Monday, August 07, 2006

When ScribbleMonster Played Kidzapalooza

When the cold, hard truth that I wouldn't be attending Kidzapalooza/Lollapalooza sunk in, I thought about who could write an interesting summary of their experiences there. And the first person that came to mind was Jim Dague aka ScribbleJim, whose newsletters (and few e-mails to me) have been generous and amusing. Jim's summary below -- covering both Friday and Saturday -- does not disappoint. Many thanks to Jim for taking the time to put this together.


The Bozo Show has been collecting dust or gone for about a dozen years now. Still, there are countless Chicago-area children’s performers who proudly and prominently list their appearances on “Bozo’s Circus” (and I think they stopped calling it “Bozo’s Circus” about 25 years back) in their bio. Heck, if I were on The Bozo Show, I’d do the same. In its heyday, there reportedly was a 10-year waiting list for tickets. You never knew anyone who actually got to attend the show. Except for ScribbleJayne. Her uncle did advertising for Channel 9, so she actually scored tickets and went as a kid. We’ve tried to figure out a way to somehow make that qualify as saying we appeared on the Bozo show. We can stop thinking about that now. Now we can say that ScribbleMonster played Lollapalooza.

For about six weeks leading up to the festival, I’m amazed at all the various calls, faxes and emails somehow related to the event. There are a mass of people involved in making this thing happen. A request is made for a picture and MP3 that can be used on the website. They need artwork for the Kidzapalooza coloring book, our technical rider, stage plot, more artwork for the official program, several requests for contact information, promotional materials… it goes on and on. And they provide us with tons of information. Still, we’re not really sure what to expect.

I drop off merchandise and pick up our artist credentials on Tuesday. I feel bad for the workers all over the park setting up stages and booths in the direct sun with 100 degree temperatures. The stage isn’t up yet, but the Kidzapalooza area is the best in the house. Lots of shade, close to the lake. Sweet.

Friday morning we arrive at about 8:00 am to load in. We flash our Artist wristbands and are waved in. When I get to the Kidzapalooza area, four guys swoop in to unload my gear before I even come to a complete stop. By the time I get out of my car, everything’s on the stage. After we get our stuff set up, we’re carted over to the catering tent for breakfast. Upon our return to the kids’ stage, we find The Blisters doing a sound check. They’re kids who are the same age as some of our own kids and they’re really good.

Our show is usually very hands-on (we’re mobile with wireless mics and guitars) but the stage is five feet off the ground with barricades on either side. There’s no easy way to split time between the stage and the crowd. We also have only 30 minutes to play. Neither of these things are a problem, they’re just different. With all our interaction and set-up for activities, we normally play about 15 songs in an hour set. Today we’ve come up with a killer set of 10 songs that we’ll try to blow through.

The gates open at 11:00 and there’s a long line waiting. Our set starts at 11:30 and Kidzapalooza is officially underway. It takes awhile for people to get into the park. With each new song, there are new additions to the crowd. The KidTribe gang is hula-hooping and dancing with kids on the lawn in front of us as we perform. All the color and movement add to the party vibe. The band is pumped and the sound is great. We don’t spend a lot of time with chatting or interplay. It’s more of a rock band set. Lake Michigan is directly behind us. We’re playing at Lollapalooza! This is so awesome. We get through all 10 songs in our half-hour and we have a ball.

After breaking-down our gear we chat with Miss Mia and Ratso who are taping interviews for the local TV treasure known as Chic-A-Go-Go. We then catch the first half of Asheba’s set before checking our guitars in at the artist area. We run into him a couple more times before the day is through. You can tell that Asheba takes his role as a children’s performer very seriously and I love this about him. Sure, our job is to entertain, but I also believe that we have a responsibility to set positive examples for our audience. Our kids are exposed to plenty of questionable language and behavior on television, from their siblings and their friends. Are farts funny? You bet. Am I calling for an end to farts? Hardly. Kids can and will find a way to have fun with farts on their own. They don’t need any encouragement in song from an adult. I’m thinking we can aim higher and still have some fun.

We explore the artist lounge area and marvel. We find a scattering of comfortable umbrellaed tables and padded lounge chairs surrounding a tented bar area complete with couches, lounge tables and video screens displaying live Lollapalooza performances. There’s also a large platform area for viewing the AT&T stage, a masseuse and a PlayStation2 adorned with guitar controllers for playing Guitar Hero. We have three 13-year-old ScribbleKids in tow – including a drummer and guitarist - who mingle with the Blister kids. I think they’re all grateful to have someone their own age to relate with. They talk about their gear, how long they’ve played, the fest, what bands they want to see and monopolize the PS2.

How great that the Kidzapalooza stage has actual kids performing on it. I’m excited for our kids to see The Blisters play. They have a great crowd (made up primarily of adults) and do an impressive set of covers with a couple originals thrown in. For me, the highlight is their version of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.” The audience was riveted. And the crowd went nuts over their encore of “Sweet Home Alabama.” The ScribbleKids were very much looking forward to seeing Panic! at the Disco and Death Cab for Cutie. At the end of the day, hanging with The Blisters and seeing them perform is the highlight of their day.


Saturday morning runs about the same as Friday with ScribbleMonster performing at 11:30. The Candy Band and Justin Roberts are here loading in. The line doesn’t seem to be anywhere as long at the gate this morning. Maybe everyone is still sleeping off yesterday. Like yesterday, more people stroll in as our set progresses. There’s a group of teens who are clearly amused by “Chocolate Milk,” “Don’t Cry, Dance!” and “A Monster Goes Rrraargh!” It’s great to look out and see them dancing, singing and smiling along with the younger kids, KidTribe and all the hula-hoopers. As we leave the stage looking out at Lake Michigan, we all agree that we would have no problem doing this every day.

Next up is The Candy Band, a group of moms from Detroit who blend nursery rhymes and punk. Almond Joy totally rocks on the guitar and ScribbleBrett is ready to have her be my replacement in ScribbleMonster. The adults in the crowd are obviously amused and it’s a kick watching everyone (really, everyone—including vendors, security, police officers) laughing and playing along to their “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

Knowing it will disappoint my mother who is a retired kindergarten teacher and huge fan (that combination and living in Chicago, I’ve seen Ella Jenkins many times) I still duck out on Ella to catch The Go! Team. As a fan, Saturday’s the day I’ve most been looking forward to. In addition to The Go! Team, The Smoking Popes are playing and neither one disappoint. The Go! Team’s music is so positive and fun. Live, they’re unbelievable. Their energy is non-stop. There’s no way you can sit still or not have a smile on your face. I’ve been waiting for a band on the “grown-up” stages to have this kind of energy and excitement. Come on! We’re at Lollapalooza! Go! Team!

I make it back to the Kidzapalooza area in time for the second half of Justin Roberts’ set and catch all of their second show. Justin plays with a very accomplished group of musicians who are as nice as they are talented. Not only does the band sound great, they’re great fun visually. Clearly they’re having a good time and they have many polished, entertaining moments where the band responds, reacts or moves in unison. Meanwhile, ScribbleMonster gets excited when we remember all the words to our songs.

Who knows what I was expecting from Chutzpah – a Jewish hip-hop trio. This easily could have just been silliness. But it was skillfully produced music with clever lyrics and choreography that, while humorous, also manages to educate and share the Jewish experience (seriously). Songs included “The Curse of the Blessing,” “In the Shtetl,” (that would be the Jewish ghetto) and “Superjew” (which is still running through my head). While singing a song about mothers, MC Meshugenah gets a phone call from his mother on his cellular headset. “Ma. I can’t talk right now. I’m on stage at Lollapalooza. No! Ma!” But the biggest laugh of the day comes when he declares, “Be crazy! Be yourself! But be prepared if people laugh.” So true, children. So true.

I figure that The Go! Team was to be the fest’s highlight until The Smoking Popes play. We get to watch from on the stage as they rip through a set of some of their best, plus a couple of new tunes. There’s a fun Spinal Tap moment when Eli’s amp starts picking up an AT&T commercial mid-song. The timing and reaction couldn’t have worked any better if it were a planned bit. The Popes’ new drummer is fantastic and the band so is tight and together. I love that stuff. I get goose bumps when they play “Pretty Pathetic” (that song is brilliant) and my eyes well up with joy as they end their set with the crowd singing along to “I Know That You Love Me.” It’s an awesome moment.

We run into Justin Roberts’ bass player, Jackie Schimmel, at dinner. During our conversation she mentions that Stefan at Zooglobble asked her to write something about her experience at Lollapalooza and asked one other person. “Yeah, that other person is me.” The secret’s out. News spreads like wildfire across the festival.

1 comment:

deb in sf said...

What an amazing post! Thanks ScribbleJim (and Stefan for setting it up). It's so funny how you talked about Bozo - my mom grew up in Chicago (I'm was born in Skokie) and we watched bozo growing up. She told me all the time about how you could never get on and how someone she knew worked on the show... Same story. Such a chicago thing...

Anyway, It's clear what a great time you had. You brought us right there with you! Sounds amazing.

deb in sf