Tag Archives: Sugar Free All Stars

Fids & Kamily 2016 & Best of the Decade

For those of you new to family music, Fids & Kamily is a yearly poll that compiles the lists of the year’s favorite kids and family music. Music bloggers, radio hosts, etc. They keep letting me vote, so I keep voting. And a couple weeks ago they released the results.

Before we take a look at 2016, let’s take a look back at the last 10 years.


Here is how the committee vetted out.

Here’s a look at my “Best of the Decade” ballot:

1. Dan Zanes and Friends – Catch That Train!
2. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – A Potluck
3. Justin Roberts – Jungle Gym
4. The Pop Ups – Radio Jungle
5. The Okee Dokee Brothers – Can You Canoe?
6. Gustafer Yellowgold – Gustafer Yellowgold’s Infinity Sock
7. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – Underground Playground
8. Frances England – Mind of My Own
9. Caspar Babypants – Sing Along!
10. They Might Be Giants – Here Come the 123s
11. The Deedle Deedle Dees – Strange Dees, Indeed
12. Josh and the Jamtones – Rocksteady
13. Lori Henriques – The World Is a Curious Place To Live
14. Dan Zanes and Friends – Little Nut Tree
15. Justin Roberts – Lullaby
16. Recess Monkey – The Final Funktier
17. The Not-Its – Raise Your Hand
18. Various Artists – Science Fair
19. Medeski, Martin & Wood – Let’s Go Everywhere
20. Ozomatli – Ozomatli Presents OzoKidz

And now for 2016. Here’s how the panel of judges voted.

Here is my 2016 Fids & Family ballot:

1. Frances England – Explorer of the World
2. The Okee Dokee Brothers – Saddle Up: A Western Adventure Album
3. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – Infinity Plus One
4. Sonia De Los Santos – Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León to the New York Island
5. Dean Jones – In My Dreams
6. The Not-Its! – Are You Listening?
7. Moona Luna – Panorama
8. Sugar Free Allstars – Sugar Free Allstars
9. The Deedle Deedle Dees – Sing-A-Long History Vol. 2: The Rocket Went Up!
10. Mista Cookie Jar – Music Is Everywhere

If you haven’t already, please take a listen to some of these wonderful records and support independent music for families. 

Behind the B3: SFA and the String Theory

Everyone has a bucket list. We’ve been so fortunate in the Sugar Free Allstars to have already crossed many of the things off on our list – perform in Europe, meet some of our favorite musicians, tour across the country… Then there are those things that aren’t on the bucket list, nor even on a wish list of any kind, because the chances of them happening are so remote that it doesn’t even enter your conscious mind. Crazy things like, oh I don’t know, performing your own music with a symphony orchestra…….oh wait, we got to do that!!!

Okay, in all fairness we’ve always kind of thought it would be pretty cool to perform with an orchestra, I mean, who wouldn’t want to experience that? But you don’t really think it’s going to happen. So how did it? Well to make a long story short here’s how it all began. First we met a guy that works for the OKC Philharmonic at a show we’re playing for the OKC Museum of Art; he loves the idea of us playing with the orchestra and passes the idea along. Then we hire a woman who plays in the OKC Phil to do some violin parts on our most recent album, she also loves the idea of us playing with the orchestra and passes the idea along. Next thing you know we’re setting up a meeting with the organization’s executive director and when we show up there are SIX staff members in attendance, excited that we are there, listening intently to what we have to say, writing things down and in general TAKING THIS WHOLE THING VERY SERIOUSLY…….at this point the reality of this performance is actually starting to sink in……holy moly…..this is really going to happen.

After some of the initial details are worked out we take a few days figuring out a set list….I mean here is a chance to have some of our songs arranged for a symphony orchestra so it was important to pick songs that we thought would benefit and be enhanced by orchestral arranging. We settle on a mix of: a couple of tunes we do on a regular basis, along with a few that aren’t performed as often, and one that we had never performed live. Our good friend and fellow Okie who now lives in Brooklyn was selected to arrange the orchestra’s parts and we spend several months discussing ideas with him, going back and forth, tweaking the orchestrations until they are just right. All the while we are keeping in contact with the Phil’s general manager and PR officer to coordinate logistics and promotions. It was definitely a unique experience spending months and months preparing for just one show as we are accustomed to playing several shows in a week, very often several shows in a day.

As the date for the show closes in we begin to do local TV spots, sign off on the arrangements, have final meetings with the general manager, arranger and conductor, select our wardrobe and polish our dance moves (you heard right, dance moves). Then the day arrives, we have promoted more heavily than ever before, invited everyone we knew and prepared in every way we could possibly think of. The morning of the show we have a 2 hour rehearsal with the orchestra (the only rehearsal we do with them……yikes!) and work out some last minute kinks. We relax for a couple of hours, have some lunch then it’s showtime. In the months since all the preparation began I always wondered if I would be nervous before the show. There was a moment when the overture began (yeah, we even had an overture – pretty sweet, huh?) that I got butterflies but they passed and it was replaced with excitement. From the moment we walked on the stage and had close to 1,000 people going nuts for us…it was on! Everything went pretty much exactly as it had played out in our heads, which is a very rare thing. The show could not have gone more smoothly, and from the beginning to the end of the concert I’m sure that everyone in the room that day would agree that it was a very special experience for all involved.

So there you have it, our first ever symphony show, what an amazing time it was. I proceeded to get sick the evening after the show, guess my body finally let down….just thankful it didn’t happen any sooner. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to perform with a symphony again, but no matter how many times that may happen there will never again be a first time, it was truly a once in a lifetime event and I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to experience it from Behind the B3…….

Behind the B3: Who Am I and What Am I Doing In A Kindie Rock Band???

wiserThe Rock Star Dream: name in lights, stadiums packed with screaming fans, partying all night, making millions of dollars…  Awesome, right?!  So how does one end up going from that fantasy to playing shows in libraries and schools for kids and families?  Well I’ll tell you after I introduce myself.  My name is Boom! (I also answer to Wiser, Chris or DaddyDaddyDaddyDaddyDaddy) and I play organ and sing in the funky kindie duo Sugar Free Allstars out of Oklahoma City.  For those of you not familiar with kindie (indie music for kids) it is basically a sub-genre of children’s music that has become a whole movement of creating music that is enjoyable for kids and adults alike.  A phenomenon common to many kindie acts, SFA included, is that they started out playing for “grown ups” (often times in late night establishments) and have somehow found themselves performing kid-friendly music at family events, school assemblies and public libraries instead.

The first incarnation of Sugar Free Allstars came together in late 2000 and immediately began playing late-night club shows, releasing our first album in 2001.  Many times fans that had kiddos at home would come to shows after buying our albums and tell us how much their little ones liked the music.  It happened often enough that we started tossing around the idea of “one day” releasing a kid’s album.  But not yet, we were too busy living the dream…oh yeah, the Rock Star Dream…only the stadiums packed with screaming fans in reality were more like 10-15 people in a club at the end of the night.  Oh, and the millions of dollars turned out to be maybe $200, but after paying a bar tab and buying gas to get to the next town, more like $100 to split between everyone.  Par-ty!  And so it went, year after year, until late 2006 when Fate intervened. After performing at an all-ages community show, we were approached about playing a tour of Oklahoma City area libraries for their kid’s summer reading program.  We were excited to book the shows and quickly began recording our first kindie album Dos Ninos (released in 2007) in order to have merchandise with subject matter that was appropriate for kids. We were amazed as SFA began to receive attention nationally, seemingly having found our niche playing funky music for families.  Even more encouraging, the first song on the album went to #1 on XM Radio’s Kids Place Live channel. After the surprising success of that first release, the course of our careers was forever altered.

So there you have it – from bar band to Purveyors of Kindie Rock. The musician life is much more fulfilling now and even slightly more prosperous playing for families rather than in clubs. That being said, it is still a job, and a continuously demanding one at that. I do have an amazing, super supportive wife and incredible 2 year old son who encourage and motivate me to continue pursuing this path. My intent with this column is to provide a behind the scenes look at being a working kindie musician while also figuring out how to be the best PTSAHD (part-time stay at home dad) I can be: sharing the ups and downs, the frustrations and the triumphs, the disappointments and the successes along the way.  This will be your chance to get a glimpse of the reality of this kindie rock business, not just the big fun rock shows.  I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you from Behind the B3!

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