Loud. Fast. Hard. Live Banjo.

Trying to keep it together before the show.

Trying to keep it together before the show.

You know that moment when you get all giddy with excitement waiting with the crowd for a show to start? I love that about live music. However, that was not my experience just before the start of my last concert. Just moments before the band took the stage I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I’ve been known to get claustrophobic at shows, but never like this. Looking around the room at the hundreds of children and their adults, I thought, “This was a mistake. HUGE mistake.” Sitting cross-legged on the floor, tot in lap, I couldn’t believe I’d been suckered into a kid’s concert again.  But within a few bars of the first song, that dread dissipated. This wasn’t any typical kids music performance, it was The Okee Dokee Brothers.

It was a fine day to sit on the floor.

Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander getting this party started.

This was obviously a kids show, but there was plenty for adults to enjoy. The production was really well done and the music was great. There were obviously plenty of big fans in the audience because many, kids and adults alike, were singing along to all the songs.

There was a lot of encouragement for the audience to dance (This could be considered another sign it was a kids music show, but I’ve been to hip hop concerts). Several times TotGirl stood up as if to dance, head bent toward the floor, froze and then slowly sat back down again. She can’t help it, it’s in her blood. To my shock, both children willingly joined the “train o’ kids” that snaked through the audience during Memphis Town. TotBoy’s favorite part of the event was “when we danced ALLL CRAAAAAZY at the end.”

If there has to be an educational supplement, dear Lord, let it be this one.

If there has to be an educational supplement, dear Lord, let it be this one.

You know what’s another sure sign of kids music? Educational supplements. However, as far as educational supplements go, this one is pretty stellar. A music person can appreciate the mention of Odetta, Lead Belly and Bill Monroe as innovators of folk music. If an educational supplement is what it’s gonna take for my kid’s preschool to go on an Okee Dokee Brothers field trip, I will stop my yakking.

If you read this review from the Chicago Tribune, you’ll get a strong wiff of kids music:

“Without getting preachy or heavy-handed, Mailander and Lansing come off like happy, kind and fun big brothers eager to show their younger siblings how to have an ethically sound and green-conscious good time.”

This review is better:

“Like the great Woody Guthrie, they’ve tapped into that magic quality of folk music to bridge the age gap and connect listeners young and old with their universal message.” UTNE Reader.

If you go see The Okee Dokee Brothers in concert, you won’t forget you are listening to music for kids, but you won’t hate yourself for singing along. That’s good enough for me.

Get to know The Okee Dokee Brothers.

Paul McCartney gives bad advice

The Beatles have been absent from this blog thus far because, let’s face it, most of their songs have already been appropriated for easy children’s listening. From daycare, my kids are just as likely to come home singing Rafi’s Baby Beluga as Yellow Submarine. Some kid appropriation can be appreciated, Sesame Street has been doing it well for decades. I’ve said it, well, once, but I’ll say it again: one generation’s anthem of degeneracy is their grandchildren’s circle time romp.

Tot Rocker: Why don’t we do it in the road by The Beatles

After doing it in the road, one may need to purchase this from the vending machine at the train station. -St. Moritz, Switzerland

I had given up featuring The Beatles on this blog until recently when I was pleasantly reminded of Why Don’t we do it in the Road. And that song is all swamp and swagger, amiright? I love thinking about it as a cautionary tale for children. In their brief few years, my kids have heard, “Get out of the road!” nothing short of 4,000 times. Why don’t we do it in the road? Well kids, there are cars that will come flying down the street and splat you like a bug. That’s why, my dearies. 

Kind: Awake Baby

Reasons it’s a Tot Rocker: this little piece of heaven is a Tot Rocker because it’s lyrics are as simple as they get, it’s easy to sing along, the subject matter is near and dear to their hearts because kids love the idea of doing anything in the road, and it’s simple and rough, in the best way possible.

Sesame Street and The Beetles:

Other Tot Rockers by The Beatles: Get Back (awake baby), Drive my Car (awake baby)

Similar Tot Rockers: All night Long by Junior Kimbrough, Do the Romp by The Black Keys

So go ahead, freak out your mother and do it in the road.

Okee Dokee- it’s good!

Maybe on their next album the Okee Dokee Brothers will explore the beauty of rock skipping.

The Okee Dokee Brothers can throw down. Alright, perhaps “throw down” isn’t quite the phrase for which this folk duo aspires. While they are indeed Children’s music performers (as evidenced by this song and this song) they also appeal to the NotTot fans of folk with their album Can You Canoe. It was considered so good it snagged a Grammy in 2012 (Best Children’s Music Album).



Can you Canoe? by the Okee Dokee Brothers:

Los OD Bros say their intention is to “record and perform family music with a goal to inspire children and their parents to get outside and experience nature“- no terrible thing. Their website also sez something about recognizing that kids “deserve quality music” and I couldn’t agree more.

Through the woods

Gaining a respect for the natural world, we’re like a walking billboard for the Okee Dokee Brothers.

While my kids haven’t had the chance to enjoy the excitement of canoeing (two toddlers in one canoe- no thanks, I like staying dry), one of our favorite outings is going on a walk in the woods. You wouldn’t believe how excited Tot 1 and Tot 2 get about it. Or maybe you would. The Okee Dokee Brothers love the woods too, and they devoted their most recent album to the wonders of hiking. I haven’t listened to it much, but when I do I’ll let you know.

In the mean time, I’d encourage you to give Can you Canoe? a try, with Tots or Not.

Get to know The Okee Dokee Brothers

Favorite band of all-time.

If I had to list my favorite band of all time, I’d struggle to narrow it down to even 10 favorites.  Ask that question to a TotRock Toddler and the answer is obvious: Peelander Z. metalander-poster-retail

Peelander Z’s focus on fast music and fun lyrics make them an optimal candidate for Tot Rocker of the Year. Here are just a few examples:

So Many Mike: 


And other favorites: Ninja High School, EIEIO

You maybe thinking to yourself, “they cover Old MacDonald and the Alphabet song and they wear brightly colored costumes. Isn’t Peelander Z actually just a kid’s band?” The answer is no. Kid’s music is performed at your local public library, shopping center, or elementary school auditorium. Peelander Z plays at awesome-shitty rock clubs and gets a spot at Riot Fest. But you don’t have to take my word for it:  Michelle Meywes of the Chicagoist says, “Count on [Peelander Z for] one raucous half-hour set that leaves us wondering what hit us.”

Of course, none of that matters to kids. Mine love all of Peelander Z’s songs. I praise the Gods of Rock that I get to hang out with my kids AND listen to decent music.

Get to know Peelander Z.    

Egad, it’s good!

My entire reason for starting this blog was because I noticed an entire industry trying to sell me on the idea that kids needed their own kind of music- regular music was too scary, too sexy, and not educational, or something. The whole point of this blog is that we don’t have to endure kids songs just because we hang out with kids. My tagline, “Because kids and their adults shouldn’t have to listen to bad music” insinuates that kids music is bad.

Can there be such a thing as a song intended for a kid’s audience, but is actually a good song for everyone?  Can it be like those Pixar movies that adults don’t hate, heck enjoy, watching? (Come on, you all know you’ve kept watching Finding Nemo even after your rugrat has fallen asleep.)

Case in point, Haley Bonar’s Build Something performed on the Choo Choo Bob’s Show:

Is it a good KIDS song, or does it rise to the ranks of purely a GOOD SONG? What do you think?

Be Friends with Haley Bonar. Find out about The Choo Choo Bob Show. Listen to Build Something