Live Music, from Austin to Northampton

Feb 09

Ah, March is coming up, which means a boatload of stuff, music-wise — most notably our Austin events during South by Southwest, and the sixth (I think) year of the River’s Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash!

A quick rundown:

  • Wednesday, March 18 • 3-7:30 • Pan Am Park, 2100 E. 3rd Street, Austin • Family Music Meltdown • Free!
    • Big Don
    • The Que Pastas
    • Gina Chavez
    • Koo Koo Kanga Roo
    • The Not-Its!
    • The Jellydots
    • Ralph’s World
    • Fun stuff!
  • Saturday, March 21 • 3-7:30 • Domain Amphitheater, Austin • Rock Chalk (website coming soon) • Free!
    • Elizabeth McQueen
    • Ralph’s World
    • Koo Koo Kanga Roo
    • Groundwork Music Orchestra
    • The Jellydots
    • Ralph’s World
    • Joe McDermott
    • Chalk art competition!
  • Saturday, March 28 • 10:00-4:00 • Smith Voke High School, Northampton, MA • The River’s Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash • Free!
    • Performers
      • The Deedle Deedle Dees
      • Mister G
      • Stacey Peasley Band
      • The Pop Ups
      • The Nields
      • In the Nick of Time
      • JJ Farnham
      • Shiprock & Anchordog
      • Story Laurie
      • The Whirlygigs
      • Vanessa Trien
      • Tom Knight Puppets
      • Talking Hands Theatre
    • Authors
      • Mike Curato
      • Grace Lin
      • Jarrett J. Krosoczka
      • Erica Perl
      • Nick Bruel
    • Other Stuff
      • Smith Voke Petting Zoo
      • River’s Get Down Dance Party
      • Bounce Houses
      • Circus Demonstrations
      • Acrobatics Demonstrations
      • Awesome Local Food
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Macaroni & Cruise!

Aug 30

boat guyI’m crazy excited to finally get to tell you a little bit about Macaroni & Cruise: A Festival at Sea for Kids and their Grownups!

I’ve been talking with the people behind Jonathan Coulton‘s long-standing JoCo Cruise Crazy for close to a year about creating a family-oriented cruise, and it’s going to happen next summer — August 3-7, 2015, sailing from Miami to Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Sky.

We will have a ton of amazing music and activities — so far, we’ve announced Spare the Rock favorites Lucky Diaz & the Family Jam Band, Tim Kubart & the Space Cadets, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and The Doubleclicks — plus Lego master builder Nathan Sawaya!

We’ll also have game playing, dance parties, and lots of time to just relax and get to know new friends on what looks like an amazing ship (and more performers will be announced)!

To be the first to get complete details, sign up for the mailing list at  Even if you have never thought about going on a cruise (like me!), I hope you’ll think about this one — by all accounts, the JoCo cruises are ridiculously fun, and I’m so enjoying working with them to make this one amazing and smart too.

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Meltdown 2014

Mar 31

daisyThe sixth annual presentation of the River’s Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash is completed, and holy smokes what a day it was.

It was — by a fair margin — a record-setting day, attendance-wise (we’re estimating between 3,500 and 4,000 people came through over the six hours).  The music and book lineups were insanely good.  The piglets were insanely adorable.  The food was fantastic.  The bounce houses were bouncy, the gymnasts were gymnastic, the circus show arts people were circusy, the dance room was dancey, and everyone was incredibly happy.

Doing a little back-of-the-envelope math, I think the Meltdown is likely, per capita, the best-attended family music/book festival in the country.  (About 270,000 people live in the three counties that the River’s broadcast reaches; that means we had around 1.4-1.5% of the target population out.)  Maybe there’s another one I don’t know about, and that’s fine, but regardless: Wow!  That’s a ton of people.

The River had an official photographer there so we’ll have more pictures soon, and probably some video too.  But this photo of Anand and Scott, from Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, I think sums it up — crazy fun musicians, packed but happy crowds, and nobody freaking out — even though there are literally dozens of balloons on the ceiling, each of which presumably came from a child.

Anyway: Man, I love y’all.  Huge thanks to Jarrett for an incredible author/illustrator lineup, and tremendous energy.  Thanks to Mark Lattanzi at the station for making everything work.  Thanks to all of the station staff for their hard work, especially Monte for his awesome author previews.  Thanks to the sponsors and vendors.  Thanks to the performers and authors/illustrators for entertaining us.  Thanks to the school.

And thanks you all for coming out and having fun.

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Mar 27

mdown-featured-image-jjk1Pioneer Valley, Liam and I are on our way there for The River’s Family Music Meltdown and Book Bash this Saturday, March 29!  Check out the lineup below — it’s from 10 to 4 at Smith Voke, and it’s all FREE!  See you there!

Main Stage Schedule

10:00 The Deedle Deedle Dees
10:40 Author Tanya Lee Stone
11:00 Gustafer Yellowgold
11:40 Author Bob Shea
12:00 Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem
12:40 Jarrett’s Drawing Party
1:00 Alastair Moock & Friends
1:40 Author Dave Roman
2:00 Elska
2:40 Author Raina Telgemeier
3:00 Danny Lion & the Sneaker Shoe Band


10:00 JJ Farnham
11:00 Stacey Peasley
12:00 Grenadilla
1:00 Shiprock & Anchor Dog
2:00 Marsha Goodman-Wood
3:00 In the Nick of Time

Chill Room

11:00 Tom Knight Puppets
11:40 Hartsbrook Kids
12:00 Anna Sobel Puppets
12:40 Hartsbrook Kids
1:00 Tom Knight Puppets
1:40 Hartsbrook Kids
2:00 Anna Sobel Puppets
2:40 Hartsbrook Kids
3:00 Tom McCabe

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SXSW 2014: You Gotta Stay Positive.

Mar 16

I started writing this as just a list of highlights of my SXSW.  I quickly realized, though, that what I really needed to write about was why this was a great week despite being one that the “experts” of SXSW would undoubtedly consider a failure: I didn’t actually see all that music (comparatively), I (gasp!) paid for my drinks and food, and I didn’t see a single thing sponsored by Doritos.  There is no way I will be profiled as a SXSW Ninja Lifehacker.  The entire week was darkened by the horrific deaths and injuries resulting from a presumably drunk driver, of course, as well.  And yet here I am with, on balance, delight.

IMG_8659Wednesday afternoon brought the Family Music Meltdown.  We had a gorgeous day and a great setting at the Thinkery, and a fantastic crowd.  (We counted 539 people over the three hours!)  You can see a bunch of photos on our Facebook page.  The crowd was from all parts and populations of Austin, the performers put the stage — built from used pallets by — through its paces, and I think it’s safe to say that anybody who didn’t rock out wasn’t trying.  I do wish I’d thought to put on sunscreen.  In part as a result, I was wiped out, so I didn’t get out to see anything that night.

On Thursday, I met up with Lloyd from The Deedle Deedle Dees and walked through Flatstock, a crazy cool poster show.  We then caught the end of Jon Langford & Skull Orchard (with the fantastic Jean Cook, known to many as the violinist with Elizabeth Mitchell), and then some bits and pieces of various acts (mostly local) at Spider House.  And again, I went home and to sleep pretty early.

Friday I finally felt back up to really doing stuff.  In order, I saw:

  1. The Hold Steady at the radio day stage (good show, weird location);
  2. Holly George-Warren (whose husband is Uncle Rock) signing her probably-great book about Alex Chilton
  3. The Whigs at the Mophie Hanger (good garage rock)
  4. The Hold Steady (again) at the Mophie Hanger (great show, pretty cool location);
  5. Waco Brothers at Yard Dog (favorite part of SXSW every year, and their cover of 20th Century Boy was perfect);
  6. The Front Bottoms at Palm Door (terrific show) (where Craig Finn showed up, and he suggested that we then go see…);
  7. The Donkeys on the roof of Cheers Shot Bar (100% weird venue, 100% great band); and
  8. Kishi Bashi with Dena at Half Step (pretty enchanting, but I was super tired so I headed home).

Saturday brought another family music showcase — Whole Lotta Fun at the Whole Foods at the Domain.  Rain forced us inside, but we had enthusiastic crowds and performers again.  Koo Koo Kanga Roo, Sara Hickman, The Que Pastas, Lloyd H. Miller and the Austin Phonebook, and David Tobocman all made the day the promised whole lotta fun (measured in metric).  Plus, we were inside and I got to sit down, so I was more up for more rawk after the event…and the rawk came.

Some background before continuing the narrative: A few months ago, the Hold Steady did a campaign to fund an EP that was, in part, benefiting the family of a fan of theirs — a super fan — who had died suddenly.  One of the premiums was a 3-mile run with Craig Finn, something I couldn’t resist.

So on Friday, I wore running clothes under my regular clothes and went to see the band for the third time, this time at Brooklyn Vegan’s showcase at Red 7.

runwithcraigfinnAfter the set (best of the three I saw), I changed in the not-very-fancy dressing room at Red 7 and Craig and I went for a run into east Austin.  This was his second run of the day (he’d done one as part of an interview with Runners World), which might have been good for me, as it made it so I could keep up.

It was a ton of fun.  Craig’s my age, grew up in Minnesota listening to a lot of the same bands I did and going to a lot of the same shows.  We know some people in common.  He went to Riot Fest just to see the reunited Replacements (as did I), and thought they sounded great (as did I).  I also happen to think he’s one of the most talented songwriters around.

Our run’s destination was the home of a very nice couple in east Austin who had pledged for another premium — an acoustic set by the band in their home.  I was heading there just to pick up my gear (which I’d put in the band’s van), but the couple — very generously — invited me to stick around (and gave me Topo Chico!).  So I also got to see three members of the Hold Steady (Craig plus Steve and Tad) playing songs (including “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” one of my favorites, plus a song from the new record) for three of us.

Photo Mar 15, 8 05 08 PMI then just went home.  There was lots more music to be seen, but I really could not have imagined a better way to end a great week of music.

I’ve seen far more music in past SXSWs, and I’ve found far more free food and drinks.  I’ve scheduled my movements with great precision, ensuring the highest proportion of music (and free food and free drinks) possible.  By many people’s measures, my week this year was an inefficient failure.

But I’ve never had a SXSW that felt more truly connected.  The events I helped put together were immensely satisfying, the music I did see was a nice mix of the familiar and the utterly new to me, and the chance to hang out with Craig and the band (and Joel and Elisa) was just as good as I could have hoped.

It helped me remember — even in the face of the horrible deaths of people who were just in Austin to be part of it all, even in the context of insane corporate branding and stupidity — why I spend so much time trying to put events together; why I wanted to move to Austin; and why I believe in music and this scene so damn much.  It’s about joy, about community, about making stuff better.

There’s gonna come a time when the true scene leaders
Forget where they differ and get big picture
‘Cause the kids at the shows, they’ll have kids of their own
The sing-along songs will be our scriptures

We gotta stay positive; we gotta stay positive.

* * *

‘Cause it’s one thing to start it with a positive jam
And it’s another thing to see it all through
And we couldn’t have even done this if it wasn’t for you

We gotta stay positive.

We gotta stay positive.

— The Hold Steady, Stay Positive

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Family Music Meltdown: Austin Nap After Party

Feb 13

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, Orange Wall Collective,
Clamorhouse Kids, and the Thinkery present:


Wednesday, March 12 • 5-8 pm

Thinkery, Austin’s new children’s museum

1830 Simond Ave., Austin, Texas

RSVP encouraged but not required here


Koo Koo Kanga Roo

Lloyd H. Miller (of The Deedle Deedle Dees) with the Austin Phonebook

The Que Pastas

Haley Bonar

Tom Freund

Elizabeth McQueen


Every year, thousands of people descend on Austin, Texas, to see hundreds of bands play all around town as part of South by Southwest’s music festival.

This year, families in town have their own unofficial showcase to check out — the Family Music Meltdown at the Thinkery, Austin’s new children’s museum. All ages are welcome, and it’s free!

The showcase will take place at the Thinkery’s events courtyard, and parking is also free (while it lasts) in the garage behind the museum.Wednesday nights at the Thinkery are community night, where admission is by donation, so it’s a great time to check out the all the amazing programs, exhibits, and activities your kids will love.

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child is a family music record label and nationally syndicated radio show for kids and their grownups produced in Austin, Texas. The Orange Wall Collective is an Austin-based collaborative effort between Free Fun in Austin and to bridge the gap between bloggers and brands. Clamorhouse Kids is a management and events company featuring stories and songs for a young century.

Sponsored by KidOShoe, Terra Toys,, Free Fun in Austin,, and Music Bats. Special thanks to 89.3 The Current and Wonderground Radio.

more info:

no sleep ’til Mueller
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