Going Through a Photo Disc.

I am always happy when I receive a photo disc in the mail from our good friend Bill Auth. Bill has documented Milkshake’s life since the beginning in 2002, trying to go where we go, whether it’s glamorous (the Grammys, Austin City Limits, SiriusXM) or not (schools, libraries, backyards). Bill has been at the event, taking pictures, and helping when he can. We love him and are so thankful he’s there.

Our friend photographer Bill Auth.

Our friend, photographer Bill Auth.

It’s hard to keep up with all the photos sometimes and inevitably, some discs get misplaced in the train wreck that is my office. But thanks to the long weekend and indoor sports like cleaning, I came across two somewhat recent discs of amazing photos, one from our Annual Midnite Noon New Year’s Eve show at the Maryland Science Center, the other from our somewhat Annual Valentine’s Spectacular.

This was our 6th year performing at Midnite Noon and the Science Center is a great venue for big fun. Bill and new helper Joe hoist the confetti cannon to the top stairs and at noon, (or close to it!), Bill sets it off and yellow bits of confetti drift down on the audience. It’s really quite magical and a great way to start the new year a bit early. The folks at the Science Center are incredibly gung ho and accommodating and said the Earth Ball during “Travel Far” would be fine. I was a bit concerned but thought we were far enough away from the dinosaur exhibit. Still, we cut the song short because the Earth Ball was crashing into the cashiers and going in all kinds of potentially disastrous directions.

Our Valentine’s Spectacular is another favorite of mine, since I love saying “I love you” a lot and this gives me reason to celebrate that fact with rose petals and tulips and chocolate kisses. I always buy too much of these, but the kids love them. This was our fourth Spectacular, and we opened the show with “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” It took mere seconds for the little girls to take all the tulips I placed on the stage and give them to their moms, but I hoped that would happen anyway. Moo passed out most of the chocolate kisses and took photos with many fans. During “I Love You,” I sat down and tossed rose petals. Mushy? Maybe. But again, the kids love it and we do, too.

I’ve picked a few of my favorite pictures to share with you. Thanks to Heidi Sheppard for snapping some of the Midnite Noon shots while Bill was manning the confetti cannon. Always so much fun!

Valentine’s Day Musings

I love Valentine’s Day. I love all holidays, but having one more reason to tell someone “I Love You” sounds good to me. I love the heart-shaped boxes. And even though I can’t eat chocolate (woe is me), I love gazing at the different chocolate pieces and wondering what’s inside them, how they taste. I love the idea behind all those sweetheart candies, too. I pick out my favorites like “Sweet Love,” “My Love,” “Hug Me” and “Only You.” Nowadays, the candies say things like “Text Me” or “Tweet Me.” Love’s gone digital, for sure.

Sweethearts nowadays.

Sweethearts nowadays.

But perhaps what I love most of all are the love songs. They remind me that love itself is so multi-dimensional. Happy love songs, sad love songs, songs of longing, songs of leaving. Before Milkshake, Mikel and I fronted a band for adults called Love Riot* and we wrote nothing but love songs. It was amazing to me how we never seemed to run out of ideas. Maybe it wasn’t so unlimited as the topics we’ve discovered writing songs for kids, but emotionally, there was probably more to our love songs. The songs reflected what I or my friends were going through, and perhaps being in love is more of an adult thing. I wrote “I Love You” as a lullaby for my daughter, but that’s certainly different from romantic love. Now, she’s a beautiful 14 year-old and I see hints of romantic pining. I don’t look forward to her first breakup, which could be a painful thing. But maybe she’ll write a song about it, and listen to other songs that will help her through.

rose petals at the ready.

rose petals at the ready.

So how will Milkshake – the band that celebrates most holidays with a big show somewhere – celebrate Valentine’s Day when the majority of our songs deal with imagination and play and doing the right thing? Well, we did record “I Love You” and “Enemies” for our Great Day CD, which skews a bit older, listener-wise. And we added a Milkshake version of the classic “Tiptoe Thru the Tulips” on our latest Got a Minute CD. But that’s about it in the love song department. We’ll do all three for sure, tossing rose petals at our little friends. Moo will pass out chocolate kisses and candy hearts, and we’ll all be giving out unlimited hugs after the show. People can donate their unloved instruments to Music4More, who will find them loving homes at schools and communities. There’ll be face-painted hearts and cherubs for anyone who wants them, and our friends at Macaroni Kids will make paper valentines with the concert-goers. So while there might not be a lot of love songs, there will certainly be a lot of love. The concert benefits Arts On Stage, a non-profit that lovingly creates art performances for schools. Sounds like a great way to start my Valentine’s Day. After saying “I Love You” to my husband, daughter, cat, dog and life first, of course.

 

* Love Riot will be back up and playing out soon. Very exciting to come full-circle with the music-making.

This post was originally written for KIDS CAN GROOVE, a wonderful site following kids music. Check them out at www.kidscangroove.com

The Annual Festival Of Trees – Our 7th!

Every year since 2007, Milkshake has been getting up super early the day after Thanksgiving and heading to Cow Palace at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Maryland. We do this to perform at the Festival of Trees, a yearly benefit event that raises money for the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The Institute is dedicated to helping children with brain, spinal and muscular disorders. I bring along bags of “snow” (little squares of white confetti), candy canes, sleigh bells, garland to decorate Tom’s drums and Brian’s keyboard, and santa hats for the guys and me. We do three shows chock full of Christmas music, which is always great fun to play in between our original tunes. My personal favorite is Milkshake’s “Christmas In Baltimore,” since I think it’s the perfect Christmas song to play at a winter show in our hometown.

Snowy The Little White Dog

Snowy The Little White Dog

This year, Cord reminded us that “Snowy” could be considered a Christmas song since Snowy does after all “ride on Santa’s sleigh.” So we brought Snowy The Little White Dog along to the show and gathered around a microphone in acoustic a’cappella fashion.

And to start the shows this year, we handed out the lyrics to “Christmas Time Is Here” from Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and encouraged the crowd to sing along with us. I hoped everyone would sing and even though that didn’t happen as loudly as I’d envisioned, it was a fun experiment. Some people are shy and only sing in the shower.

Our friend John Waire came to the early show for donors which happens before the doors actually open to the public at 10 AM. It’s the calm before the storm until we bring Santa to the Fest at the end of this first show and things get crazy. This year, Santa jumped out of a cake marking 25 years of the Festival of Trees. By the 11 AM show, things are hopping and so many friends come to play with us. The joy meter peaks.

Santa Jumps out of a cake!

Santa Jumps out of a cake!

John is a great photographer and took some wonderful shots as part of his Year In The Light project. I’ve posted some favorites here, along with pics from our buddy and VIP to the band, Bill Auth. Bill has captured six of the seven years at the Fest, missing last year’s due to illness. We were so glad to have him back sharing the mayhem with us this year.

Every year, Michelle Mueller, Director Of Special Events at Kennedy Krieger, is there keeping things together with a smile, walkie talkie in hand. She tells me that when they unroll the green indoor carpets each year to set up for another Fest, they always find bits of that “snow” and traces of “sunshine” squares of yellow confetti that missed last year’s clean-up. We think about maybe scaling back and just using a bubble-machine or something. Then we both agree that the snow and the sunshine – it’s all part of the joy and happy memories made at the Festival of Trees. And for Milkshake, it wouldn’t feel right waking up late on Black Friday and going shopping! How boring that would be compared to the Festival of Trees.

Fun in Ft. Lauderdale

I love those times when the band packs up and heads someplace warm during the frosty winter months here in Baltimore. The last time we did this was earlier this year, in April, leaving our still-cold city behind to enjoy a weekend in Santa Barbara, CA for a show at UCSB. Now, here in dreary December, we would spend a day in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, FL to play at the Miniaci Theatre on the campus of Nova Southeastern University. The concert was a gift to the community from the Sherman Library and free with library card. Excellent! We certainly love that way of encouraging kids to read. Because Mikel, Brian and I had a early-morning show at a synagogue in DC the next morning, we couldn’t stay the night and enjoy the weather, but a little sun is better than none. So we rose early to catch an 8:30 AM plane south.

Yawns & laughs at the airport

Yawns & laughs at the airport

I brought Snowy The Little White Dog along since I needed more footage for a home movie I was working on. I had filmed some video last winter in my backyard but when I finally got to editing recently, I didn’t have enough footage to work with. So Snowy came along and I filmed him with the guys at the airport and venue. (Here’s a link to the finished video)

We arrived in Florida and had no time to waste because of a delayed flight. Springing into military operation mode, we blew up baseballs and the Earth Ball, and set up the stage and sound checked as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, in our haste, we blew up the Earth Ball in the dressing room and then couldn’t get it out the door and onto the stage without deflating it a bit. D’oh!

Mikel tries to push the Earth Ball out the door.

Mikel tries to push the Earth Ball out the door.

But we had an amazingly fine time and performance. The kids were great fun to play with, and even the jokes during “Happy Place” were pretty good: “How did the maniac find his way out of the woods? He followed the psychopath.” and “Why didn’t Lady Gaga eat her meat dress? Because it was raw, raw, raw, raw, raw…”

After the show, we did a Meet & Greet with the families and signed autographs, feeling so welcomed by Anne Leon and the good folks at the Sherman Library. As we drove off the campus, we almost stopped to let Snowy say hi to an iguana, but Snowy wanted to hang at the airport bar instead. Silly dog. All in all a great day and another time well-spent for Milkshake.

Here’s a few pics courtesy Meagan Albright of the Sherman Library – thanks, Meagan!

Santa x 4

I always love this time of year. Just when it starts to get cold, holiday shows keep me warm. They’re so much fun. Halloween’s okay, and we get to tell ghost stories and sing our favorite spooky song “Scared.” But there’s nothing quite like welcoming Santa to the area malls and events. Mall Santas work hard and long for a very short period of time. The best ones know the names of all the reindeer and have real beards you can tug on, although they don’t much like it when you do.

Selfie with Santa

Columbia Santa Selfie

Towson Santa Selfie

Towson Santa Selfie

Mikel and I have been playing the holiday shows at three or four malls for years now, and they turn on a switch inside us, signaling the holidays are here. And even though it seems like yesterday, another year has passed, and I check the supply of white confetti we use as snow, buy candy canes in bulk for the kids in the audience and take out the box of santa hats, sleigh bells, antlers and garland. We once again practice songs we only play at this time of year, filling the set with “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph” and of course our own “Christmas In Baltimore”.

Our comrade for these shows is Miss Julie, a wonderful kids’ entertainer we’ve known for many years. Miss Julie does the Family Fun Days at the area malls, singing with the kids and celebrating birthdays throughout the year. She’s amazing and was an early inspiration for Mikel and me. Julie knows most of the regulars who come to her shows. She can tell us which kid eats too much candy, which kid sings at the top of her lungs, which little boy just lost his dad. In my book, she gets a hero award for being a friend, mother and grandmom to these kids. She’s someone they can depend on, one morning a week.

Selfie with Miss Julie

Selfie with Miss Julie

For the Christmas shows, Julie MCs and then helps find Santa and bring him down the escalator and through the awe-struck crowd. She asks him questions she knows he can answer – Julie always finds out beforehand “if they’re a talking Santa” or just want to smile and wave. We’ve met Santas who do magic tricks, Santas who talk about reindeer and what they eat, Santas who talk too much, Santas who kinda just mumble. Yesterday’s Santa had a cane. Evidently the reindeer were going too fast, and he fell off his sleigh. The kids were sympathetic and seemed a bit concerned as he waved goodbye and headed to his house in another wing of the mall.

Milkshake prides itself on how much fun we have and how we really try to get the kids to be part of the whole experience. But around this time, it’s all just amped up: more confetti (as snow), more kids singing and jingling their jinglebell bracelets or clapping their hands, more candy canes, more smiles in general.

Christmas show supplies.

Christmas show supplies.

Tomorrow the band will get together to practice some new holiday songs and a couple classic Milkshake songs we haven’t played in a while. Festival of Trees is in a couple weeks, and I think it’s the biggest holiday party we do. We play three absolutely joyously exhausting shows. This will be our seventh year doing the event. And of course we’ll be welcoming another Santa. I can’t wait.

"I have my tutu, my antlers and these...these are my jingle bells!"

“I have my tutu, my antlers and these…these are my jingle bells!”

Chessie Jam – Baltimore’s kid fest

I always admire people who think big and do something for the love of it. Such was the case with Alexis Jenkins, a Baltimore-area promoter and mother of two who decided to combine both into a music and fun festival for kids. To my knowledge, it’s never been done here in Baltimore. Sure, we’ve had our kid concerts and bands like Milkshake at some family-friendly festivals. But nothing on such a big scale and specifically for kids.

Alexis called her festival Chessie Jam, making her festival logo Chessie, a yellow sea monster. Legend goes that Chessie was/is a sea monster swimming in the Chesapeake Bay. This Chessie was kind and loved kids of course, and Alexis brought Chessie to life for the Jam, hiring a mascot dressed as Chessie to dance and play with the kids. She also hired the Oriole Bird, since all of Baltimore had orange fever at the time, our beloved O’s taking the ALC.

My mom with the Oriole Bird.

My mom with the Oriole Bird.

Lisa, Justin Roberts and Mikel.

Lisa, Justin Roberts and Mikel.

The Jam was set for Saturday, October 4th and besides Milkshake, Alexis booked Justin Roberts, Recess Monkey, Father Goose, and Lalabibi and had Biz Markie spinning tunes in between. There was the usual kid fare of moon bounce, face-painting, balloon art and various kid-centric kiosks set up around the theatre, and the day turned beautiful after morning clouds. I was especially excited to see Father Goose again after all these years, and finally meet Justin Roberts and all of the guys from Recess Monkey, both two kid bands I admire.

Father Goose looked ageless and the only sign of time passing was his little boy, who now joined him on stage. When Milkshake was starting out we had been part of a tour for kids called Jamarama.  We played a few tours, the first in 2005, with Laurie Berkner, the second in 2006 with Dan Zanes. At the time, Father Goose joined Dan on stage and they shared billing. It was great fun and there are many stories to tell, but that’s for another blog.

After doing what we usually do before a show –  set up our green room, blow up baseballs, the earth ball and make sure things are all ready to go – we chatted with Angelique Redmond, a woman starting an online kid radio station here called KINKX KIDS RADIO.  Angelique is really excited about the station and we look forward to watching its progress.

Glenn rocks.

Glenn rocks.

Glenn (barefoot), Shepp, Alan of Sirius, Lisa & Mikel

Glenn (barefoot), Shepp, Alan of Sirius, Lisa & Mikel

For this show, we welcomed back musician extraordinaire Glenn Workman, who would be filling in for Brian on keyboard and accordion. Glenn had played with us years ago and it was fun to work with him again. Glenn has a complete disdain for shoes of any kind, and his feet do look hobbit-like after years of walking the world barefoot. I remember Glenn accompanying Mikel, Shepp and I to a recording session at Sirius Satellite Radio and, yes, he walked NYC shoeless.

The afternoon was a blast, and I loved seeing kids and families enjoying what was a great festival exclusively for them. I’m looking forward to the Second Annual Chessie Jam Festival in 2015.

Special thanks to Lorionna Miller, Bill Auth and Linda Miller for the following pictures from our performance.

Joke Blog #1

Anyone who’s seen a Milkshake concert since we released the Great Day CD may have caught us doing “Happy Place” live. It’s a song off that Grammy-nominated CD, and has become a big favorite of ours, not just because it’s a neat song, but it allows us to connect with the kids in the audience in a unique way.

 There’s a line in the song that goes like this: “someone tell me a joke…” which I repeat as the band pauses and Mikel or some other bandmate tells me a joke. It’s usually pretty bad, causing ughs and head shakes from the audience. So I reach out to the kids, asking them for another joke, since after all it can’t be hard to top the one we just heard. Inevitably, hands shoot up and the jokes start flying. It’s a really a cool time in the show. Some jokes are just okay, others are really funny, but it’s the immediate sense of sharing and community that really shines. I love it. Unfortunately, I forget most of the jokes so I’ve taken to tapping them into my iPhone as soon as I can after the show.

Jokes are great things, and as I can attest, there’s an art in the telling. I am not a good joke-teller. But I sure do love hearing kids tell me one. So here is the first of what I hope will be many Joke Blog posts, featuring jokes we’ve heard at our concerts. Enjoy and share them as you like, and if you have a joke you want us to include in the next post, post it on our Facebook page or share it at the next Milkshake show!

What’s the best place to hide from zombies? – In the living room.

Why did Mickey Mouse go to outer space? – To find Pluto.

What did the egg say to the other egg? – You crack me up.

Why do chickens sit on eggs? – Because they don’t have chairs.

Why did the boy chew the calendar? – He wanted to eat a Sunday.

Why did the whale cross the ocean? – She wanted to get to the other tide.

Why didn’t the skeleton ride the roller coaster? – He had no guts.

Why was the broom late for school? – He overswept.

What do you call a bear with no teeth? – A gummy bear.

Why don’t bears wear shoes? – Because they have bear feet.

Why is the Sun rude? – Because it peeks through your window.

What did the math book say? – “Boy, have I got problems.”

tell me a joke!