July 10, 2008

Concert in the Park a Great Family Activity

By Canan Tasci

Staff Writer

Mismatched socks, a hamburger hat, a balloon trick, sing-along songs and dancing were the keys to keeping The Happy Crowd's audience alive.

The trio who make up The Happy Crowd recently performed at the 46th annual Summer Concert Series at Alma Hofman Park. The event is hosted by the city's Human Services Division.

The free concert series kicked off June 24 with The Seville, performing music from the 1950s and '60s.

The Happy Crowd moved and grooved the audience with songs filled with positive energy and intended to get the whole family singing, dancing and just plain having fun.

"Our goal is to get kids and parents interacting to the music," said Kenny McSpadden, the band's vocalist and guitarist.

McSpadden was joined on stage by Hai Muradian, guitarist, vocals and flute, and aka "Professor Smartie" on the keyboard.

When members of the audience weren't dancing, they were munching on snacks or dinner on their blankets.

First-time concertgoer Letty Rodriguez said it was really important for her family to get out of the house and enjoy the night.

Her family ate dinner at home and bought ice cream sandwiches, which were being sold by the Montclair Kiwanis Club at the park.

"All I want is for my kids to have some fun and listen and dance to good music," said the Montclair resident.

The band warmed up the crowd with its first interactive song "Stretcheroo," where audience members were invited to stretch their bodies and wave their arms in the air.

Before each song began band members would tell a story and Muradian would switch his hat to accompany the theme of the song.

One of the first hats he wore was a smiley face. Giggles were heard all around when he followed that with a hat in the shape of a hamburger.

Muradian explained to the audience that The Happy Crowd band represents courtesy and niceness. He told them he didn't want to wear his next hat because he was afraid of being made fun of. When the audience promised not to make fun of him, the band began to sing "Say Something Nice to Somebody."

This mission statement of what the band stands for prompted Muradian to wear a very pink and long flamingo hat.

Other songs included "Clapping is as Easy as Pie,""Pop" and "Happy Socks."

The concert concluded with a dance contest in which 4-year-old Montclair resident Monique Layseca won a Happy Crowd CD for her fancy dance moves.

Monique's mom, Gabriela, said she felt really connected to her family at the concert.

"I really liked that it was a free fun for all," she said. "The band really got the kids and parents involved - even the kids from the skate park came over to see what's happening."

The summer concert series continues at the Starlite Patio Theater, behind the library, at 5111 Benito St., Montclair, at 7 p.m. every Tuesday through Aug. 26 .

Information: (909) 625-9460.

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