July 10, 2008

Big Bang Boom ; at This Band’s Concerts, Kids and Parents Rock Happily Together.


There is no sitting down at a Big Bang Boom concert.

Bassist Chuck Folds makes this clear to a large crowd of kids and adults at the outdoor auditorium of the Greensboro Children's Museum.

By the third song, though most of the kids are standing on their feet, the majority of the parents are still too busy eating pizza on the grass.

"This is not going to do. I'm not happy about that," Folds says. "Nobody sits down at a Big Bang Boom show!"

But when Folds along with guitar player Steve Williard and drummer Eddie Walker pit the kids against the grown-ups in a high- energy game of the Hokey Pokey, nearly everyone is on their feet and dancing, because, well, that's what it's all about.

"Get up off your tushes," Folds says. "I don't care if you got a pizza in your hand; you can dance with a pizza in your hand!"

During the past year, Big Bang Boom has become a rapidly growing fixture of the Triad music scene. The Greensboro group represents a new trend in children's music that doesn't sing down to kids nor alienate their parents with overly synthesized music or silly lyrics about friendly animals with odd names. Instead, one will often find Big Bang Boom singing pop-punk anthems about eating too much ice cream, fighting with bratty siblings or empathizing about the monster under the bed.

This summer, Big Bang Boom's concerts have been packing a wide range of venues such as birthday parties, pubs and even public libraries with audiences who prove you can never be too young -- or old -- to rock.

Ken Egerton , who has attended a trio of Big Bang Boom concerts with his daughter Leah, who is 3 1/2, has a good reason for the group's appeal: "It's fun!" Egerton says. "It's something we can both kind of get into."

"If a parent is 32 now, what were they listening to in their 20s?" asks Folds. "1998, 1997, 1996 -- they were into Green Day; they were into Nirvana; they were into Pearl Jam; they were into grunge, right?

"There's a lot of hard stuff during that time, so of course the idea of the Wiggles makes them want to vomit."

Stefan Shepard is the webmaster for www.zooglobble.com, a site dedicated to children's and family music. A UNC-Chapel Hill graduate who works for the Arizona l egislature in the daytime, he gets between 250 and 300 children's music albums each year, many of which he reviews on his Web site.

According to Shepard, the harder sounding bands, such as Big Bang Boom, were never heard in children's music 10 years ago.

"There used to be a stigma associated to kids' music in that it was uncool to do kids' music, and if you did make kids' music, that was somehow the single end to any sort of real music you might be making," Shepard says. "And now you've got musicians who are having kids, and who are not willing to give up what they do for a living say at night, but they also want to be able to make music with and for their kids.

"You've got a lot of musicians now who play harder-edged music and they don't see any distinction between kids' music and the music they might make for adults."

Williard, who continues to play music for adult audiences with Folds in the group Rubberband, says the youthful zeal needed to play rock music for that audience translates well into performing for kids.

"We're at frat parties, we're at weddings, so we're constantly around a youthful era that wants to be reciprocated with energy" Williard says. "So bringing that down on a kids' level is really easy."

Not everything about Big Bang Boom has been elementary. When the group first started last year, they had difficulty finding a venue where they could play for younger audiences. To put it simply, there weren't any regular places where children could go to hear live music geared exclusively for them.

So with literally no options to choose from, Folds and Williard decided it would be best to contact the establishments where they played many of their shows for adults: local bars. However, citing age-old taboos about parents bringing their kids into a drinking establishment, many bar owners turned them down until the band approached the Blind Tiger in Greensboro.

"I asked Doc (the owner) at the Blind Tiger, and he said Hell yeah, man," Folds says.

Last summer, Big Bang Boom played every Wednesday at the Blind Tiger, and according to Folds, the group's daytime shows drew bigger audiences than many of the regular nighttime shows on weekends.

From there, Big Bang Boom has attracted younger audiences and their parents to other venues including parks, schools and even a tour of all 10 Forsyth County Libraries.

Last June, Jenny Boneno , branch manager of the Rural Hall Library , watched as more than 80 people, young and old, filled up the auditorium to see Big Bang Boom play. Needless to say, she thinks the concert was a huge success.

"It was loud," Boneno says. "But I think kids should see this as a fun and exciting place. I mean, there's a time for quiet, but there's a time for noise, too."

The Big Bang Boom show at the Greensboro Children's Museum was such a hit that the museum directors signed the group up to play a show at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday throughout July and August this year.

"Big Bang Boom has been playing here for about six or eight months, and they have a great following," says Gabrielle Howell, education director of the museum. "They have their own special set of toddler groupies that tend to follow them around. They know when they're coming. They come to every concert and they're right in the front row jamming it up."

Ellie Jones, age 6, is one of the group's younger fans. Just like two other kids at the museum show, she brought a guitar so she could rock out with the band. The only difference is that her instrument is a self-made number fashioned out of a recycled shoe box, a paper towel roll, pink feathers and rubber bands.

"I made it at camp," Jones says.

Folds and Williard say this happens all the time.

"We just played a birthday party a couple of weeks ago without our drummer, but this kid has a little electronic drum thing," Folds says. "And when we found out we were going to be playing without our drummer, his mom says he kinda just lit up and was like, I can play drums for them!'"

Williard adds, "He didn't smile, he didn't look up from his drums, but he just kept playing the entire time."

Noting this desire from some of their younger fans to do more than just watch them play, this summer Folds and Williard teamed up with the Greensboro Children's Museum to create the Big Bang Boom Rock Star Camp! , two week long seminars for kids where the band will teach children how to stage a rock concert. After spending a week writing songs, making concert fliers and perfecting their air guitar skills, the campers' training will culminate in a gig as the opening act at a Big Bang Boom show.

And although teaching kids is always a challenge, Williard says neither he nor Folds will be as ill prepared as Jack Black in "School of Rock."

"Both of us have educational backgrounds," Williard says. "I got my degree in history education and Chuck's a part-time professor at UNCG."

"We'll teach them about lip-synching, how to play air guitar, then we'll get them up on stage and let them act goofy," Folds says.

Children have certainly gone a long way towards making Big Bang Boom a success in the local music scene, but Folds, Williard and Walker all agree they owe a bigger part of their celebrity status to another demographic -- the kids' moms.

"We made a T-shirt that says Hot Moms Love Big Bang Boom,'" Folds says. "Because our philosophy is this: If the mothers like it, they'll bring the kids."

"This goes with any other type of music, too," Williard says. "If girls dig it, guys will attend."

Joe Scott is a freelance contributor. Contact him at [email protected]

Want to go?

Big Bang Boom

What: Boogie in the Barn, Big Bang Boom's weekly live concert series at the Greensboro Children's Museum

When: 5:30-6 p.m. Tuesdays, July and August

Where: Greensboro Children's Museum, 220 North Church St., Greensboro

Tickets: $6 adults and children, $5 seniors, free with membership

Information: 574-2898 ; www.gcmuseum.com

When: 1 p.m. today

Where: Malloy/Jordan East u2028Winston Heritage Center, 1110 E. Seventh Street, Winston-Salem

Tickets: Free

Information: 703-2950 ; www.forsyth.cc/library

When: 3 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Reynolda Manor Branch Library, 2839 Fairlawn Drive, Winston-Salem

Tickets: Free

Information: 703-2960 ; www.forsyth.cc/library

*For additional dates, visit Big Bang Boom's Web site at www.chuckfolds.com .*

Buy it

"B3: Big Bang Boom"

Big Bang Boom released their self-titled album earlier this year. The album features songs including "Why Can't I Have Ice Cream,""Get the Job Done" and "Monster Under the Bed." Cost is $9.99 and available at www.chuckfolds.com/bigbangboom.html and cdbaby.com/cd/ bigbangboom.

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