Remembering one’s first concert is often an exercise in teenage nostalgia, full of the haze of hormones and overwrought emotions. Unfortunately, we’ve already denied Sprout such pleasure, as we brought him to his first concert this weekend. But then again, my first concert was Sharon, Lois and Bram and the only lasting effect was a life-long love of music, so I think he’ll be okay. (My first concert without my parents was Santana, where there was definitely a different kind of haze.) On Saturday, at the pre-nap hour of 10:30 AM, we joined the audience for Marsha Goodman-Wood, part of the Junior Jams series and a “kindie rock” artist.
The venue, the FNDTN Gallery, was a small space in a local antiques district, crammed between a furniture store and a fussy, white tablecloth restaurant. Not exactly where you’d expect to a have a children’s concert. In fact, I would have walked right past the entrance if another parent hadn’t given me directions. Most of it was hardly wider than the single door that made up the storefront, a long, narrow hallway with chairs on both sides. Near the stage, it stretched out a bit, a bench with pillows lining the back wall. Despite its odd shape, the venue was warm and intimate. The walls were decorated with colorful, psychedelic paintings and there were art figurines lined up on one shelf. It was so small that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
As the musician did sound check on her guitar and the start time approached, more and more families filtered in. While some parents took the seats – particularly those with smaller children – a number sat on the floor, giving their kids lots of freedom to move. We sat in seats right near the front, so Sprout could dance if he wanted, but could sit on our laps if he didn’t.
Finally, after extended tweaking of the speakers and a surprising amount of patience from the kids, the music got started. From the beginning, it was clear that Marsha Goodman-Wood was no ordinary children’s singer. Contrary to stereotype, she was very, very good. Her clear voice reminded me of Carole King, as did her very curly hair. Her stage presence was lively without being grating, a highly delicate balance for a children’s performer.
And the lyrics to her original songs reminded me of They Might Be Giant’s Here Comes Science album, a high bar to clear. (I’ve never seen anything else on Amazon related to kids that actually has 5 stars.) In a song called “Why Can’t We Dance on Jupiter?” she explains that because it’s made of gas, there’s no dirt or grass. However, with 68 moons, “there has to be one where you can groove.” Along with random facts, she also did an adept job of explaining scientific theories. She opined that “gravity’s not just a good idea, it’s the law” and reinforced the fact that invertebrates have no bones about 20 times in a catchy number about giant squid. The music was fun too – upbeat, with her on guitar accompanied by a drummer.
In addition to her original songs, she also did some covers. I recognized “All Around the Kitchen” from one of Sprout’s Music Together classes. She also sang Jason Mraz’s Sesame Street adaptation of his famous song, which I think I like much better than his original.
As the music was quite danceable, plenty of kids took advantage. Marsha Goodman-Wood encouraged it, of course, suggesting possible moves that included imitating spaceships, astronauts, sea creatures, penguins and roosters. While some kids tried to take direction, most just wiggled their little bodies to the beat (sort of). But the absolute cutest thing that happened during the entire concert was three little girls that joined hands and twirled in a circle, like a nerdy version of Ring Around the Rosie.
While many kids were grooving, Sprout watched with an focused but rather blank expression on his face, chewing on his hand. This isn’t exactly unusual – when he likes something but is still processing it, he tends to just stand and stare. In fact, it was the same expression he had for most of Disney World and when I read to him. As he insists that Chris or I read at least 15 books a day to him, I know this is not an expression of discontent. But despite the rational part of my brain telling me otherwise, I was still anxious that he wasn’t enjoying it. How his stillness contrasted with the other kids’ energy just made me tense, even though I knew it wasn’t his fault. Thankfully, my anxiety ebbed when he climbed up on my lap and receded further when the musician handed out bells. While he wasn’t super-enthusiastic in his bell-ringing, he did show some interest.
While Sprout’s reaction to his first concert wasn’t the stuff parental dreams are made of, I do think it was worth it. After all, we all enjoyed it, in our own way.