Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Fresh Beat Band @ Rabobank Theater, Bakersfield CA 01/31/14

It was inevitable that I would start a kid’s section on this blog. On Friday night, 1/31/14, we went BANANAS 🙂 My dad and I took my 3 year old son to see The Fresh Beat Band, a musical act with a kids show on Nickelodeon. Mommy stayed home with baby sister and grandma recuperated after undergoing surgery. The TV show, The Fresh Beat Band, is a charming combination of music, light comedy, life-lessons and unrelenting positive energy. Think of The Wiggles, just not as uncomfortable or disturbing to watch. The characters are likeable, the storylines are entertaining, and those Fresh Beat songs will stay ingrained in your heads. I’m sure several of you parents know what I’m talking about. We bought these tickets early, six months before show date to be exact, and we scored excellent seats (first row, Terrace area, center/right). We avoided the VIP packages quite simply because my son was too young at the time to enjoy meeting the group in person. He wouldn’t remember the experience and I felt it was a purchase more for the parents’ benefit, not for his. Maybe if he was 4 or over. And at the time of purchase, my boy was very into the show. Months had passed and his interests shifted from this show and music in general and transitioned to trains and dinosaurs, more traditional favorites of toddler boys. After his second birthday, my son would spend a great deal of time on his kiddy drumset as well as my full sized drum kit. He also enjoyed watching live music performances on youtube. This boy LOVED watching live Beatles, John Fogerty, Duran Duran and Coldplay! It amazed me how a 2 year old would sing the songs of a group from generations ago. Did The Beatles ever think that children would sing their songs, even years after they were gone? His TV time has always been limited, however as he approached his 3rd birthday he favored watching shows like Dinosaur Train, Dino Dan, and dino documentaries on youtube rather than The Fresh Beat Band. Also, my son came to enjoy going to the circus, and by this point he had seen 3 Ringling Brothers shows. So we were concerned that the Fresh Beat live show wouldn’t hold his attention.

We arrived at the Rabobank Theater with time to spare. As fate would have it, a train had stopped on the tracks adjacent to the Rabobank complex. My son got a very close up view of the locomotive and attached cars. We had to ascend a staircase and make our way across an overpass to bypass the stuck train. My son enjoyed the view and marveled at the larger than life train. We easily found our seats and I ventured back to the merch table to pick up some items. The merch was typically priced, $25 for tour shirts, $45 for what looked like a silver lame’ rockstar jacket, $15 for light up toy mics, $10 for tour programs. The green tee was awesome, as it had the cities listed on the back like a proper concert tee. My son had proof that he was at the Bakersfield 2014 gig \m/\m/. The staff was friendly and very efficient. Random occurrence happened at the merch line. A fellow UCI alumnus recognized me and said hello. We dormed together in the same building and she had gone on to become a licensed marriage & family therapist. She was there with her husband and two sons, having traveled from Murrieta because they lost out on LA area tickets. So they bravely ventured into the Central Valley to catch this Bakersfield gig. It was nice to see each other and it was comforting to know that I hadn’t physically changed too much. We made our purchases and ventured back to our seats.

Much to my surprise, the show began promptly at 6:30 with no opening act – which is a great idea. I don’t think any of these little ones would have the patience to sit through performers that they didn’t come to see. The show itself was very entertaining, I was pleasantly surprised. Sound quality was great, the performances were spirited, and it felt like Bakersfield received a top notch, “big-city” performance from the group. My son wouldn’t take his eyes off the show. While most of the little girls danced in their chairs or ventured in to the aisles, my son and most other little boys intently watched. He looked so serious, however after the close of a song he would say “yaaaaaay” and grin from ear to ear. He enjoyed Twist’s wacky antics and laughed along. I was very happy to have scored these seats. We were right up against a barrier with no one in front of us, providing an unobstructed view and with more than ample leg room. Near the middle of the show, a mom in the last row of the pit area wouldn’t stay seated. She regularly rose from her seat in the handicapped access section to attend to several children, periodically filmed them on her phone, and this pattern continued for a period of time. She didn’t block mine or my son’s view, however she was a significant distraction, and she hopped from vacant chair to vacant chair in that last row. I was ready to get her attention and motion her to sit her ass down, however my dad beat me to it. She turned around and saw the look on my dad’s face, and she got the picture and stayed seated for the remainder of the show. Come on people, it’s not GA standing. It’s a kids’ show and there are other people trying to enjoy the experience, particularly other children who can’t easily look over someone else’s head.

The group performed for 25-30 minutes then a 15 minute intermission occurred. The final block of performances lasted another 25-30 minutes with another 5-10 minutes serving as the “encore” section. It’s just the right amount of time for young kids and their limited attention spans, and the show ended early enough for appropriate bedtimes. Shout said something along the lines of “Bakersfield you will go to sleep tonight like babies…believe me.” I’ve read several complaints about the show length. I admit it’s a brief set, but it’s targeted for younger kids. Regarding value, it would be preferable to receive more value and product for the money, these aren’t cheap tickets. Certainly the group has enough material to put on a show closer to 80-90 minutes, but I think they’re concerned about the attention spans of their young audience. Draw back to that frame of thinking is that any child over 5 will probably lose out and wonder “is that all?” The reviews over at ticketmaster are horrendous and brutal, mainly 1-2 star reviews with nothing but complaints, many of which are about factors that are beyond the group’s control, such as venue, weather, sound quality and merchandise and concessions prices. We were fortunate in that we didn’t have to travel too far for this show. Secondly, parking was a breeze and affordable. We were in a lot adjacent to the arena and theater complex and for $6. The show was indoors, free from weather related issues and the acoustics are suited for musical performances. On top of that, the show began PROMPTLY. It was like all the stars aligned that night and Bakersfield was spared from issues suffered by other cities. The prices for merchandise were typical of any live act, I prepared for that. We avoided concessions entirely because we know the game. The venue has to make money, they will do so by marking up food and beverage and they most likely charged the band’s management for allowing them to sell merchandise in their venue. The intermission has its pros and cons. It’s great for potty trained kids that need to use the restroom, or for the tiny ones requiring a diaper/pull-up change. It’s also pre-planned opportunity to take a breather and grab something to snack on if need be, buy a souvenir or take care of miscellaneous needs. I researched and knew there would be an intermission. We packed our son’s Thomas the Train backpack with essentials including wipes, extra clothing, a sippie cup of water and snacks to tide him over. If we were going to get hassled by front door staff for these items well I have a method for addressing that issue. Another significant complaint was regarding lack of artist/audience interaction. We didn’t have previous experience attending kids’ shows like the Wiggles, Yo Gabba Gabba, etc., so we couldn’t make comparisons. For a newbie first timer, we were satisfied watching the performance onstage. The sets and stage props were minimal, it’s not a play production – the focus was on the performers onstage, the characters. I feel that any over the top stage production would distract the young audience. Again, the focus is on the “stars” of the show. The performance itself was augmented by dancers. Between each number the group would lead into the song with a dialogue, often referencing moments from the TV show. The show opened with a cover of the Go-Go’s We Got the Beat. Other numbers included were Like a Rockstar, Loco Legs, Freeze Dance, Let’s Go Bananas, and of course Great Day.

During the show I was trying to figure out if the group was playing live. That was another significant complaint voiced by parents. The vocals were definitely live and there was a backing track present. The electronic drum kit definitely had cabling and outputs in use. Marina would periodically pound out a fill or a roll unaccompanied. The keyboard and DJ setups looked cable free, so I questioned if they were actually “live” instruments. The guitar was not plugged in and there were no amplifier cabinets present, nor could I see any evidence of a wireless transmitter – but no big deal. Performance for a group like this is not centered on live playing ability and execution, but about reaching their live audience, which they did joyously and effortlessly. There were so many little happy faces in the theater. And seriously all you complainers, they’re not onstage for YOU. They’re onstage for your kids. Value is subjective. My dad and I agreed that it was a very good experience and money well spent.

There’s a great (and positive) review over at SJ Working Mom’s Blog. http://sjworkingmom.wordpress.com/category/fresh-beat-band/ You should check that out especially if you’re interested in the VIP experience.

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I have to give a shout out to Alfredo from TicketMaster, a company I sometimes refer to as TicketBastard. I’ve dealt with Alfredo through phone and email on a couple occasions. Normally I purchase tickets online and have them delivered via USPS standard mail. I like this method because it’s free and I like having hard tickets rather than PDF “ticketfast” printouts. A hard ticket is like a souvenir and I don’t trust the printouts, you will hear of counterfeiting issues from time to time. However the last couple occasions I’ve had difficulty ordering online. So I’ve resorted to phone contact for ordering purposes. We had requested hard tickets via mail however we had misplaced the damn things (we ordered them 6 months previously after all). So I contacted customer service and tried to have those barcodes cancelled and PDF versions sent to me via email. The call was lost and I had to follow up through email. It was my understanding that such a request could be honored, because the other alternative was to have new copies waiting for us at the venue will-call window…however that could be troublesome and inconvenient. Conversely, there would be an upcharge involved in receiving PDF tickets…how nice, right? So Alfredo wrote to me and stated that we can avoid will-call altogether and they would send PDF tickets via email free of charge. I was stoked. So thanks Alfredo, for the good customer service. I’ll refrain from further ticketmaster bashing.

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The English Beat @ Fulton 55, Fresno CA 01/24/14

This was my first show at Fulton 55. It’s a cozy club located near Fresno’s downtown area. It’s unassuming and a little hard to find. Parking was horrendous but I managed to squeeze in and parallel park near the venue. Openers Let’s Go Bowling was wrapping up their set. The club itself was fairly small, making for an intimate venue. The GA area was a very compact space littered with tables, making it difficult to squeeze and push oneself up toward the stage. The Beat hadn’t yet taken the stage and the club was filled to the gills, there was hardly any room to stand, as patrons packed the main GA area or clustered around the bar. Consequently, I was stuck near the bar area with practically no line of sight with the stage. People were shoulder to shoulder and trying to avoid spilling drinks. Bumping was inevitable, this gig was definitely not for those with personal space issues. The upstairs area was no better, as the early birds had already filled the balcony and slammed the second bar area with their drink orders. I would guestimate capacity was around 700, and I’d believe it if the show was sold-out. It was a cold winter night however the warm bodies inside the club compensated for that, causing many to shed their coats and sweatshirts.

The Beat finally took the stage at 9:30 and the crowd was vocal and boisterous. Dave Wakeling was all smiles and enjoyed the positive energy. The band was super tight, all touring veterans, and brought the peppy and exuberant ska sound to life onstage. The sax player was killer. I rarely ever go to club gigs and now I remember why. What I found distracting and border-line annoying was the level of audience noise, audience conversation to be more precise. The talk near the bar area was almost as loud as the band itself. It was as if this concert was more like a social event than an actual live gig, an opportunity to hang out, drink and interact. I’m guessing there were plenty of Fulton 55 regulars present, not just fans of the band. Personally, I’ve never understood how someone can carry on conversation during a concert and treat a live group like background music. I’ve also never understood how someone can get sh*t faced drunk at a concert either. Maybe I take my music too seriously, but at a live show I want to remember every note, every moment. Another annoyance for me was the excess of patrons well over 6’ tall. There were soooo many tall motherf*uckers there, I had no idea there were so many giants in Fresno. As the show went on I was able to navigate through the crowd and slowly eased my toward the front for a better vantage point.

The set was so much fun, bouncy, up-beat, and joyous. You couldn’t help but smile and groove. The horn player laid down some infectious lines, adding additional color and flavor to the songs. The front men, Wakeling and Antonee, were great at interacting with the audience and served as great hype men. Antonee’s position with the group is that of “Toaster,” which is very accurate. He got the crowd going, heated up the venue, and helped lay down those classic Beat/General Public tracks, filling in well for Ranking Roger. The songs were played very faithfully and most had this added twist to them, a jolt of vibrant energy that brought the songs out of the 80’s and into the 21st century. Tracks like Sole Salvation, Best Friend, Too Nice To Talk To, Save It For Later, and I’ll Take You There sounded GREAT. But the one song I waited patiently for all night, General Public’s beloved track “Tenderness,” didn’t go down as magically as the other songs. The song got a great cheer from the crowd and you just had to sing along to the chorus, but much of the thump was missing and the keys didn’t sound as bright as they do on record. The rhythm section and keyboards make that song, and unfortunately neither matched the magic found on the studio version. Still awesome to hear one of my all-time favorite songs performed. And of course the night ended with the immortal “Mirror in the Bathroom.” The club went bonkers when they played that song. It was a fitting end to the set and the obvious closer. It was great seeing these great ska/new wave/mod icons. I just wish they could play a venue that was more fitting for a true listening experience. It was still fun and I’d consider seeing these guys again.

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