Kindiefest is a huge three-day conference in Brooklyn for folks like me: musicians with a family-oriented groove. Last night was the kickoff reception and keynote; I’m trying to read my scribbled notes from the night to see if I can make sense of them.
I rolled into Littlefield in Brooklyn at about 7:00 (after some frantic photocopying of the Fuzzy Lemons’ press material). The party had already spilled out onto the patio! It was a gorgeous evening to be sharing a beer with two hundred of your colleagues and peers.
I squeezed through to the registration table and immediately struck up a conversation with Ashley Albert of The Jimmies, who was in line right behind me. I’ve been hearing about The Jimmies for a couple of years and we just checked out their videos on WiggleNation last week–I congratulated her on how amazing they looked.
Then I made my way to the bar and met some members of a band called The Not-Its, from Seattle. About that time, Dan Zanes wandered in off the street, with his unmistakeable suit and hair. Not long after, the organizers called everyone in for some opening speeches, followed by the Keynote. I found my friend Erin Lee Kelly and followed her into the conference hall (actually a nightclub).
Dan Zanes gave a quietly inspiring speech. He started by admonishing everyone in the room to check out Pete Seeger’s “Incomplete Folksinger,” which lays a clear foundation for everything we do as family musicians. He described an experience I’m sure most of us share: going to the record store and being horribly disappointed by the Children’s selections, which mainly consisted of cartoon tie-ins. He compared that to his own childhood experience of growing up listening to those classic Folkways recordings of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, et al.
He spoke of his surprise upon learning that people were much more interested in the tape of songs he made for his new daughter that they were in his latest album of pop songs about drinking and old girlfriends. And he described hanging out on the playground with West Indian nannies and sharing music with them (in my own career I’ve been blessed with a similar crowd) and how things just sort of grew from there. The importance of finding other musicians, diverse musicians with different backgrounds and influences, cannot be overstated. He spoke of the vital questions to ask people: “Where are you from?” and “What did you grow up singing?”
The diversity is important because kids and families want to be able to relate to what’s up on stage; kids of all backgrounds want to be able to look at the musicians and hear their music and find a piece of themselves. Further, he spoke of his goals: “My goal is to build bridges, it doesn’t matter if I know how or not.” And, just as those old Folkways records came with all the lyrics and chords printed in the liner notes, he reminded us all that that the music we make should inspire people to make music themselves.
It was a lovely speech and he closed by encouraging us all to keep building this community. Sure, we could all view it as a competition for market share, but the best music comes from the heart and encourages folks, rather than showing off.
After that, two hundred eager community builders headed for the bar. A side note, there’s a lovely little microbrew called SouthHampton that I quite enjoyed over the course of the evening.
From then on it was schmooze-o-rama time. I brought a dozen Fuzzy Lemons press kits with me and handed eight of them out to various bloggers, labels (including Putamayo!), a radio show or two, and even a reporter from Time. I plan to hand out the rest today. In return I came home with a goodie bag full of postcards, CDs and stickers from a bunch of other artists.
The first folks I bumped into at the bar were familiar faces: Paul Helou, whom we’d met at Great South Bay last summer, and Mark Lipsitz of Bar None Records. I introduced them to each other and we all swapped ideas for venues and such.
I tagged along with Erin Lee off and on over the course of the night, meeting a bunch of folks in her (not inconsiderable) circle. I jotted down some notes: I met and/or schmoozed Recess Monkey (very cool guys from Seattle), Jessie Atwell, the creator of Wigglenation, musician/videomaker Michael Rachad, Bill Childs of Spare The Rock (a radio show!), and members of Justin Roberts’ band, the Not Ready for Bedtime Players.
Members of Brooklyn-based King Pajama shared a laugh with members of Philly-based The Cat’s Pajamas, while Sara Hickman, State Musician of Texas, laughed at just about anything that moved.
Mr. Ray held forth on the advantages of creating your own music program as a source of ongoing revenue; Patricia Shih held court in a comfy chair, surrounded by fellow musicians (she claimed she was only sitting because her feet hurt but she sure looked like the queen bee); and I negotiated World Peace by pointing out that Putamayo’s Mona Kayhan, of Iranian descent, was engaged in a warm conversation with Israeli horn player Oran Etkin.
My work thus complete, I went home.
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- Heat Index: 81°F;
- Wind Chill: 79°F;
- Pressure: 29.8 in.;