Arlington Heights

I've mentioned how great the most recent Arlington Heights show was. I mean all the shows I've had there have been great but this last one was special for a couple of reasons. First of all the kids were fun and very sweet and ready to rock out from the first note. Sometimes an audience can be a little shy or unsure and I have to work a little harder even a lot harder to put everyone at ease and encourage them to join in and have fun. When things start like Arlington Heights we get to rock out from the very beginning and have fun the whole time. Great things and unexpected things can happen at shows like that. I feel confident and can try new stuff too.

When I play a kids concert I'm obviously directing things to the kids first but I'm always putting things out specifically for the parents and Grandparents and hopeful that they not only have a good time but maybe even join in, whether it's dancing, singing or just being silly. I grew up in a time when goofiness was kind of celebrated. at least in my house it was. From Steve Martin to Robin Williams to the countless character actors you'd see on TV shows. I try to instruct and teach at shows but I want kids and their families to feel ok to let their guard down and just be their silliest selves. My biggest challenge in that regard can be the Dad's. The reason I'm writing this is because I had two exceptional encounters with what I call "Rad Dad's" 

As soon as I ended the show there was a super enthusiastic father and his adorable daughter standing off to the side patiently waiting to say hi. The dad approached and was super complimentary and asked where else I'd be playing. I told him about show dates and he pointed out his daughters Dan Zanes t-shirt and the other really excellent kids music they listen to. This was a wonderful compliment to have him so excited and obviously knowledgable about good kids music and seeing my songs and show in the same light. These are the moments that let me know I'm on the right track and keep me working hard to do better shows and reach more people.

The next Dad, whose name I remember, Steve was equally awesome. To begin with he couldn't have been nicer. Things are hectic at shows and it's hard to get to everyone in the way I want to. Steve was also super patient and armed with a constant smile the whole time. He hung out and chatted with everyone while he waited and was also a wonderful musical wing man by telling everyone buying CD's how great the records were and that they listen all the time and that they had even wore out their copy of the Things I Like e.p. He bought another.

So what I'm trying to say is that I love when the parents of the kids I play for join in and aren't shy about enjoying themselves. My intention from the very first show I played was to present a thing that the family really could enjoy together. And it's especially gratifying when Dad's in particular make themselves at home at the shows. My daughter made me gifts for Fathers Day this year. One of the things she made was a kind of sign that says Dad. I'm thinking about making t-shirts for the Rad Dad's that come to my shows. It's cute and was made with love but to me it also looks kind of like a skull which is cool and funny because it's unintentional. I think Dad's could get into that. We'll see. What do you think?

Who wants one?

Who wants one?

So thanks as always to everyone who comes to see me play, or listens to my songs at home or in the car, and thanks to everyone at the Arlington Heights concert for making it very easy for me to remember why i play these shows. You guys rock! Rad Dad's unite!

Uncontrollable Urge

Alright so when I was around 13 I started to get into rock music. Mostly heavy metal. But lots of other kinds of somewhat odd or unusual stuff would happily find it's way into my rotation. I guess new wave music would be the best title for much of what I really liked. Stuff like Adam Ant, Lene Lovich, Gary Numan and the biggest one of these types of bands would be Devo.

Back then MTV was pretty great and played all kinds of music videos and there were shows like Night Flight where you could see even weirder stuff if you were paying attention. My brother and I definitely were. I don't remember when I first saw the Devo video for their cover of the Rolling Stones song Satisfaction but I do remember loving it and being transfixed by the guitar Bob 1 was playing. I had never seen anything like it. I wanted it immediately even though I didn't play guitar.

Now there was another band I loved, Missing Persons, that sparked my interest in this kind of instrument. The video for the song Mental Hopscotch showed the guitarist Warren Cuccurullo playing a similar guitar. You'd think these things were everywhere but they weren't. From what I've read there were only 24 of the original 2 by 4 guitars produced. I went so far as to email Devo a few years ago asking if they still had that guitar and if I could have it. Who knows, they seem eccentric and I thought they just might send it to me. 

So not long ago I saw a Facebook post featuring a Kickstarter campaign that was raising money to reproduce these guitars. I freaked out and clicked away to see what kind of money it would take to maybe finally get one of these truly unique guitars. I was totally crestfallen when I saw that the deadline had passed and they were no longer taking preorders or contributions. I wrote the company for more info and heard nothing. So for the last bunch of months I've been looking online to see if they would ever be sold commercially and a few weeks ago I was overjoyed to find out that they were. Click Here to see or buy one.

I freaked out not only because they were for sale but because they weren't outrageously expensive and because of how they were made. The guitars to me look amazing. They are the anti guitar in a way while still possessing all they aspects of a traditional electric guitar that I like. They have a Bigsby tremelo which I do not have on any of my electric guitars and most importantly they have two P90 pickups which are my favorite. I'm not a guitar afficianado but in my experience the P90 has a warmth as well as a clarity that seems perfect. At first when I looked at the pictures of the guitar I thought they were humbuckers because they were chrome plated but was delighted when they turned out to be soap bar pickups. It's actually what convinced me to buy one. How could I not.

I'm hoping to do some shows with my previous band Lank Fame sometime soon and can't imagine that I wont use this guitar if we do. It's been so long since I've played electrically or in a 21+ environment so maybe this becoming available is a sign that it's time. It's definitely a dream come true for me to own one of these guitars. My old Carvin head is being repaired as I write this (just got a call today) at the wonderful Avenue N Guitars so as soon as I get it back I'll be able to properly try this guitar out. I'll keep you posted.

Surprise Silver Lining.

Over the weekend I played a short solo set as part of a big all day event. During my show the provided PA system was not working properly rendering my guitar and other equipment pretty useless. Things like this happen time to time and as a performer you have to make the best of a really bad situation. I've played lots of shows and as a result I have a decent ability to act as if I'm not bothered, but inside it's quite the contrary. For me when something like this happens it feels like every awkward high school moment times ten. Fortunately my set was only 20 minutes and it was over quickly. Everyone working the event was incredibly nice and apologetic for the issues but in those instances I feel responsible and badly that I couldn't turn things around somehow.
 

While I was playing I noticed one man in the audience who I felt was looking at me in a judgmental way. I felt like he thought I was an amateur. And in those moments you can't exactly yell out "Dude I'm really way better than this! The PA isn't working properly and it's not my fault!" After my show I was trying to get my stuff together and off the stage as fast as I could. Before I finished that same man approached me and said: "Istvan, my family loves your music and we listen to your records all the time." I was stunned. I started to mention my sound issues and he stopped me mid sentence saying they had seen me before and knew what I was dealing with. He pointed out his wife and two adorable daughters who had been sitting sweetly in front of me throughout my entire troubled set. I told him how nice it was to hear that. That was a huge understatement. It would have been nice any day of the week but at that moment it was like a gift, and greatly mitigated the rotten way I felt. This wonderful person reminded me not only why I make this music but just how cool and smart and kind the families are that like what I do. There was another similar family (that I took a picture of) from the wonderful Garfield Park show who stopped me on my way out to tell me the very same thing.
 

So as much as I try to entertain and impart or instruct through my songs and shows I'm constantly learning and being taught huge life lessons by my followers. Thanks for listening to my music and for supporting me you guys. I have the best fans and I know it.

Istvan Starts Recording


Click the image above to watch the video.

The night before Halloween I headed over to Mike Flemings place to record scratch tracks to three songs for the new full length kids record. So after a lot of cancelations and conversation we finally made it official. Here's a quick video showing and explaining what's going on. I'm inviting everyone along for the ride and hope to make as much available to watch and listen to on the way to the release day. If you haven't subscribed to the YouTube channel by all means do. Here we go. 

So Glad to be a Dad.

I got a video clip from of the show we did at Morton Arboretum just the other day. I like it so much that I felt like I had to write about it. The clip features me and my daughter singing the Mr. Rogers song It's Such A Good Feeling. I've talked about how my kids music was solely inspired by Evie and this clip is a perfect example and testament to that.

I've been looking at old home videos lately and found one where she was much younger and doing a dance she made up for the song Run Around. It's so great and funny.  She's excited demanding that I "sit down!" so I can watch what she has planned. When I see both clips I realize that we've gone from her jumping around and dancing and yelling out single words to her and I performing together on stage with her bravely singing entire songs. I've said it before but nothing makes me happier than when she and I make something, especially music, together. Playing this particular song with her is a dream come true. You can see me unable to hold back a smile when she does her snaps during the song and hearing her sing so well right along side me is incredible.

I thought I might get sad as she got older and grew out of the music I make for smaller children but now I get that same happiness and encouragement when I look out at all the girls and boys rocking out and having fun at our shows. And now Evie and I can work on things together and she can play a more active roll in any way she sees fit. 

Big thanks to everyone who has been to one or more of my shows and to the wonderful Laura Grauer for taking and sharing this video. Hope you guys like the video.

Lank Fame

Not too long ago I posted a picture on Facebook for Throw Back Thursday. It was a shot from a photo shoot I did with my old band Lank Fame. This was prior to me going solo and acoustic and certainly before I ever dreamed I'd be writing and performing for kids and families. 

One of our old friends posted a single word comment under the photo that simply said "Reunion?" After chuckling at the response I just as quickly started to realize that it wasn't a bad idea. I was a little freaked out because I've been so focused on new things that I never considered doing that. Not to mention I have not played an electric guitar in over 10 years. But as I warmed to the idea I started to get excited. 

I called Tommy and Ryan and they both thought it would be fun. 

Back when I played with them I used to record everything and then write notes on all I had recorded. So I went and grabbed a handful of old tapes. (I love cassettes-more on that soon) and prepared myself for a bit of embarrassment. But as I started to listen I was really way more into the songs and our playing than I expected. Other than a handful of tunes most of what we did all those years ago still held up and totally impressed me. When I wrote these songs I was trying to break free of the erratic and disorienting music I had been playing. I was embracing songwriting while still striving to be interesting and unexpected. Lyrically I had made huge leaps forward and was proud of what I heard.

It was weird. I had to relearn songs I had written. It was like studying another persons playing.

So as of today the three of us are slowly rebuilding our old gear and preparing to play. My hope is that we set up a show this fall or early winter. We had our last show around 2002 so it's kind of crazy to be going back to these songs. It's like entering a time machine. Weirder still is how little some things have changed. I sprung a few of the songs I had just been practicing on Ryan at a recent kids band rehearsal and we locked in almost immediately. We used to practice all the time so it was all still there. I can't wait to play. It's going to be fun and weird and loud. Get ready.

Band Together

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The Kindie Music compilation is about to be released and in case you hadn't heard a special concert at Lincoln Hall is being held to celebrate it's release. I recently heard all the finished songs and I'm really impressed. The other artists who contributed are Mr. Dave, Super Stolie, Miss Jamie, Human Tim + Robot Tim, Poochamungas, Little Miss Ann & Jeanie B. The show will have all the bands playing their new song and one other and then a big group performance will close the afternoon. This is unlike anything I've been a part of and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm including the Facebook invite below so you can learn more about the show. Hope to see you all there.