Nothing says summer like live music in the great outdoors and fortunately in Los Angeles, we can enjoy that feeling practically year round. But let’s face it, when it comes to children’s concerts it can be hard to find shows that will delight the kiddies while not making you want to pull your hair out.
From SoCal staples to exciting up-and comers, the following is a list of performers that the entire family can enjoy:
Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players
It’s no stretch to call Justin Roberts one of the reigning “all stars” of the family music scene. With 10 albums to his credit and wholesome awards too numerous to list, Roberts’ music is as catchy as it is clever. USA Today calls him “the Paul McCartney of kid’s music” and anyone who has ever seen him in concert can attest to the Beatles-esque fervor of his fans. Roberts has an uncanny sense of how kids think and a brilliant way of communicating it lyrically – from the dance-around-your-living room excitement of “Pop Fly” to a ballad about getting separated from Mom at the mall (“Never Getting Lost”). The result is an infectious, funny, sing-along good time complete with kiddie mosh pit! Fortunately, LA is a popular stop on Roberts’ tireless touring schedule (they headlined the Target Kid Stage at the LA Times Book Fair this year) so we’re bound to seem him back in LA soon.
Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang
Any kid band that got their start with a catchy tune in the indie film “Chuck and Buck” warrants an open ear from even the most dubious listener. Remember “Oodily Oodily”? Yep, that’s Gwendolyn. Since then, the band has continued to amp up their West Coast popularity, performing at various family festivals, street fairs, shopping centers and celebrity birthday parties. Liberal comparisons to the beloved music of the 70’s sensations “Free to Be You and Me” and the Muppets hasn’t hurt either. Entertainment Weekly calls the Gang’s music “as good as tot-rock gets.” Gwendolyn doesn’t shy away from songs chock full of meaningful messages and pulls it off with a goofy, sweet sensibility that is as endearing as she is entertaining.
Veteran “all ages” performer Ralph Covert set the bar high for family music when he brought the strains of his Chicago indie-rock band, The Bad Examples, to the kid scene back in 1991 with his signature high energy melodic tunes (think Squeeze or Crowded House). Covert simply makes great pop music. He never underestimates the intelligence of his young audience, a quality that consistently reflects in his clever lyrics and liberal indulgence of different musical styles. The New York Times has considered the possibility that “Mr. Covert will turn out to be (the) genre’s Elvis Presley, or at the very least its Elvis Costello.” Could be. After all, there aren’t many bands that can inspire you rock out to “The Potty Dance” and still feel cool.
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
If you’ve heard the XM Kids radio mega hit “Blue Bear,” you already know that it’s impossible to not bob your head to the unique roots-rock sound of the band USA Today has called the “Best New Kids Artist” of 2011. And if the kickoff tour for their recent debut album (“Oh Lucky Day”) is any indication, this LA-based band will be rocking families in SoCal and across the country for years to come. These three accomplished musicians (Diaz hails from the Berklee College of Music) treat audiences to a sophisticated yet playful collection of tunes that are rich in harmonies, acoustic rhythm and emotion. And their timeless, vintage look is just as cool as their sound.
You’ve just got to give props to an artist who got her start making a CD for her kid’s preschool fundraiser thinking no one would ever hear it. But hear it they did – the ensuing word of mouth has made England “the queen of indie-folk children’s music.” This lovably off-beat songstress, who somehow makes songs about ladybugs and tea parties evoke the quirky coolness of Liz Phair or Ingrid Michaelson, has evolved as a global family favorite and critic’s darling. England’s music is consistently referred to as refreshingly “simple” – just the perfect thing when you want to enjoy the mellower side of musical family fare.
Noelle Wright is a freelance writer and producer living in Los Angeles. When she’s not working, she’s looking for cool things to do with her 7 year old son Theo.