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!”

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!

 

 

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.

Finally Finished!

FINALCOVERcolored4x4It took more than just a minute, in fact a bit longer than we anticipated, but the new CD, Got a Minute?, is finally finished.  We have a lot of people to thank: All the Kickstarter friends who pledged to help us make the CD, artist/teacher Danamarie Hosler who did the cover and inside poster, Steve Parke for taking new band pics and putting the CD cover together, Bill Auth for documenting our time in the studio in pictures, Dave Nachodsky for co-producing and continuing to be our favorite studio dude, the kids who suggested song topics: Ethan & Sara Scally, Savannah Radz, Addy Velasquez and Luca Zamero, and of course the many fine musicians who joined us on some of these new songs. Previous posts have mentioned some of them: Adrian Cox played tuba on “Fish,” Willem Elsevier added violin and viola to “Starry, Starry Night,” and “Anyday Waltz,” Dave Hadley played incredible pedal steel on “Looking Out the Window,” Howard Markman added some great guitar playing to “Workin’ Kid Blues,” ” Seabreeze,” and “Anyday Waltz,”  Duncan Parke played upright bass on “Seabreeze,” Kyf Brewer sang on “Starry, Starry Night,” and “We Just Wanna Have Fun,” adding bagpipes to that last one, Cathy Fink added banjo and sang on “Snowy” and Marcy Marxer played mandolin and sang on “Snowy,” and added ukulele to “Tiptoe Thru the Tulips,” Alex Handy rapped on “More Than Me,” and Vance Thomas did the same on “Baltimore,” and sang in the kid chorus of “Workin’ Kid Blues” and “Hiccup,” Lauren Reilly sang on the kid chorus of “Workin’ Kid Blues,” and “Hiccup.”

And then there’s our kids: my daughter Jesse played and sang her original song “One Day,” and Mikel’s son Eric played drums on “One of a Kind,” and both of them sang for the kid chorus.  Remembering back to our first CD (Happy Songs, 2002), when Jesse’s baby gurgling was heard at the beginning of “When You Were Born,” this is full-circle in a way, as our kids have made guest appearances on our discs through the last 10 years, but now are so very grown-up.  I can’t help but feel the Milkshake project of reflecting our kids growth and adventures through childhood has been a worthwhile and beautiful one. In some ways Got a Minute? is almost a retrospective of this because of the combination of simple songs we wrote for PBS KIDS in 2006, and the newer, more musically and thematically complex songs, both found on this new disc.  I look back fondly over the 10 years doing this project, and each CD takes me back to that certain place and time.  We learned how to count with “Fingers & Toes” (Happy Songs, 2002), signed and sang our ABC’s with “ABC of Me” (Bottle of Sunshine, 2004), played and pretended with “Superhero” (Play! 2007), learned about friendship with “Enemies” (Great Day, 2009) and found strength in ourselves in “Let ‘Em Know”and “More Than Me” (Got a Minute? 2013).

Got a Minute? will be released worldwide March 26, 2013, and we’re excited to share this new disc with you.  Advance copies will be available via our website beginning in January, and we’ll be having an official CD Release Party at Rams Head Live in Baltimore Sunday, April 14.  More on that later 🙂