Sunday, May 16, 2010

Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Players; May 16, 2010; High Noon Saloon

Despite the fact that I don’t have kids of my own, I’m probably the Not Ready for Naptime Players most loyal Madison fan. I would feel a little weird about showing up sans kids for a children’s show if I didn’t know the band, but the truth is that Justin Roberts knows his way around a power pop tune. If it weren’t for the fact that the lyrics are about a girl who won’t comb her hair, being a crossing guard or that favorite childhood pastime of blaming stuff on your brother, you wouldn’t even know it was geared toward the toddler set.

This was my third afternoon with the trio and it may have been my favorite show yet. It could be because this time they had moved from the cavernous Majestic Theater to the more welcoming High Noon. Or it could simply be because I am starting to learn the songs (“My Brother Did It” may be my favorite, though I’m a sucker for the Modern English reference in “Meltdown,” “I’ll stop the world and meltdown with you.”). Rather than sit in the back playing impartial observers, we chose to sit a little closer this time, at the end of the bar nearest the stage. We also willingly participated in all the instructed actions that accompanied the songs, doing at least as well as the youngsters near us (perhaps due to a longer attention span). We’d learned our lesson after being chastised last time by drummer Gerald Dowd for not joining in, especially offensive after we’d gotten in on the guest list.

Not having any responsibilities running around the bar afforded me the luxury of being able to observe the rest of the audience. There’s the adventurous handful of kids who stand right in front of the stage, participating without hesitation, yelling the answers to Roberts’ questions and even making requests when prompted. There’s the group that starts timid, but gradually works up the nerve to move closer in the course of the hour set. Then there’s the faction that does their own thing for the whole show, sometimes choosing to participate, other times just being themselves. The key to keeping all the types entertained seems to be that Roberts and band interact with them so well. He never talks down to them or uses baby talk, and frankly Liam Davis’s gruff but lovable Willy the Whale character actually seems geared to the grown-ups, a sort of G-rated Goodfella.

I’m already looking forward to the next show.

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