By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Being a so-called “hip parent” is well and good, but no matter how many ironic Sex Pistols onesies you put on your li’l cherub, or how often you pump the Beatles, Stones and Ramones by the playpen (or newer stuff — our babe likes MGMT and the Ting Tings), there comes a day when your chip off the old rock block abandons the Na-na-na-nah from “Hey Jude” for the “Da-da-da-da-dah Dora (The Explorer)” song, or worse, the “I Love You, You Love Me” ditty drivel of the purple devil himself, Barney. Even those who employ nouveau-parenting tactics like banning the tube and Toys-R-Us trips will deal with this eventuality, but for those of us who do allow our tots some TV time (the American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s okay around the deuce mark) and happen to be music headz to boot, there are definite challenges when it comes to what’s on the wide screen and surround sound.
This was just the kind of kiddie conundrum that was had by a pair of 30-something California born-and-raised rocker dads, Christian Jacobs and Scott Shultz. (Jacobs is the singer for the wacky masked ska pack the Aquabats, and Shultz helms the indie-pop outfit Majestic.) With funding from some supportive friends, a little blogger love that went voraciously viral and lots of monster magic, they bore a new baby last year, a TV show that parents and kids alike could watch together happily (and yeah, hiply): Yo Gabba Gabba!
The vibrant Nick Jr. preschooler program debuted as one of the coolest things on television in 2007, both sonically and visually, standing strong beside the trippy ebullience of ’70s faves like Krofft Superstars and ’80s phenom Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. There were even shades of classics like Sesame Street and Electric Company in there, but with a heavy indie-rock sensibility. For those who’ve never seen it, let us, as host DJ Lance Rock likes to say, break it dow-w-w-n for season two, the first episode of which arrived at the end of September.
The show is set in Gabba Land, where five neon creatures live and learn life lessons with the help of their human friend, the orange-clad, beanpole-skinny Rock. Plex, Foofah, Brobee, Muno and Toodee live among talking trees, flowers and food, and watch programs such as Super Martian Robot Girl and the Super Music Friend Show (where guests like the Shins and the Aggrolites sing songs about balloons and bananas).
Before you even think it, the answer is no, Jacobs and Shultz are not on acid. They’re simply papas with vivid imaginations who understand the energy and purity of what toddlers prefer music-wise (both had day jobs in commercial art). Still, like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Teletubbies before it, Yo Gabba Gabba! has become a college-age cult fave, and what big “kids” are doing/smoking/taking to enhance the YGG viewing experience is beyond Shultz and Jacobs’ control, and definitely not their intention.
“Me and Christian both being musicians and in bands, we definitely had the idea to do a music variety show. That was the backbone,” says Shultz. “We weren’t really satisfied with shows we were watching at the time, and we wanted to put our own spin on the genre. We also wanted to expose kids to a bunch of different things that maybe they haven’t had the chance to listen to. The crossover appeal to older kids and adults wasn’t necessarily by design, but we’re glad it’s working out that way. “
In addition to the stellar music guests who appear each episode (none of whom, by the way, do it to plug their latest single; the show’s music team writes tot-tailored tunes for all), there are songs sung by Yo Gabba’s colorful characters, simple yet infectious little numbers like “Party In My Tummy” (which encourages kids to let the sad ’n’ lonely carrots on their plates join the bash in their bellies that the yummier foodstuff gets to enjoy) and “Don’t Bite Your Friends” (self-explanatory), both of which have a hip-hop-ish groove and pop hooks that are repetitive but not nauseatingly gooey like most tyke fare. Other songs written by the YGG music team — which includes the creators’ band-dude pals from the O.C. and L.A. music scenes — incorporate punk, ska and emo flavors while teaching manners, values and just plain fun.
“Oftentimes, people doing music for kids’ shows have all these preconceptions of what kids like,” says Mark Mothersbaugh, who should know. He’s been scoring children’s programming for over 20 years, beginning with Pee-Wee and continuing through Rugrats, Clifford and beyond. “What I like about this show is they kind of sidestep all that — and it’s one of the few shows that my own kids really like.”
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