KindieFest 2012 Recap

I told you I was going to KindieFest 2012, and I did not lie — after 500 miles, dozens of conversations with friends old and new, countless decibels, plenty of drinks, and at least one night puffing stogies on a hotel rooftop, I’m back from Brooklyn and here to tell you about (some of) what went down when (some of) kindie’s finest got together last weekend.

Friday Highlights:

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      • Checking into the Fairfield Inn & Suites, a Marriott hotel which apparently didn’t exist last year and is shiny enough to disprove the stereotypes expressed by my Queens-residing friend Jason, who snorted, “A hotel in Brooklyn. Sounds great.”
      • Making my KindieFest bones by whacking my head on a stage light while helping Bill Childs hang a banner over the stage. I was supposed to get a drink ticket for my pain. SUPPOSED TO.
      • Getting to chat in person with Brady RymerJustin Lansing of the Okee Dokee Brothers, and Ashley Albert — all of whom I’ve interviewed for the site, but had never met face-to-face.
      • Wandering off into the night with Joanie Leeds (who didn’t recognize me until the next day, when she cheerfully gave me a hard time for my review of her most recent album), Recess MonkeyJacob Stein of the Pop-Ups, Kurt GallagherDave Loftin, Paul Stark, and Jeff Bogle — then ending up on the Fairfield roof with several of the above for a late-night powwow about music both kindie and non. (Sub-highlight: busting Bogle’s balls for having never watched The Godfather Part II or listened to Jellyfish.)


Saturday Highlights:

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  • Moderating and attending my first Kindiefest panel in one fell swoop, as I (very slightly) helped guide a conversation about multimedia kids’ entertainment that featured Dr. Alice Wilder of Speakaboos, Roland Stringer of Secret Mountain, Rachel Loshak of the Gustafer Yellowgold media empire, Nerissa Nields of the Nields, and Scott Gordon of Random House.
  • Following Morgan Taylor and Todd McHatton on a midmorning boondoggle off to a store in downtown Brooklyn that I still can’t quite believe exists even though I set foot in it, and meeting the junior McHatton whose adorable duet vocals on “I Think I’m a Bunny” helped turn it into a viral sensation.
  • Trying to talk Dave Loftin into wearing a mask and cape to his afternoon KindieFest panel.
  • Crying tears of laughter during brainstorming sessions for a brilliant joke for April Fool’s Day 2013.
  • The State of Kindie panel, moderated by a jetlagged Stefan Shepherd and featuring contributions from Dan Zanes and Jeff Bogle that were talked/buzzed about for the rest of the night. I’d say more, but I think there will be multiple future posts for that.
  • Spending some quality time with Alastair Moock, Jeremy Toback, Debbie Lan, Tim Sutton, Dean Jones, Joe Mailander, Kristen Cook, Charlie Hope, and KBC — not to mention some folks I’m undoubtedly forgetting.
  • Hearing one of the guys from Recess Monkey (I’m not saying who) shout “I wish I was high!”
  • Watching killer sets by Alastair, Lori Henriques, Renee and Jeremy, Caspar Babypants, and Dan Zanes.


Quote of the Weekend:

“We learn best when we’re moving.” —Amy Otey, during the “Two-Tiered Career” panel, which I took in for journalistic purposes but found to be thoroughly fascinating.

Random Parting Thoughts:

You can’t say “kindie” without saying “indie,” but at major events like this, you’re always going to see folks from the corporate side, and KindieFest 2012 was no different — starting with the keynote address, delivered by Scott Schultz, co-creator of Yo Gabba Gabba! I’m not going to nitpick too heavily because hey, I mean, the guy delivered a speech to a roomful of people and hats off to anyone who can do that.

But…I will note a couple of things. One, it’s interesting that the event was led off by a guy who could, if he chose, provide a powerful forum for a number of very worthwhile kindie artists, and doesn’t. Two, I thought it was funny how Schultz relayed his personal creative journey in great detail except for the part where he glossed over exactly how he was able to convince a few friends to loan him over $100,000 to film the Gabba pilot. That’s a pretty key component when it comes to getting your project off the ground, and one that I think might have been helpful to discuss with some of the very talented people in the room, but it was just sort of skimmed across, like it was one of those things anyone can do.

Honestly, I learned more about kindie gumption from the few minutes I spent with Ashley Albert, who’s cooking up a genius (non-music related) new venture and has some really brilliant perspective to offer on staying true to your muse. Perhaps she can deliver the keynote in 2013.

That minor quibble aside, the organizers put together a really astonishingly solid and eclectic roster for the conference, in terms of performers as well as panelists. I’ve resisted going to KindieFest in the past because the panels are geared toward musicians, but if you’re any kind of creative person, there are lessons to be learned from the event. I mean, when you put that many artists in a building, you can’t help but create a certain kind of energy — and when you toss in the refreshing lack of ego that typifies the kindie scene, you’ve got a really powerful combination that left me humming with energy and new ideas. I’d love to return.

On the way home, I stopped twice to visit friends — one couple that just had their first baby two months ago, and another whose due date happened to be Sunday. Those families are the future of kindie — and as Mr. Bogle is so fond of pointing out, this is the Golden Age of Children’s Music. It all left me very excited about the music, and about this site being a part of the dialogue surrounding it — and grateful for the ideas and companionship of smart, kind, talented people. After spending a couple of days in Brooklyn. Who would have guessed?