Saturday, January 12, 2013

tfia at licm

Today the family went to see Trout Fishing in America (TFiA) at the Long Island Children's Museum (LICM). Before talking about the concert, I'd like to go off on a couple of tangents and talk about the band and the venue.

Band first. Trout Fishing in America (Ezra Idlet and Keith Grimwood) are far and away the best children's band out there. Their songs are catchy and entertaining, and accessible for children. But the songs are structuired like regular songs. What I mean by that is that they have all the musical complexity of pop songs aimed at an adult audience, so they don't bore ears trhat have spent decades listening to music. Another thing that I like can best be described in terms of what it's not. A lot of other performers of children's music are very self-conscious about being educational. And they make the music educational at the expense of the music itself. TFIA don't do that. The music is the music. And it's damn good. In one song they're counting the wheels on a truck, and the kids are enjoying it. But it's so catchy that adults are going with it too. Another song is about a space alien that made it's way into the singer's nose. The kids are amused (OK -- some are grossed out), but the song sounds like something from the early new wave (circa 1980), and adults are loving it. I'll note that TFIA is not strictly a children's band. They do "serious" "adult" music as well, and their CDs are generally split into the adult and children's categories. I tend to like their kids music much more. But that's just me.

Now for the venue. The theatre at LICM, in Garden City, New York, is one of those underappereciated and underattended gems. They have some great shows there (not all music, mind you) by great performers. Off the top of my head, I can remember shows by Chinese Theatre Works, Ken Waldman, Nappy's Puppets, and Chip Bryant. There have been others. These are high quality shows by great performers in an intimate environment. There's not a bad seat in the house. Today was the first time that TFIA played there. Theatre manager Jim Packard told my wife that getting TFIA to the theatre was on his bucketr list. Another thing that I appreciate about the theatre at LICM is the price point. The show was $3 per ticket. Admittedly, that was the member price. I think the nonmember price was $4. Having a family of 5, I really appreciate that. There's lots of activities where the price seems reasonable until you multiply by 5. We' have seen TFIA in other venues where the cost for the whole family runs in the $100 neighborhood. Jim, if you're reading this please don't take it as encouragement to raise the prices.

As for the show, It was a good assortment of their favorites. There was "18 Wheels on a Big Rig" (see video below, which was not from today's show, but pretty well captures the spirit of what we saw), "100 Little Ducks" and "My Hair Had a Party Last Night" and others. They played these with the usual good humor that I've come to know. At one point, Keith talked about how they recognize some people who have been to their shows before, and I would swear that Ezra was looking straight at my wife. We were, by the way, in the front row. OK, we (along with the other family we went went) were the front row.

The only thing that seemed out of place was one of the new songs, "Don't Touch My Stuff," a musical reaction to theft last year of their van with all their musical intruments in it. TFIA is, if nothing else, a playful band. And even in their few angry songs ("Mine!" is the only one that comes to mind) the anger is offset by playfullness. But "Stuff," from the starting thundering bass riff, is angry. And it didn't sound right at a TFIA concert. I understand the motivation, but still...

There were a couple of other new songs. "Creepy Dead Bug" is one I look forward to hearing on an upcoming album. And " You've Got a Funny Name" from theuir latest album, Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important. The album is a CD with a book around it -- they call it a book with a CD, but I prefer my description.

One thing that's difficult when I talk about TFIA is that I have to avoid talking about a favorite song or even a short list of favorites. I may come up with a list of three songs that come to the top of my head. Maybe "We Weary Deer," "Alien in My Nose" and "Chicken Joe." But then you ask me about "No Matter What Goes Right," and I think Yeah! That's one of my favorites too!. But what about "King of My "Mountain"? Yeah, that too! And it keeps going.

At any rate, following are some videos:

"18 Wheels on a Big Rig." This was not from today's performance, but it is of recent vintage, and captures a lot of the same feel. I note two things about the song: 1) At the end, when Ezra recites digits of pi, he does it wrong. I once mentioned that to him after a show. He said he knows. I don't know why they still do it that way. 2) I would love for them to add a bit where one of them notes that most wheels are round. But some of the wheels are perfect squares, and now we're gonna count the perfectly square wheels. They would then sing "Oh, there's 1, 4, 9, 16 wheels on a big rig." I suppose that would go over too many heads.

"Alien in My Nose," which they did not perform at today's show. It sounds like it should have been a new wave / powerpop song thirty-five years ago. I remember the first time I heard it. It blew me away.

"16 or 17 Hours of Sleep." This is a new song I hadn't heard before today. It's from the new album, whcih comes with a book wrapped around it.

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