Kids’ Rock

Runway diva Hello Kitty at Royal/T Cafe
Lina Lecaro

View more photos in Lina Lecaro's "Nightranger: Party in My City... And on the Playground" slideshow.

No matter how many great gigs we get to experience, the magic moment when a roomful of strangers forms a transcendent bond in music and movement never fails to excite. It is especially inspiring when this bliss is shared with a mass of varied ages, cultures and backgrounds, as it was when global groovers Playing For Change took over Club Nokia last Friday. We were there initially to see special guests, reggae greats Toots Hibbert (of Toots and the Maytals) and Ziggy Marley, but it was the core group of former street musicians that ended up blowing us away with gut-wrenching covers of tunes like “Change Is Gonna Come,” and the surprisingly nuanced melodic mash-up of 4NonBlondes “What’s Up” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Playing For Change began when producer Mark Johnson traveled the world with mobile recording equipment, taping and filming sidewalk performers’ interpretations of classic songs like “Stand By Me” (the moving clip has 15 million views on YouTube) in an effort to promote unity through music. The CD/DVD (which also features guests such as Bono and Keb Mo) has done just that, and the project has even yielded a charitable foundation, raising money for music programs and schools in disadvantaged communities around the world. See for info on how you can contribute to this amazing group. As for Friday’s biggie guests, 64-year-old Toots, in one of his signature bedazzled Elvislike pant suits, might be one of the few vocalists whose croon hasn’t waned with age, and Marley’s short but heartfelt set thankfully offered two of Papa Bob’s finest, “Three Little Birds” and “Redemption Song.”

Ziggy is no stranger to playing for lively audiences at Nokia. This summer his “Family Time” concerts for children turned the place into a ragga-Romper Room, and he’s not alone in serving up beats for babes. Nightranger is noticing more and more kids shows and “all ages” designations while out and about. P.F.C. was, in fact, all ages, though the tykes we saw were dozing. This wasn’t the case the week before last, when we squeezed into The Echo for KiDROCKERS, featuring special guests Silversun Pickups. The monthly afternoon indie jam for little ones always attracts a packed house of (hipster) parents and offspring, but when the Silver Lake faves were added to The Henry Clay People bill, with funny guy Greg Behrendt hosting, a full-capacity preschool punk-fest ensued. The Clay People set was most memorable for its fitting climax “All the Young Dudes,” but the Pick-ups’ plugged acoustic selections were short–attention span perfection, i.e., all the hits, including of course, “Lazy Eye” and “Panic Switch.” Q&As with the bands and kiddies never cease to be the giggliest part of these gatherings, and when the inevitable query about the Pickups’ liquor store–inspired moniker came up, their nervous attempts to answer were priceless: “We’re named after the place where, um, we used to buy milk.” See for the sure-to-be-merry December lineup.

It’s probably only a matter of time ’til the Pickups appear on cool-kid TV show du jour, Yo Gabba Gabba! (we hear Weezer and Devo just filmed musical segments). Even if you don’t have your own cherubs at home, if you’re a new music fan, you’ve probably heard of the Nickelodean TV show, whose past guests have included everyone from The Roots to MGMT. The live stage–show version, “There’s A Party In My City,” bounced through The Shrine downtown this weekend, attracting a slew of rockers and poppers (Travis Barker, Josh Homme, Christina Aguilera, Weird Al Yankovic) and their toddlers. As he does so well on the program, our pal DJ Lance Rock acted as ringleader to the giddy Gabbaland grooving and life lesson–geared ditties taught by whimsical creature friends Foofa, Broobee, Muno, Toodee and Plex. Some special friends made surprise appearances onstage, too: Sarah Silverman, Jon Heder, Matt Costa, The Cold War Kids, The Aquabats (co-creator Christian Jacobs’ band) at different times during the four sold-out performances.

“Oh my gosh, it’s Snoopy!” exclaimed an excited mom, during the guest star–led “Dancey Dance” portion of the Sunday morning show we attended. “It’s Snoop Dogg,” corrected a younger, Betsey Johnson diaper–bagged mother lifting her faux-hawked infant to see the rapper, who taught the crowd the “Peanutbutter Stomp.” Snoop also joined YGG regular Biz Markie for “Biz’s Beat of The Day,” beatboxing with diapered denizens below the stage. Though he’s a dad, Doggie-Dogg may not be the most kid-friendly music man (though he is a pied-piper, of sorts), and Silverman’s usual comedic subject matter is equally grown-up. But in a way, that’s what makes this vibrant show so special. It really does offer something for both children and adults, and no matter how ‘in crowd’ it gets musically, it’s always fun, educational and completely appropriate. Still, the live show was as bright and chaotically lit as any mega-Arena spectacle. Basically, it kicks Elmo Live’s ass.

Covering the closing events for Hello Kitty’s 35th Anniversary month might seem fitting with the youth-minded theme we’ve got goin’ here, but the truth is, the iconic cat really belongs to grown-up girlies these days — you know, females a little too fond of pink and bows and Lolita frocks and looking like a human cupcake. We joined adult fans at Asics’ limited-edition Kitty-printed kicks give-away recently at L’Ermitage, but it was at Royal/T in Culver City where the frilly, feline-inspired big-girl fashion was truly over-the-top fabulous. The café/gallery hosted the closing event for its Miss K.–themed art show, Three Apples,Saturday night, and the Sanrio superstar attracted a massive line of lacey, lovely moppets outside, many of whom waited hours just for the chance to shop a pop-up store and see the astounding exhibit of art and collectibles. We made it just in time to catch the closing catwalk show (featuring gorgeous creations from designers like Pink Macaroon, Skin.Graft and Artifice) with our own li’l kitten. (Thank goodness we have a 3-year-old daughter to justify our Sanrio habit!) It was truly a fantastical finale to a purr-fect month of Hello Kitty fetes. Check out our online slide show this week for sugar, spice and everything nice at Royal/T, plus Yo Gabba giddiness, KiDraucousness and more.

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