Is It Always So Beautiful In Santa Barbara?

Milkshake, like most East Coasters, had just about enough of the wind, rain and snow of what seemed like a never-ending winter. So needless to say, we were looking forward to performing in California, as we have for the past few Aprils. This time, it was a concert at University of California at Santa Barbara for the Family Series UCSB hosts each year.

We had a 9:50 AM flight on our usual Southwest Airlines, and all seemed fine until Cord and Brian were stuck in a slow-moving security line and missed the plane. Luckily, they caught the next available nonstop and would meet us in Santa Barbara some hours later, in time for a late dinner at Enterprise Fish Company. When we arrived at our hotel, we were pleasantly reminded of our time in Ixtapa, Mexico years ago, when Milkshake played a Club Med. No, this Best Western wasn’t nearly as fancy, but the gardens were beautiful and we ogled the palm trees, cacti and flowers. And did I mention it was warm? Coats came off at the airport! It was lovely, with blue skies and sunshine. We walked to Trader Joes, got some kumatos, mushrooms, tapenade and other munchies and sat by the pool. Life was good.

Tom & Shepp enjoying the sunshine.

Tom & Shepp enjoying the sunshine.

The next morning, Mikel and I drove to the beach, which was only minutes away. Cactus flowers decorated the shore.

Flowers on the beach.

We walked along the beach, just taking it all in. Paddle boarders, seabirds, even a beach bar. Walking up the shoreline, we marveled at an incredible group of buildings which jutted out to the edge of a rocky shore. We soon discovered that was UCSB. Gosh, why didn’t I become a marine biologist and come here instead of Hunter College?! It was gorgeous. On our way back to the car, I came upon the absolutely prettiest shell I’ve found in years.

My pretty shell.

We fetched the guys a few hours later and headed to, yes…the beach bar. Oysters for everyone, including Shepp’s mom and sister, who live out there.

Milkshake on the beach

Milkshake on the beach

Then we headed to Campbell Hall. The folks there were great, and the hall beautiful. The show was SO MUCH fun and the kids were fantastic.

In concert at Campbell Hall

In concert at Campbell Hall

And just when we thought the weekend couldn’t get any better, we were invited to the home of a sponsor of our show, Thomas Kenny and his family, for a party in our honor. We were welcomed into their beautiful home and met some families who had attended our concert earlier. At one point, a group of mostly girls gathered around, wondering where my tutu was. After I explained it was fragile and I only wore it in concert, conversation moved to favorite movies and we all broke into a rousing version of “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. The girls knew all the words!

Getting ready to sing "Let It Go"

Getting ready to sing “Let It Go”

Then we moved over to a beautiful grand piano, Mikel brought out his acoustic guitar and we did a mini concert featuring “Go Wild!” and “Bottle of Sunshine,” complete with Tom on “table” drums. Shepp’s sister Valerie took a home movie of our performance. Here’s “Go Wild”: 

It was time well spent, and I could’ve stayed chatting with everyone forever, really. But the sun was setting and we had to head to LA that night. I will never forget the intense beauty, kindness and good times of that weekend in Santa Barbara. Special thanks to everyone at UCSB’s Campbell Hall and the Kenny family.

Girls Wanna Dance!

Milkshake spends – or I should say reinvests all its money into new stuff for our audience. Last year it was Got a Minute, our fifth CD. This year we’re thinking videos. Making videos is a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too, and I think kids like to watch music just as much as listen to it. While playing Midnite Noon, our annual New Year’s Eve show at the Maryland Science Center, we noticed that most of the audience got up and danced when we played “Girls Wanna Dance.” But true to the idea behind the song, most of the people dancing were girls. Is it just that guys are shy? Are they bad dancers? Do they enjoy sitting more? In the green room after the show, we decided to explore this phenomenon by doing a video of the song.

Milkshake, circa the 1970's!

Milkshake, circa the 1970’s!

Tom came up with the storyline: a middle school dance circa  the seventies. The guys would wear tuxes, kids would dress up more than they do today, the setting would be a school gym and Shepp would wear a giant afro wig. Each of us would have alter-egos: I would be the stern old librarian, breaking up a slow-dancing couple; Brian would be the nerdy, book-reading professor walking through the dancing throng, oblivious; Tom would be the PE coach stopping a boy from playing basketball; Shepp would be the principal, walking in as the song ends; Cord would be the janitor, pushing a mop across the dance floor; and Mikel would be the health-nut hippie teacher, trying to get kids to eat carrots instead of lollipops. Mikel’s wife, Donna Reilly, would be the cool 70’s mom with Farrah Fawcett hair, dropping off her kid to the dance.

The band as their alter-egos.

The band as their alter-egos.

We found a perfect place to film, Park School’s Blaustein gym, and soon after found our film crew at WOOF Digital Motion. Soon we had 46 great kids from Park School, City Neighbors Charter School and a few other Baltimore-area schools signed up to be part of the video. Tuxes were rented, a new tutu was created, props were bought, including 62 golf ball-sized lollipops.

making a video.

making a video.

Rick Lewis and Terry Campbell of WOOF worked with us to make sure we had what we needed, from stage lighting to a back-up generator. They were both very together and Rick was always at the pre-production, refining, planning and even drawing the set as it would look on the day of the shoot. They were fantastic and we thank thank thank them.girls floor plan

Food was an important issue, too, since no food = hungry kids and crew. Luckily, Mikel and I had just done a private show for an executive at Wendy’s, and Wendy’s generously catered the shoot for free, so big thanks to Rick Borchers and the people at Wendy’s for filling up a car with bags of chicken nuggets, salads and burgers.

Wendys

a few of the 17 bags of Wendy’s food.

Our friends Brendan Williams and Russell Cory from Verve Broadcast Design came by with a camera and microphone and roved around the set and staging area, taking footage, interviewing some of the cast and using the footage to create a short preview for us. Thanks guys!

On March 2nd we worked on the “Girls Wanna Dance” video from 7 AM to 7 PM. It was a long day, but everything came together. Special thanks to all the kids and their parents, Bob Peck at Park School, Jill Andrews for the gorgeous new tutu she designed and for making sure the band looked good. Thanks to Steve Parke for coming by and taking pictures, and to assistant director Sandy Asirvatham who kept everything flowing nicely, guiding and directing the kids. And last, thanks to Donna Reilly for being a great mom in the seventies car, Cory Moon for helping on the set and being Moo, and to Christopher Lewis and Joe Manack for their all-around assistance. Enjoy these pictures, taken by Steve Parke and Jill Andrews.

LINK TO THE FINISHED VIDEO: Girls Wanna Dance

 

Grand Rapids, Michigan Has Great Boxed Water.

Mikel, Shepp and I set out for a Milkshake trio show in Grand Rapids, Michigan a few weeks ago, to play a festival called Laughfest. I had never been to Grand Rapids or heard of the festival and I was pleasantly surprised. The Laughfest folks picked us up at the airport and took us to the Amway Grand Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids. It was indeed a grand hotel, originally built in 1929 and then bought and renovated by the Amway corporation in 1981. That accounted for the unique Amway bath products in the rooms – honestly, I didn’t know they still made shampoo and conditioner in one bottle anymore. But there it was, a true hair-product wonder. In each of our rooms we found a swag bag from Laughfest, complete with coffee mug, t-shirt, sunglasses and other things with the cheery yellow Laughfest logo – a bright smile. Also in this bag was the most remarkable invention: a carton of water with the writing “Boxed Water Is Better” on two sides. Duh…of course it is! And why isn’t this in every Starbucks across America? You put this empty boxed water carton in a landfill and it will eventually go away. An empty plastic water bottle remains with us forever. But the Boxed Water people don’t stop with a great concept. They also donate 10% of their profit to reforestation foundations and another 10% to world water relief foundations. I’d like to find a distributor in every state, starting with Maryland. Right now, only 16 states, Hong Kong, Canada and Mexico distribute Boxed Water. For more info, visit www.boxedwaterisbetter.com.

ImageThe Laughfest people were all super-kind, and even drove Mikel to and from a ski resort during downtime. The festival was started in 2011 by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids to raise funds and awareness of the emotional health found through laughter and community. Gilda Radner, who these clubs are named after, would be happy. It’s rare to find a festival – let alone a week-long one – that is so well-run for such a great cause. Photographer Dave Kagan took these pictures of the first show, with the exception of the last trio shot, taken by Brian Kelly for Laughfest.

 

Snow Day

It’s one of many days of snowy weather we’ve had here in Baltimore this winter, and while the power is still on I thought it would be a great time to catch up. Usually Milkshake puts on what we like to call a “Valentine’s Day Spectacular” around this time, but instead we had scheduled a video filming for this weekend. A few weeks ago the video shoot got bumped to early March, and we were left with a free weekend…full of snow! I guess things work out the way they should sometimes.

snow outside my window.

snow outside my window.

So this year, after 2013’s fantastic shows and the release of Got a Minute, we’ve decided to film new videos. Our first effort will be something we can shoot indoors, a song called “Girls Wanna Dance,” for which Tom had a brilliant idea: film it in a school gym, with the band in white tuxes and brightly colored shirts. It’ll be like a school dance circa the 70’s, complete with mirror ball and nerdy teachers. And the funny thing I’ve found in recruiting kids for the shoot is that it’s much like Mikel’s original idea behind the song: the girls wanna dance but the boys just stand around “with their hands in their pockets.” That is, it seems we have more girls than boys wanting to perform in the video! Can it be true that boys don’t wanna dance?! I guess we’ll see when we film in a few weeks.

With all this snow piling up, and new videos on my mind, I think I’ll do as Cord suggests and go across the street to borrow my neighbor’s little white dog. He’ll make a great Snowy for our song “Snowy”  and it’s a perfect day to go outside and play. Hmmm, maybe “Girls Wanna Dance” will be our second video of the year!

Be safe, have fun.  And look for a special Valentine’s Day post tomorrow.

xo,

Lisa

Remembering the warm months.

Fall is in full force here in Baltimore, and the leaves are beautiful. Last night, it was cold enough for a fire, today Mikel and I brought in the first of what will be at least four Santas at malls and holiday events, and tomorrow holds a full day of raking. But at this moment, I want to post a quick look back at summer and the lovely warmer months when Milkshake played outdoors. The band had an incredible outdoors season, and Mikel and I enjoyed visiting many parks and libraries as well. Highlights include two shows at Strathmore Center for the Arts in Rockville, MD, an early evening show at the Levitt Pavilion in Westport, CT and a rainy, fun show at Kidstock in Long island, NY. But without a doubt, our hands-down favorite show was a late-summer stop at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA in August.

There’s something magical about the place. Yes, the gardens are beautiful, with so many special trails and secret nooks and big, flower-filled spaces. A few times in the past, we’ve played in the amphitheater fronted by fountains. It’s lovely, but we never feel as close to our friends in the audience as we like. So we were very happy to find that this year, Milkshake was playing in front of the lighted fountains on a low-to-the-ground stage. There, in front of the stage was a warm grassy area to dance and play, and that’s exactly what we did. The people working at Longwood obviously love what they do, and they always spoil us with a generous green room, incredible sound and stage crew, and they kindly ride our kids and family around in golf carts. This time, it was raining as we pulled into the gardens.  But by a half hour before showtime arrived, so did the sun, setting warmly over the gardens. From 7 – 8:15 PM, both band and audience were transported by the perfection of the place, and afterwards, everyone was treated to a lighted fountain show. I sat on a picnic blanket with my daughter, Jesse, eating some finger food, watching the fountain show and feeling absolutely, blissfully happy. Thank you, Longwood Gardens, for the most delightful last show of summer.

Check out the summer gallery posted here, all taken by our friend Bill Auth (Thanks, Bill!). Click on the pics to see them larger, in a photo stream.

Now it’s on to the holiday season. Hope to see you at one of the upcoming shows (MA, NY, MD etc.)…indoors, of course.

xo,

Lisa

Rumpus Room Fun at SiriusXM Radio’s Kids Place Live

We’ve performed at the Rumpus Room at SiriusXM Radio four times, now, and every time it’s a memorable and joyously messy experience.  Live radio is usually an anything-can-happen idea in the first place, but radio in front of a live audience is something a bit more open to a find-a-balance stress, especially since our audience is so young and loves when we dance with them. Unfortunately, that’s hard to do connected to head phones and wired for recording, and kids wonder why we have big things covering our ears and don’t seem to play with them as much. It’s a fine line between doing a great performance for this audience, and trying to get a stellar recording. Inevitably, the star rating for each song will vary depending on the perspective. But what I love best besides the incredible SiriusXM recording studio and the warm, friendly people behind the Kids Place Channel is that we are encouraged to try new things we might not do live.

For this Rumpus Room Concert, we thought we’d be more radio-focused and created a couple skits purposely for the show. Nodding to the beginning of the new Got a Minute? CD, we started the show with a skit, inviting bandmates to come on down to the SiriusXM Studio. Each one had something else they were doing – Cord, for instance, was still cleaning up after a Super Bowl Party, trying to get bean dip out of the X Box, and Tom discovered he was just outside, standing on the corner of Florida Avenue in DC. Tom created a sarcastic question and answer with me we fondly titled Yep. In between these bits, we played mostly songs from the new CD, and it felt good. Got a Minute? is full of variety and I can’t wait to play the songs at our CD Release Party at Rams Head Live April 14. It was wonderful to see Program Director Mindy Thomas and Kenny Curtis again, and we hope SiriusXM Radio listeners enjoy the concert if they catch it on the channel. Our concert airs March 22, 23 and 24.  Check the radio website for exact times.  Special thanks to good friend and photographer Bill Auth for capturing the event in pictures.