music promo for the Hilltown Family Variety Show will be to win their Songs for the Coolest Kids CD along with the t-shirts they submitted to the HFVS T-Shirt Review. So be sure to check back!

Another ROCKIN’ Kids Concert in Northampton: Princess Katie & Racer Steve!

Hilltown Families & Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child Present …

PRINCESS KATIE & RACER STEVE!

Saturday, March 8th @ 1:30pm in Northampton

Princess Katie & Racer Steve, will make a triumphant return to Northampton with a rock concert for kids and their parental units at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 8 in Lyman Hall at First Churches of Northampton, 129 Main Street, Northampton, MA, co-presented by the Valley Free Radio programs, Hilltown Family Variety Show (HilltownFamilies.org) and Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child (click here to read about their performance last spring). Costumes for the kids are welcome, but optional.

Don’t let the name fool you, this Manhattan-based musical duo (and married couple) stirs up some seriously rockin’ music, ranging from alt-pop to country to reggae, all with a positive message.Publishers Weekly

Kids are encouraged to join Princess Katie, Racer Steve, Judo Champ Billy, and Crash in rocking out to “music with a message that hasn’t lost its cool.” The high-energy show will feature tunes from Princess Katie & Racer Steve’s critically acclaimed 2007 album, Songs for the Coolest Kids, as well as “sneak previews” of songs from their soon-to-be-released CD, Fast & Feisty, offering contemporary takes on popular music sounds ranging from jazz and swing to neo-Latin and electric rock ‘n’ roll to rap, West Indian, folk, country, and 12-bar blues. Princess Katie & Racer Steve use cool music, hip lyrics and zany skits to bring home messages about cultural acceptance, winning, losing, sharing, bullying, making friends, kindness, fairness, sibling appreciation, world peace, and just plain having fun being a kid.

Spontaneity and surprise are key to Princess Katie & Racer Steve’s shows. You never know what they’ll dream up. Princess Katie (aka Katie O’Sullivan) says, “I just can’t seem to do a show unless it’s spectacular for the kids!” She’s sure to bring her giant prize wheel and spin it to choose songs or activities like “Conga” or “Freeze Dance.” Princess Katie & Racer Steve might throw out inflatable soccer balls or surprise the kids with a confetti or Mylar steamer launch. Sometimes they’ll hand out mini racing flags so kids can wave them every time they hear, “Go, Go, Go” in a song about Racer Steve’s car racing. They’ll wear “funky hats” and sunglasses for their “Hey Claire” funk song, and for “Sneakers,” Katie has GIANT sneakers to wear under her princess dress.

Alternative rock-loving parents will dig how much Katie sounds like Natalie Merchant (only much more chipper), and the high-spirited high jinks of Racer Steve will keep their tots in stitches.FamilyFun magazine

Says Racer Steve (aka Steve Borne), “We’re really working toward entertaining kids on every level, not only through the music, but also by making them laugh. Behind everything we create, there’s an element of humor, and we’re so happy to see that the kids, get it and laugh along with us.”

Check out From the Palace: Day in the Life of a Medieval Princess, Princess Katie’s commentary as a contributing writer for Hilltown Families on life in the medieval ages. She’s pretty darn funny and worth the read! She’ll tickle your royal funny bone!

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Spare the Rock on The River

Indie Music for Indie Kids Now on 93.9 The River
By HF Contributing Writer, Bill Childs

Starting this Saturday, February 9, our long-standing radio show (over 100 episodes!) “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child,” will be airing on The River (93.9 in Northampton and most of the Valley and at least some of the Hilltowns, 101.5 in Brattleboro). We’ll be on from 7 to 9 AM every Saturday on the River; we’ll also still be aired on Valley Free Radio (103.3 in Northampton and immediate environs). Both stations stream (http://wrsi.com for the River, http://valleyfreeradio.org for VFR), and on-demand streams of the show are available at http://sparetherock.com.

We’re very excited about the move. The folks at the River have been terrific – many of them have kids themselves – and the show will be essentially the same, though we’ll now be pre-recording. (This week’s show, which is sort of a soft launch, has a bit less conversation than usual, but that was due to nerves, not an intentional change.) We’ll keep having terrific musicians on the show, we’ll keep playing all sorts of kid-appropriate music, and we’ll keep bringing shows to the area. Just now, we can get even broader exposure for all the great artists!
So if you’re out and about and wanting to hear some great music for kids on Saturday mornings, you’ve now got an option farther out of town.

-Bill, Ella, & Sometimes Liam

ABOUT THE AUTHORBill Childs & Ella Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield, MA. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, on Valley Free Radio (103.3FM in Northampton) on Saturday mornings from 8am to 10am and online at www.sparetherock.com. He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com.

New Family Music To Defrost Your Frozen Feet!

Frozen February Fun
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Brrrr. It’s pretty darn cold where I am when I’m writing this, and it’ll probably be pretty darn cold where you are when you read it. There’s nothing better than dancing to warm you up, so today, some almost all brand spanking new music for you and your family to boogie to.

They Might Be Giants – Here Come the 123s
On their third CD for kids, TMBG continues what made their first two essential listening: a combination of hook-filled music with lyrics that will get parents and kids cracking up. “High Five” celebrates the joy of palm-slapping, while “One Everything” gets metaphysical about everything’s uniqueness in a tasty pop morsel. While it’s number-themed, Here Come the 123s is not really intended as an educational CD, and that’s good – instead, it’s pure entertainment. The accompanying DVD adds energetic and hilarious animation to the tracks. www.tmbg.com

Medeski, Martin & Wood – Let’s Go Everywhere:
MMW has a devoted fan base from years of touring, and they’re going to add the younger set to it with this engaging and delightful mash-up of kids’ music with their trademark jazz and funk. With a mix of originals and covers (and the Johnny Cash reworking in the title track somewhere in the middle), the band has balanced the complexity of skilled jazz players with the simplicity necessary to grab kids’ attention. Recorded in just four days, the travel-themed record has a sense of improvisation and immediacy you don’t often find in music for kids. www.mmw.net

Putumayo (Various Artists) – Hawaiian Playground:
With ten tracks from and about Hawaii, Hawaiian Playground provides a sunny treat in the dead of winter. From The Moonlighters’ harmonies and ukelele on “Right On” to Joe McDermott pining for the islands on “Come to Hawaii” to native Hawaiians Ehukai and Imua, the CD gives a real sense for the multitude of musical styles in Hawaii while also being a cohesive – and fun! – whole. www.putumayo.com

The Jellydots – Changing Skies:
The Jellydots’ Hey You Kids was one of the best family CDs of 2006, and Changing Skies, while a bit of a departure, is well worth checking out too. Singer and songwriter Doug Snyder has definitely skewed a bit older – some of the songs (especially “Art School Girl” and “Remember Me”) are aimed much more at the tweener or teenage sets – but the real genius of the record is that it’s got something for every member of the family, without making any of them feel pandered to. www.thejellydots.com

Brady Rymer – Here Comes Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could:
Brady Rymer (formerly of the grown-up band From Good Homes) has put together his best-yet record of friendly and loose, but never sloppy, kid roots rock. Featuring a number of performers from Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions along with Rymer’s long-standing band, it’s the perfect soundtrack to a sunny weekend, or a cold and cloudy weekend when you wish it was sunny. www.bradyrymer.com


ABOUT THE AUTHORBill Childs & Ella

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield, MA. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, on Valley Free Radio (103.3FM in Northampton) on Saturday mornings from 8am to 10am and online at www.sparetherock.com. He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com.

The Deedle Deedle Dees!

The Deedle Deedle Dees in Northampton
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Deedle Deedle Dees Concert on Jan. 26th 2008

One week from today, on Saturday, January 26, at 10 AM, Flywheel Arts Collective’s Pancake Mountain returns for the new year with a family rock show at First Churches’ Lyman Hall. We’re co-presenting (“we” being Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child): The Deedle Deedle Dees!

The Deedle Deedle Dees, hailing from Brooklyn, are coming back for their third visit to the Valley. They packed Flywheel back in 2008, did a benefit for Flywheel last summer at Artifacts 20th Century, and now they’re back, again partially benefiting Flywheel, with a show at Lyman Hall at First Churches in Northampton, MA. They’ve toured all over the country, including a packed after-show during the Austin City Limits Music Festival and shows at Symphony Space in Manhattan.

You can check out the band’s website at www.thedeedledeedledees.com, and hear clips at www.cdbaby.com/cd/deedle2 or that MySpace thing all the kids are doing: www.myspace.com/thedeedledeedledees.

I think their newest record, Freedom in a Box, was the best family CD of 2007; I wrote briefly about it for Minnesota Parent. They have a slightly askew view on most subjects, and often sing about quirky bits of history.

Their live shows basically just rock — it is what you’d expect, as the band says, from “four guys who were raised on Schoolhouse Rock, the Pixies, Dr. John, the Band, the Muppets, and Tom Waits.” The band is appropriate for all ages, and the space is such that if it gets a little loud, you can get away from the volume pretty well.

But wait, there’s more! Carnival games, pancakes, and lots of friendly folks…  Read the rest of this entry »

Snowman in My Freezer Episode on HFVS (01/15/08)

LISTEN NOW

HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW
Snowman in My Freezer Episode

with Sienna & Persephone

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA
Tuesday evening @ 7pm

01/15/08 PLAYLIST

listen now | subscribe to podcast | archived shows | contests

PLAYLIST

FEATURED VIDEO

If you like the kitschiness of Rosemary Clooney’s song, “Suzy Snowflake,” you have to see this video put to Soul Coughing‘s version of this classic winter song.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES

Deedle Deedle Dees Concert on Jan. 26th 2008

This winter there are THREE excellent kids concerts happening that you won’t want to miss: The Deedle Deedle Dees, Uncle Rock, and Princess Katie & Racer Steve! All three bands are returning to the area from New York. If you missed them the first time, or want to come see them again, here’s your chance to see them in our area.

JANUARY 26th @ 10amThe Deedle Deedle Dees will be performing at Lyman Hall at the First Churches in Northampton, MA. There will be pancakes, carnival games, live music and dancing! Co-presented by Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child and Flywheel Arts Collective. Check out The Deedle Deedle Dees at www.thedeedledeedledees.com.

Uncle Rock on Feb 2nd 2008 at Florence Civic Center

FEBRUARY 2nd @ 10:30amUncle Rock will be at the Florence Civic Center (next to the Lilly Library off of Route 9) in Florence, MA. Presented by Hilltown Families. Uncle Rock just release his third album, Uncle Rock U. Visit Uncle Rock on-line at www.unclerock.com. Click here to print out a poster and help us spread the word!

Princess Katie & Racer Steve on March 8thMARCH 8th @ 1:30pm Princess Katie & Racer Steve will be whoopin’ it up at Lyman Hall at the First Churches in Northampton, MA. Come in costume if you’d like! PK&RS just released a new album too, Fast & Feisty. Performance is co-presented by Hilltown Families & Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. PK&RS have a cool website at www.princessracer.com.

THIS WEEK’S CONTEST

This week we’re offering music by Baby Rock Records and apparel from Beethoven’s Wig:

  • A sampler CD by Baby Rock Records, Rockabye Baby!, featuring lullaby renditions of favorite rock bands.
  • Youth size small t-shirt submitted by Beethoven’s Wig to the HFVS T-shirt Review.

Beethoven’s Wig
There seemed to be an equally positive response from kids and parents on this design. They all liked the otherworldly, flowing wig on Beethoven’s head. “I like that his wig is tubes,” commented Ruben (age 10). And Ruben’s parents, found the design fun, fanciful and imaginative. “Best graphic,” wrote Gus (Ruben’s dad).

HOW TO WIN: For your chance to win, simply post us a comment below. We’ll randomly draw a winner from everyone who leaves a comment. IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is 01/22/08 @ 7pm (EST).

CONGRATULATIONS TO

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Gustafer Punches Cheese in Florence

Gustafer Yellowgold at the Florence Civic Center

Gustafer Yellowgold in Florence (c) www.HilltownFamilies.orgLast February, Morgan Taylor and Rachel Loshak from Gustafer Yellowgold came to the Pioneer Valley for a memorable family performance at the Flywheel in Easthampton, MA. Well, lots has happen between then and now (for one thing, Flywheel closed their doors in March, with hopes to open again in the Old Town Hall in downtown Easthampton, a very exciting prospect! Click here to read Valley Advocate’s article). This past weekend they performed at the Florence Civic Center in Florence, MA, presented by Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child.

Christy & Kai at the performance (c) www.HilltownFamilies.orgSince their last gig in our area, Gustafer Yellowgold came out with a new CD/DVD this fall, Have You Never Been Yellow?, a sequel to their first album, Gustafer Yellowgold’s Wide Wild World. This weekend’s performance included several songs off of their new CD, including “Punching Cheese,” “The Mustard Slugs” and “Beard For All Seasons.” Each of their songs is a blend of minimally animated illustrations that are accompanied by Taylor’s catchy and original ballads for a truly different multimedia experience. Here’s their performance of “The Mustard Slugs:”

Another exciting thing that has happen since their last visit is that their newest CD won the number one position on the Fids and Kamily Award, which Hilltown Families was invited to participate in as a judge! Congratulations! In a recent post to Hilltown Familes, Fids & Kamily 2007 Awards … My Vote!, written by HF Contributing Writer, Bill Childs from Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, Childs writes:

Liam during the performance (c) www.HilltownFamilies.orgHave You Never Been Yellow? – Gustafer Yellowgold (www.gustaferyellowgold.com). Gustafer is a small yellow fellow from the sun, and this, the second CD/DVD set to follow his Earthly exploits, is sweetly hilarious and musically rich. The CD stands on its own, but the DVD “moving story book” is what makes the package very nearly perfect.

And the last bit of exciting news we’ll share, Morgan and Rachel will be expecting their first child in a few months! Kudos you two! Wishing you wellness and joy.

Kids Music: Spare the Rock’s Best Picks for 2007!

Fids & Kamily 2007 Awards … My Vote!
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

For the second straight year, I’ve worked with two great kids’ media reviewers, Stefan from Zooglobble.com and Amy from TheLovelyMrsDavis.com, to put together a consensus poll of DJs, reviewers, bloggers, and other people who pay a lot of attention to music for kids. The poll is called the Fids & Kamily Awards, and you can see the results at www.fidsandkamily.com, along with reviews by a bunch of different writers.

To follow is my ballot for the best family CDs of 2007:

Deedle Deedle Dees1. Freedom in a Box – Deedle Deedle Dees (www.thedeedledeedledees.com). The Brooklyn-based Deedle Deedle Dees combine a great sense of fun and whimsy with a slightly askew view of history and Americana-tinged rocking out. I still listen to this every few days, with or without my kids, and boy, do they love it. So will you.

2. Mommy Says No! -Asylum Street Spankers (www.asylumstreetspankers.com). The Austin-based Spankers take their immensely varied musical styles into the world of kids’ music, and don’t follow the rules there any more than they do with their grown-up records. From touching ballads (“Sidekick”) to behind-kicking rawking out (Nirvana’s “Sliver”), the CD is another one in regular rotation in the minivan.

3. It’s a Big World – Renee & Jeremy (www.reneeandjeremymusic.com). As I said in my initial review, this CD is flat-out gorgeous. This duo provides the best lullabies and mellowing-out songs of the year, hands down.

4. Have You Never Been Yellow? – Gustafer Yellowgold (www.gustaferyellowgold.com). Gustafer is a small yellow fellow from the sun, and this, the second CD/DVD set to follow his Earthly exploits, is sweetly hilarious and musically rich. The CD stands on its own, but the DVD “moving story book” is what makes the package very nearly perfect.

5. Educated Kid – Hipwaders (www.hipwaders.net). Need some tight power guitar rock for your little ones? Who doesn’t? The Hipwaders are here for you. The CD could have only the title track and two other tracks (“Art Car” and “Speed of Love”) and it’d still be in my top ten; lucky for all of us, it’s got even more.

6. Have You Ever Seen an Owl? – Terrible Twos (www.myspace.com/theterribletwosband). The Terrible Twos are the kids-music iteration of The New Amsterdams, and their music for families is similar: hook-filled country-tinged rock that you’ll be humming even after the kids are in bed.

7. Alphabet Songs Vol. III – Steve Weeks (www.steveweeksmusic.com). With this, Weeks finished up a trilogy of records with each song themed to a letter of the alphabet, a gimmick that largely serves to showcase his quick wit and songwriting skills. The music is straightforward (but not dull) folk rock along the lines of Barenaked Ladies, remarkably all performed by Weeks himself.

8. Calling All Kids – CandyBand (www.candyband.com). To put it in SAT test terms: CandyBand: kids’ music :: The Clash: grownup music. These four moms from Detroit rock, and your neck will be sore from all the headbanging.

9. Make Your Own Someday – The Jimmies (www.gimmejimmies.com). You know how when you watch The Office, you want to be friends with Jim and Pam? (That does happen to other people, right?) After listening to the Jimmies, you and your kids will want to be friends with Ashley Albert, the lead singer and primary songwriter. She just seems so darn fun and the songs are just so clever and catchy that your whole family will want to be her BFF.

10. Play – Various Artists (www.DeSotoRecords.com). This indie-band-filled compilation avoids the trap of playing down to kids that similar compilations sometimes fall into. With Mudhoney rocking out and The Soccer Team’s handclap-filled “I’ll Never Fear Ghosts Again,” it’s a consistent crowd-pleaser.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Childs & EllaBill Childs teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, on Valley Free Radio (103.3FM in Northampton) on Saturday mornings from 8am to 10am and online at www.sparetherock.com. He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at show@sparetherock.com.

Kidzapalooza … unmasking rock festival intruders

Hey! You Got Kids’ Music in My Huge Rock Festival!
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Beware, oh people-who-go-to- huge-rock-festivals. There’s an intruder. And, if you’re paying attention to where you’re reading this (and you look like you are), you’ll guess who it is … Kids’ musicians! (Cue the piercing violin notes a la Psycho.)

Yes, friends, at least two huge rock festivals – Chicago’s Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Festival (ACL) – have made a real commitment to music for children, bringing in kid-friendly bands from all over the country. While these bands are far from a complete list of up-and-comers in family-friendly music, they do represent a pretty amazing lineup of artists. Having lived in Austin for several years in the ‘90s, we jumped at the chance to check out ACL’s kids’ stage – cleverly denominated “Austin Kiddie Limits” (AKL) (Lollapalooza’s equivalent is “Kidzapalooza”).

And we weren’t disappointed, even though we only attended on one of the three days, and even though Austin in September boasts temperatures of, oh, I don’t know, 245 degrees. To follow you’ll find a quick tour of who we saw.

THE BUMMKINN BAND

First up was The BummKinn Band, a country band for kids. They’re based in California, but worry not: they’ve got enough Texas in them to make you forget they’re from anywhere near 90210. Their first record, Starry Skies and Lullabies, was charming if, I thought, not quite consistent enough to be great. Live, they played a lot of their new songs (from a still-in-progress CD), and the new work promises to get up to that “great” place, with a bit more rock surrounding the country nougat center. Their stage show was fun and cute, with humor evoking the skits from the Grand Ol’ Opry.

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Sammy’s Big Night Benefit Concert

Sammy’s Big Night
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Local listeners of Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child should try to attend this benefit concert on Sept. 20th. Chris Haynes and his family are friends from our church, and his wife Heather’s death was a tragedy in so many ways. Plus, it’s a crazy good line-up of musicians for just fifteen bucks. I’m teaching Thursday nights this year, so I can’t make it, but hopefully many others will.

BENEFIT DETAILS

Sammy’s Big Night Benefit Concert
Thursday, September 20th ~ 7:00 pm
Chapin Auditorium, Mt. Holyoke College, S. Hadley, MA

An intimate night of exceptional music featuring performances by:

  • John Gorka
  • Cliff Eberhardt
  • The Nields
  • The Young At Heart Chorus
  • The Drunk Stuntmen
  • The O-Tones
  • The Kitchen Table
  • Leah Kunkel
  • Andy Jaffe
  • and Special Guests
  • Emceed by John Allen and Johnny Memphis
The Nields following a performance in Amherst, MA.

The Nields in Amherst, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Thursday, September 20, a special benefit concert, SAMMY’S BIG NIGHT, will take place at Chapin Auditorium, on the campus of Mount Holyoke College, Route 116, South Hadley, Massachusetts. 100 percent of the concert proceeds will benefit Samuel Owen Haynes, born May 23rd, 2007. His mother Heather Egan Haynes passed away four days later from complications relating to childbirth. The 7:00 pm concert is open to the public and all are welcome. Tickets go on sale Monday, August 20th at the Northampton Box Office, online at http://www.nbotickets.com or by calling 413-586-8686 or 800-THE-TICK.

Sammy’s father Chris Haynes, a music professor at Springfield College, a talented musician, and an anchor for the Pioneer Valley music scene, is raising Owen. Each of the celebrated performers at the benefit have donated their services and encourage their fans to come to this special event. Proceeds will go to the Samuel Owen Haynes Fund c/o First Churches, 129 Main St, Northampton, MA in support of Sammy’s care and education.

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Sandy Sandwiches and Local Food at Cup & Top

Storyteller Keith Munslow Visits Florence

SANDY SANDWICHES AT CUP & TOPKeith Munslow at Cup and Top (c) Hilltown Families [Things to do in Florence, Massachusetts]

Acclaimed storyteller, musician and visual artist, Keith Munslow was at Cup & Top this past Saturday following a live on-air performance and interview on Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. Keith’s performance was interactive and funny, filled with original songs and stories. His performance included a storyboard of cartoons that he would draw on-the-spot. Several families got to take home his poster sized drawings following his show.

Keith’s style reminded me a lot of another storyteller I admire, Bill Harley. I later learned that Bill helped produce Keith’s newest album, Dressed Up For The Party. That explains everything! Two very talented storytellers. Boogedy Boogedy is the running catch phrase for anything scary in our house – that comes from Bill Harley’s story, “The Swamp Monster,” from his award winning album Blah, Blah, Blah.

But this article is about Keith, who had the kids enthralled with his story, “The Bellywog;” a story about the critter that visits our tummys at night leaving us with a belly ache in the morning before moving on to the next persons house, and the round of remedies that are offered by well meaning folks. Persephone’s dad came with us and I caught him laughing once or twice. A sure sign that Keith can entertain even the most cynical of audience members. (That’s high accolades, Keith!)

Click here if you’d like to find out where and when Keith Munslow will be performing in the area, or here if you’d like to discover Bill Harley’s performance schedule too. They are both from Rhode Island so they are sure to be in our area again soon.

LOCAL FOOD AT CUP & TOP

Following the performance, our family had lunch at Cup & Top. The owner, Helen, does a great job at using local food in her menu items, including fresh herbs from her own personal cafe garden in Florence. They also make their own pastries (including a gluten free selection) and yogurt with fresh local milk from Mapleline Farm in Hadley, MA. To follow is a list of many of the items they serve up from local farms and local providers:

  • Appalachian Naturals Dressings (Goshen, MA)
  • Bread Euphoria Organic Bread (Haydenville, MA)
  • Dean’s Beans Coffee (Orange, MA)
  • Diemand Farm Eggs (Wendell, MA)
  • Enterprise Farm Organic Produce (Whately, MA)
  • Gus & Paul’s NY Bagels (Springfield, MA)
  • TeaGuys Loose Leaf Tea (Florence, MA)

Neither Rain Nor Soggy Signs Can Keep ’em Away

Even on a Wet Day Uncle Rock ROCKS!

Uncle Rock at the Children's Art Museum (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

At 8:30 a.m. on a dreary Saturday morning I was road-side in Shelburne Falls tacking up posters to the town center light posts … in the pouring rain! Posters that read, “Uncle Rock: This A Way,” and “Uncle Rock: That A Way.” You see this past Saturday was our long awaited Uncle Rock concert at the Children’s Art Museum (CAM), presented by Hilltown Families and Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child.

I posted large signs with big arrows and orange helium balloons along the streets, getting soaking wet in a mini down-pour while tromping in the waist high stalks of Tansy and Goldenrod surrounding each utility pole. I talked myself through panic at the thought that no one would journey out from the comfort of their homes – out from under their dry sheets and away from their warm cups of coffee – on such a wet Saturday.

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

I managed to get CAM’s space set up for the performance with my daughter on my heels, begging for yet another juice box from the bake sale table, before my volunteer army of two showed up along with our first family. (Thanks Seth & Angie!) And with their arrival came a silent sigh of relief. I thought if no one else cared to venture out on a dark and rainy Saturday morning, there would at least be two families in the audience. In my book, that’s a potential party!

 

But people DID arrive, driving as far away as West Chesterfield and Florence, and my angst started to subside! The space filled up with young children and parents, dancing around to music we play on HFVS, while we waited for Uncle Rock to arrive. And after an unexpected tour through Shelburne’s rainy roads, Uncle Rock showed up too … and the real party began! … And everyone loved him! … And they all looked happy … dancing around with music makers … eating treats from the bake sale table (thanks Julie & Angie!) … getting Uncle Rock CD’s signed and Uncle Rock T-shirts to wear to school this fall.

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

Along side many of our favorite songs from Plays Well With Others and Here We Go, the audience got a preview of songs from his upcoming CD, Uncle Rock U (due to hit the streets on October 9th, 2007). It was a really fun time!

Music DVDs That Won’t Rot Your Children’s Brains (Much)

Music DVDs That Won’t Rot Your Children’s Brains (Much)
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

I know, I know: You don’t watch television, and your kids are utterly puzzled when they even catch a glimpse of a television screen, so unfamiliar are they with the evils of the Box O’ Idiots. If they’ve ever seen any TV, it’s been ludicrously educational – sedate documentaries about free-range chickens with Mozart gently playing in the background, perhaps. You would never, ever dream of using the TV to keep the kids under control while you cook (or, ahem, write a column about kids’ music.)

But just in case you, er, know someone who might not be quite so good at avoiding screen time with the kids, you’ll be glad to learn that a lot of the talented musicians making great music for kids are also making great DVDs for kids. Below, some of the best:

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Dancing Skunks and Stolen Toes in Florence

Family Concert at Cup & Top with Mr. Richard

Mr. Richard @ Cup & Top

“Richard Peeples [Mr. Richard] has a gruff singing voice that suggests he is more cartoon character than human, but that’s just part of his charm. On his second CD, he lathers his native Louisiana groove and gumption onto songs about dancing skunks and stolen toes.” – Cookie Magazine, April-May 2007

This past Saturday Mr. Richard did a free performance at Cup & Top in Florence, MA, presented by Valley Free Radio’s Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. Read the rest of this entry »

Music Compilations Worth The Bother

Music Compilations Worth The Bother
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Pity the underachieving compilation CD.

To do so, you may find it helpful to first anthropomorphize the underachieving compilation CD – perhaps imagine it with arms, legs, and a little CD face. Done? Now, pity it. Well done.

You know the CD I’m talking about. You’re digging through the used bin and you come across it – a clever name, perhaps, and maybe a worthwhile beneficiary – say, the International Association to Reduce Moderate Irritability in Gym Teachers. You dig some of the artists, haven’t heard of others, and figure you might as well give it a try. You buy it, put it in the CD player, frown vaguely, and never listen again.

The problem with most compilation CDs is that they’re filled with leftover tracks, the ones that weren’t good enough to even be the filler tracks on the artists’ real albums, or else they’re throwaway covers of songs you didn’t like the first time around.

Happily, these flaws are not endemic in kids’ music compilations. Some, as you’ll see below, represent the only kid-appropriate tracks done by the artists, while others are somehow able to get artists to contribute killer non-leftover tracks. Check them out: Read the rest of this entry »

Rockin’ in Shelburne Falls with Uncle Rock

Hilltown Families & Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child Present …

UNCLE ROCK!!!

Uncle RockJoin us for an intimate performance with Uncle Rock in the beautiful Hilltown of Shelburne Falls, MA. Make a day exploring Shelburne Falls following this Saturday morning performance. “Unlike some of the classic New England towns that are overrun with tourists in the summer and fall, Shelburne Falls remains a bit of an undiscovered pot of gold at the end of a bridge decked with a rainbow of blossoms.”

Reserve your tickets for UNCLE ROCK!

  • July 28th, 2007 @ 10 a.m.
  • Children’s Art Museum
  • 14 Depot Street (behind the Trolley Museum)
  • Shelburne Falls, MA.
  • Tickets are $6.
  • Call to reserve your tickets!
  • 413.296.0096.

“[Uncle Rock’s CD, Plays Well with Others] is the album you imagine your former-rocker husband would love to make for your own kids–if only you had let him buy that Stratocaster last year instead of replacing the washer and dryer.” – Cool Mom Picks

Plays Well with Others is an album with some great cuts of kid-friendly roots-rock.” – Zooglobble.com

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Princess Katie Holds Court in Florence

Kids’ Music Goes Global

What In The World?
Kids’ Music Goes Global
by Bill Childs

(c) Hilltown Families - Robbi K at Brooklyn HootenannyDan Zanes caused a stir a few months ago by noting the overwhelming whiteness of a particular national parenting magazine. (I won’t mention which magazine, because the criticism is pretty fairly addressed to almost any of them.) His point, which is a sound one, is that a “healthy, inclusive, celebratory society is, I think, where the music flourishes.” Well said, Mr. Zanes.

With that in mind, think for a moment about your local record store’s kids’ section. (First, pretend that you still have a local record store, and in the unlikely event that you do, pretend that it has a kids’ section with more than four copies of The Hamster Dance.) What does this record section look like?

I bet your imaginary local record store’s imaginary kids’ section is filled mostly with white musicians. They’re playing tremendously diverse styles of music, no doubt, but they’re not from particularly diverse backgrounds. There are some exceptions, and many of the stars of kids’ music have worked with amazing artists of color (notably Zanes, but also AudraRox and many others), but a disproportionate number look a lot like, well, me. Which is to say: white (particularly after a long, dark winter).

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