Feb. 10, 2010 - Issue #747: Abnormal Growth
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Sesame Street showed us that kids' music doesn't have to suck
Laser lights cut swaths across the dance floor. A crowd gathers as a
white, shaggy, Yeti takes on a Mountie in a dance-off. The bass pumps and
there's the unmistakable rattle of the bottom end blowing off of a giant
subwoofer and reverberating back off the furniture, fixtures, anything. The
bartenders line up drinks: there's a 7Up slimy cocktail, filled with candied
worms, and some kind of chocolate milk whipped drink, with cream on
Oh, and the dancers on the floor; some can barely walk. Not because they're drunk, but because, they may have just learned to walk. There are two-year-olds dancing on a raised platform. A five-year-old stands by the DJ booth, waving a glow stick.
Last week, my wife and I took our two-year-old to the Bunch Family Dance Party True North Edition, held at The Guvernment, one of Toronto's most famous clubs. On a Saturday afternoon, the doors to the club were thrown open for a dance event, meant for toddlers. Crayola lightboard stations. Cookies with weird kid-friendly cocktails. Characters in costumes, from panda bears to the aforementioned Yeti. Glowsticks.
In an era where hipster parents are being encouraged to bring their punk-rock sensibilities to their children as soon as possible, rock 'n' roll events aimed at families are, well, a cottage industry. Check out the raison d'etre of Bunch, the event's promoter:
“We see you out there: at the park, in the street, at the art gallery and at the show, taking walks and taking bike rides, learning how to shred at the skatepark or playing games whose rules you made up, building something crazy out of cardboard or having brunch and kicking back, growing things in your garden and drawing chalk murals on the sidewalk in front of your house, making a special world to play in together. Bunch is about the inspiring, crazy and creative things that families from all over the place are doing together. It’s about experiencing the big playground that the city you live in can be and it’s about spending time together and with friends.”
Was the dance party a hit? The club was packed. Packed. Tickets were $10 in advance or $14 at the door—and the dancefloor was more packed than most dance clubs are on Friday nights.
But taking the kid out for an afternoon of clubbing is only the beginning. Yo Gabba Gabba, the Nickelodeon hit, brings together rock, electronica and educational TV in a way that's engaging to kids and young adults who may, I stress, have taken a hell of a lot of drugs. YGG often brings on guests from hip indie bands to teach kids that it's cool to dance. A live, onstage version of the show, which comes to Canada in March, is advertised as a chance for parents to bring kids to “their first rock show.” Hipster bands are lined up to play with YGG live. The show has featured rapper Biz Markie, who teaches the kids how to beat box, the guitars of Superconductor and MGMT riding around in an animated viking ship.
Despite the best efforts of Yo Gabba Gabba, still the greatest hipster
moment in the history of hipster kids TV came in 1973 when Stevie Wonder and
his band belted out a funked-out, seven-minute version of
“Superstition” on Sesame Street. Toddlers are in the background,
some going into spasms as they danced and some looking absolutely stunned.
It's a fantastic version of the song, with Wonder throwing in some
lines about Sesame Street. If you haven't seen it, check it out on YouTube.
Really, it's better than any band appearance ever made on Saturday Night
Live. Wonder actually did an alternate theme for Sesame Street in '72, with a
vocoder (awesome!), but it's that version of “Superstition”
Wonder's wonderful effort 37 years ago, showed parents that it was OK for the kids to be into music other than "B-I-N-G-O." Now, we have MGMT for kids and dance clubs opening on Saturdays for toddler danceoffs.
It helps mom and dad stay sane. V
Steven Sandor is a former editor-in-chief of Vue Weekly, now an editor and author living in Toronto.
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