As one might expect at an event put on by a radio station that plays Public Enemy and Billy Bragg, the band onstage at the Children's Theatre announced it was about to play "a protest song." Would it be an anthem for the state-employee union in Wisconsin? The citizens seeking democracy in the Middle East?
No, it was for much more universal cause:
"I want a PB&J, and I want it now," the singers roared. "But I want NO CRUST!"
"NO CRUST!" the crowd joined in, fists raised in unison.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo manufactured this rare showing of solidarity in late January when it used the Current's annual Rock the Cradle festival to bring together two disparate parties, kids and adults, who for once came together on one dance floor.
There are plenty of children's music acts whose members play "adult" music on the side, and vice-versa. Koo Koo Kanga Roo is the rare beast to cater to both sides at the same time.
Taking over the Varsity Theater Saturday evening for a multifaceted all-ages concert/party that they've dubbed the Koo Koo Kanga Roo Karnival, co-creators Bryan Atchison and Neil Olstad said they just sort of fell into being booked as kids entertainers, They actually started out as an admittedly juvenile electronic rap/rock act in nightclubs three years ago alongside other hip (but now defunct) electronic groups such as Zibra Zibra and Dance Band.
The really funny thing is, they haven't altered their act much, whether they're playing at midnight on Friday at a West Bank club or Saturday morning at some (lucky) kids' birthday party.
"The really young kids aren't getting a lot of the songs, but they at least get that the music is fun," explained Olstad, whose facial hair prompted the "moustaches on a stick" you see on sale at KKKR shows.
As for the older kids and adults, Atchison said, "We're not making any kind of moral, cookie-cutter kids' music. We're making music that we, as adults, think is fun -- it just so happens that a lot of the things we're both into are kids things."
Both in their mid-20s, Atchison and Olstad met as roommates St. Mary's University in Winona and soon found they shared a lot of the same interests. Cartoons, comic books, dinosaurs, "The Alphabet Song" and, yes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have been fodder for Koo Koo Kanga Roo lyrics.
Atchison pointed to "No Crust" as an example of how he and Olstad mine their own childhoods to create their kid-friendly music.
"I remember my dad used to tell me I had to eat the crust off the sandwich because it would put hair on my chest," Atchison said. "Of course, when I was 8, the thought of having hair on my chest terrified me, so I really didn't want to eat the crust then."
Over the past year and a half, the Koo Koos found what they describe as "some of the most perfect audiences for us," touring as an opening act for masked pop-punk band the Aquabats and the wholesome ska-punk group Reel Big Fish. "They have really young, non-jaded crowds who are coming to the shows with the intention of having fun," Olstad said. "They're not afraid to dance or sing along. Participation is essential with us."
Along the way, KKKR have assembled a hi-fi light show (lasers included) and a merchandise table that includes everything from the aforementioned moustache accessories to a friendship-bracelet stand (yep, there's also a friendship-bracelet song). All of this gear has forced the duo to upgrade its tour vehicle from a sedan to a van, which it's partially paying for with a Kickstarter.com donation program. Participants can get everything from a personalized voice-mail message to a song written about them as a reward for their generosity.
KKKR's approach to selling music is almost as novel as everything else it does. Its one full-length album and two EPs -- the five-song "Golden Staircase of Destiny" just came out in January -- are only available as downloads at Kookookangaroo.com, and they're only sold in a pay-what-you-want format. Atchison said they don't even care if you pay for the music, "so long as you come out to see our show, which is what we're really all about."
Protest songs or not, these Koo Koo fellas are surprisingly radical.Random mix
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