Every so often, while on this grand journey called parenting, you find yourself in a situation that at once amazes and inspires you. For all the horrid diapers and temper tantrums, this one experience can somehow make it all seem OK, even if just for a few hours.
That, my friends, is the kiddie dance party. They are not frequent, but whenever you hear murmurs of one, jump on it. The first time we took Sofia to a dance party—at Flicker on Washington Street, with DJ Mahogany spinning retro Michael Jackson—it was this funny mix of outgoing, rambunctious dancers and self-conscious wallflowers. But without all that teen angst. Even though it was a bit like a school dance, it was a whole lot more carefree.
Again, kiddie dance parties aren't a common occurrence. Usually one crops up around a holiday—think Halloween, usually—and I've seen them show up at Flicker, Hendershot's Coffee Bar and the downtown Transmetropolitan. A recent event at Hendershot's—a fundraiser concert for the Lukas Fund (a nonprofit that helps support and educate parents in the neonatal intensive care units at Athens Regional Medical Center and Grady Memorial Hospital)—featured local student musicians in a family-friendly show that was a great way to inspire younger kids to pick up an instrument.
On Mar. 3, an entirely different type of show comes to Athens in the form of Laughing Pizza, the Atlanta-based, family-friendly pop-group sensation that tours across the country (see www.meltingpointathens.com for complete show details). The concert at the Melting Point will hopefully kick off more all-ages shows there, says Troy Aubrey, the booking agent for venue, because he sees a need in this town for more all-ages (and kid-friendly) shows.
"As the talent buyer for the Melting Point, and a father of two children, I have realized that there certainly is a void for children's entertainment in Athens, especially live music performances," he says. "I've been seeking out the types of acts that I would want to bring my daughter to see. Laughing Pizza's songs are fun, catchy and contain a lot of positive messages."
The family trio that is Laughing Pizza can be seen in musical interludes on GPB during kids' programming, and a new documentary about their story may end up at some film festivals before its DVD release. It's OK if you haven't perfected your own version of The Pizza Dance (put your hands up, spin around, clap your hands to the music, slide to the left, slide to the right…yeah, you got it. The song is pretty darn catchy.) The trio—mother and lead singer Lisa Schlosser, husband and guitarist Billy Schlosser and daughter Emily, 15—sing sugary sweet pop songs about doing the laundry or how much a little girl loves her daddy. It's pretty easy to get started dancing once the music starts.
"Most of the ideas either come from our lives of Emily's friends' experiences… We really write pop songs, but we write about our lives," says Lisa, who started writing music for Emily with her husband when Emily reached that awkward age of being too old for Barney the Dinosaur but too young for mainstream pop music. "We used to say [we were] filling the void between Barney and Britney," she says. "Once kids get to be four or five, they are over Barney and all of a sudden they are singing Rhianna or Ke$ha. There's nothing wrong with those songs—they're great and well-marketed—but why not give kids a choice? So, as time went on, Emily really started to enjoy songwriting. She's a full one-third member of the group."
And, the Melting Point show will be more than watching a trio sing and dance onstage. They take turns interacting with the crowd, even doing a lesson in writing a song that involves a Mad Libs-type game in which the microphone gets passed around and kids put their own twist on the lyrics. After the show, the band stays for a meet-and-greet.
"Our mission is to expose kids to music," says Billy. "A million studies have shown that arts and music help develop children's brains, helps them develop self-respect, all kinds of attributes that they don't always get in school. So, it's really important for kids to see, number one, that there is such a thing as music, and I think another thing is that we have our daughter in the band… They get to see another kid doing something that she is good at, that she enjoys with her family. And I think that's really important for them to have a role model like that."
Sure, Athens is known for its music. But unless you're older than 18, your choices are often limited. Which means it's often up to a kiddie dance party or an outdoor festival to bring music to the next generation of musicians and dancers. So, show up for Laughing Pizza or any other all-ages, afternoon dance party with your kids, and keep that musical momentum going.