WHERE: Morning Side Park, Toronto
WHEN: October 1st Showtimes 1-1:30, 2-2:30
The Monkey Bunch’s Annual Blowing the Snowsuits of February Residency
Feb. 5th, 12th, 19th, 20th, 26th 2017
(all Sundays and Family Day Monday!)
3pm at the Drake Underground
To buy tickets click here
Want Fun and Political Music for
Kids? We’ve Got Your Back
“I believe the children are our future…” OK, yes that’s Whitney and we all know how that ended up but the lyrics to this song were right on the nose and I actually do think that the children are our future, etc. I’ve always believed that kids are just short grown-ups. It works for me because I’m only 5’1″.
My name is Shoshana Sperling and I’m a children’s entertainer. This might be coming across as confessional and that’s because I really need my own support group. Being raised in a Marxist household seemed totally normal to me. I had walked my first picket line by age three. As a child, grown-ups laughed when I said I wanted to be a revolutionary who was going to save the world. But there was never a question in my mind that many voices could make change.
Many years later it is more important than ever for us to “teach them well and let them lead the way.” This is where the Monkey Bunch comes in. The Monkey Bunch is my rock band that makes music full of guts and heart and humour for children. It is a call to arms… well, little wee fleshy arms.
You might think that performing for children is a cute endeavour. Let me set you straight. First of all, the parents: Their texting and talking on the phone, and occasional nipple flash (in preparation for breast feeding) is quite common but not unlike a Billy Talent show. As for the kids, the possibility of stumbling patrons and a bit of pee or vomit… well, that’s right up there with Woodstock. Never mind that the mosh pit can get downright sticky/stinky.
The reward? Well, kids are the most honest audience in the world. They rarely applaud at the end of a song because they don’t know that’s a “thing.” Some may hold their ears and scream through the first tune because they can’t believe how loud a drumset is when it’s not Fisher-Price. They shout random statements like, “Why are you playing this song?” or “MORE CLAPPING!” and “Want my juice?” OK. But they are honest.
If they like it I get hugs. Kids don’t hug, or thank grandparents, if they don’t want to. And these are seriously good hugs. Sure, I’m always fighting a mix of Pinkeye, Lice and Pinworms but man, it’s worth it. It’s so worth it that I wish the people wearing the larger shoe sizes would stop saying kids and politics don’t mix. Encouraging kids to care about this big planet that we all share is definitely in my mix.
During a recent tour, I received an email from a disgruntled dad who was VERY upset because we had sung a song about an electric car: “Children’s entertainment should be fun and you should keep your opinions in the dressing room.” Oy. Do we look like the Dixie Chicks?
No, but here we are celebrating our second, Juno-nominated album, Power to the Little People, and not all, but most parents are really really thankful: “thanks for saying Mums and Mums and Dads and Dads,” or “My daughter told me to stop running the car. I had no idea,” and of course, “this is the first children’s album we’ve listened to that doesn’t make us want to put a needle in our eyes.” That’s rather nice to hear.
I like what I’m doing. Now I just need to convince the grown-ups that kids deserve to have great music and authentic humour that teaches them something. That children are not too small to have opinions about recycling, libraries and electric cars. Yes, sometimes the lines are blurred and the kids have no idea why Dad is laughing at what the short lady on stage just said about the mayor, but little Roxanne is just pleased that Daddy is having a good time with her and not texting for the first time all day.
As I say to the kids, “Remember, the person sitting next to you could be a person too.”
Read more at the Huffington Post
Here’s a little late breaking video from our on-tour appearance on City-TV Edmonton’s morning show a few weeks ago.
(It’s dark because it’s soooo early in the morning. And it’s Edmonton.)
Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, knees and toes…. while it sounds like a great song for toddlers it is also where I am feeling most of the pain after many shows in Saskatoon.
Saskatoon has always been the rival city to Regina and being from Regina I was all ready to triumph over Saskatoon. BUT it broke me first. Running total is 21 shows, 2 a day, with some interviews in between? An extra show at the welcome showcase and all without tea or greens? Me poor legs have seen better days. I’ve started to feel some old pains in the once repaired shoulder and stiffness in the neck. So after 2 weeks on the road my oh my the Jew is ready to complain. Oy.
But I want to tell you about Saskatoon. Our first show was our first encore of the tour. Amazing crowd. Just great. So many school groups and so much love. So many new people hearing our music and message about children saving the world. All this would be fine except that I had totally run out of laundry. Here’s where Regina saves me. My good friend (and witness to my nuptuals!) Shelley arrived on our second day in Saskatoon baring tea, moisturizer and underwear. Oh lord I was happy to see Shelley. Just as I was really getting tired, the cavalry came. Shelley brought her sweet daughter, Paige, to lighten our hearts. She danced at … maybe 4 of our shows and brought a great amount of joy to Henry as he “babysat” her. Shelley, and her husband Ken, also brought a much needed pick me up of new voices. We had new things to discuss, new swimming buddies and of course new people to lift our gear. Bless you Shell and family. You saved me!
Show after show after show. The wonderful people at the fest gave us great sound (thanks Roy!) and loads of love (thanks Shauna, her dad Bob and Adriene and all those amazing kids!)
Then came the Sean. I grew up in a house full of leftist, crazy, Trotsky-arguing, cigar-smoking activists…. in REGINA! At times I felt a bit odd in comparison to some of my friends. Sean’s family was the most like mine. Divorced before it was cool, peace marches and the only other Jews I had ever met in Regina as well. Most of my strangest memories of the truck going through the ice on Regina Beach, eating peanut butter on escargot and running rampant with a pack of kids and dogs is with Sean and Jenny Sass. These two will always be my family no matter how many years go by without a visit. So, when Sean and his wife Sheena had us over it was like coming home. I did a load of laundry, ate an actual meal complete with home cooked tasty green things and did not hear a peep from Henry as he played in the arms of Piper and Moishe (Sean’s kids). Bliss. Sean’s dad, Bob, came after dinner and spoke so passionately about the problems facing people who have been exposed to asbestos that it made me want to write a million letters to the PM. The next day they all came to our show and then took Henry and Brooke to the rest of the fest. Watching Piper, Mo and Henry run like the pack of wolves that Sean, Adam, Jenny and I once were warmed my heart in a way I can’t describe. It made me miss how different it was growing up in wonderful place like Saskatchewan in a time before video games and worry, before mortgage payments and security airplane tax….. no. Ours was a time where all our parents would live forever and teach us always to do the right and just thing, no matter how old we were. This is where Power to the Little People began for me. Me and Sean, trying to fit in and realizing that we only fit inside our own little tribe. Our pack. Thanks old friend. It’s great to know you are there, on the prairies. I hope to see you next year.
And just like that we were gone, in a puff of cinnamon, off to Winnipeg. This is where it gets weird. We have traveled from Calgary to Winnipeg together and then we noticed that we weren’t alone. The dinosaurs were with us. That’s right. The Dinosaur Petting Zoo has the same schedule as we do. Henry has made friends with the Aussie’s and though he fears the T-Rex, he will never have an experience like this again… There is nothing more alternative than this alternative school! 65 million years in the making, the dinosaurs and the monkeys have finally come together in Winnipeg. Where is Spielberg? Or at least Wes Anderson?
Home stretch. 4 shows left and I will miss my little crew but not the aches and pains.
Before Henry was born Maury and I lived the free and crazy life of artists. This just means that we didn’t know when our next work would be coming or when our next pay cheque might appear. We lived from show to show or from tour to tour. We had no schedule. (which is great unless you want to buy a car, get a mortgage, a visa or even a large tea. Then it’s not so great.) We had no schedule at all until…. Henry. He needed routine and so we gave him that… from 8am-8pm. Before and after that we were back to our bare feet and chives. (I’m sure that’s a saying.)
Henry. Henry is 5 years old and on tour with the Monkey Bunch.
Life on the road is scheduled but in strange ways. We follow the festival programs, the shuttle pick-ups, the pool hours and the baggage check-ins. After that it is the life of the artist. For real as Henry would say. Henry is getting tired of being on the road. He is mostly a wonderful guy but I guess there were one too many mornings without his parents and one too many days living in one room with three people and just too many things that were out of his control. The other day Henry woke up to find his babysitter, Brooke, in his hotel room. Again. We had told Brooke that he could watch a little TV and then the day must begin. Now Brooke is mostly a wonderful woman but I guess waking up and dealing with an angry Henry is stressful on day 7 or something. Henry had a full on temper tantrum and he isn’t one to do this usually. He kicked and screamed and locked himself in the bathroom. Poor Henry. Poor Brooke.
All the way across town at the venue we had just finished our 2nd show of the day and I was tired and hungry and at the end of my rope. I had a temper tantrum. Poor Me. Poor Lyle, Graham and Maury. Mostly, poor Maury. So both Henry and I had a temper tantrum at the same time and we both survived.
And then things got much better. We gave Henry a schedule. He woke up at his regular time and came to the theatre with us but instead of going to day care or school he went to shows at the festival. Now Henry’s schedule is that he wakes up and eats a strange hotel breakfast with a bunch of performers, he takes a shuttle with us to the theatre and then goes to “school” until we have finished our shows and then we go back to the hotel, eat lunch and swim. Then video games with Bubba G for a bit and then bed. (our hotel room only has a shower so he just goes to the hot tub on bath nights.) It’s a strange life.
When we are sitting in our dressing room Henry has a different kind of education. He talks to his giant frog friends from Mortal Coil, he gives a big hello to his favourite clowns from AGA-BOOM, he stares at the silver man, the stilt walking fairies and he stays out of the way of the Trolls.
Kids Henry’s age go to school and learn about letters, numbers, history, nature, etc. Henry has seen The Dinosaur Petting Zoo, Alice in Wonderland, The Ugly Ducking, AGA-BOOM, Breakdance for Solo Cello and Metamorphosis. Instead of gym class he just goes swimming or to the many jumping castles. No, I’m not Paul McCartney and we aren’t WINGS but I think this will still make some pretty special memories.
Thanks to all the wonderful performers, volunteers, stage hands, hotel maids, shuttle drivers, Lyle, Graham, wonderful patient Brooke and of course the frogs that all have been schooling our boy. I hope we aren’t messing him up too badly…. I suppose there’s always therapy.
As I put Henry to bed tonight we talked about flying to the next festival. Henry said, “Can I sit with Brooke on the airplane, mama? Pleeeaassse???” When I asked him why he answered, “Because she’s not very good at flying the plane but she’s VERY good at holding the map while I fly the plane.” I suppose it won’t be too much therapy then.
One more show in St. Albert tomorrow then it’s off to Saskatoon. And our man Lyle is off to play with Kathleen Edwards now. We’ll miss you, Lyle. You were wonderful to play with and great to hang with too. Bye Lyle! Hello Mark!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Way way back a week ago when Kathleen and Ed were helping me pack my suitcase, Ed told me, “You really have to pack some Metamucil. Really. Travel does that to you.” While Lyle tells me that this only happens to women on the road I’m thinking that women are just the only ones who SHARE it. Like in a blog perhaps? Anyway, I really should have listened to Ed about this. He was right.
And on that note, my whole relationship I waited for Maury to finish primping in the morning. It’s not his hair or make-up but his moisturizing. He will spend a lot of time putting on the really good cream. I love/hate this about him but now I find myself in Alberta which is like being in a cold Arizona. It is dry here people and I’m from Saskatchewan! I find myself going through many tiny hotel bottles of moisturizer every day and wondering why they don’t include tiny bottles of Metamucil or at least bran. Bottom line, I finally understand and moisturizer may have saved my marriage.
The shows. Our last show in Calgary was incredible. Calgary’s Mayor, Naheed Nenshi introduced us. He is lovely. He is wonderful and the whole show I spent telling the audience that I had mayor envy. We sang “You Belong to Me” off our first album and dedicated it to him saying that we really would love him to come back with us to Toronto. I love that man. We said good-bye to Calgary, the great crowds, the wonderful people who worked at the Jack Singer Hall and the amazing volunteers and staff of the Calgary International Children’s Festival.
If you know Maury then you know he rarely stops moving. After our Calgary show Maury and Graham drove to Banff to play a show with Colin James. (Graham went so he could drive back after the show, the nice guy!) Lyle flew to Edmonton to play with Dean Brody (Brodeo) while Brooke flew to St. Albert for a much needed break. Henry and I had a movie night with pizza and TV. We watched the start of the Wizard of OZ before he told me it was not a good show for him. He kept asking why the Munchkins were so small and how the mean lady in Kansas became the witch. He said that the good witch was actually a fairy and pointed out her wings. I think she just has really big shoulders but I could see where he was going with that. I was too tired to discuss it so we changed the channel to TreeHouse.
“When we sleep, the tv shows pass. They really do, man! I know because I watch a lot of tv.”
The next morning Graham, Maury, Henry and I drove to Drumheller. The landscape is like landing on the moon – if the moon had a lot of dinosaur theme restaurants. Henry was shaking with excitement as we drove up to the Tyrrell Museum. We walked in the front door and I got goose bumps. I almost didn’t notice that Henry was having a full on spasm with joy at the size of the Albertasaurus family in front of us. Total freak out. We all had to pee.
The drive to St. Albert was lovely but long. Maury did jumping jacks in the Smitty’s parking lot and his phone flew out. We all made it to our hotel intact. The phone did not. We fell into our beds, woke up refreshed and went to sound check. The Arden Theatre is lovely and the crew were great too. I learned all their names with my new menstrual super powers. G and I hit the Safeway while Hen and Brooke swam for 3 1/2 hours straight. OMG! One word. MOISTURIZER!!!
The only thing that keeps weighing on me today is an email we received this morning from a dad in Calgary. He didn’t come to the show but his wife told him that we sang a song about an electric car (True. The Who inspired the beats!!) and that we told kids to write letters to Stephen Harper (I think I may have said “Tell Stephen Harper” so mostly true) and that I should save my politics for the dressing room and not talk about the premier (never mentioned the premier but maybe I should add that). What kind of an eco rock band would we be if we didn’t mention Stevie now and again? And if electric cars are bad then is it bad to talk about recycling? And when is it ok to talk to kids about all the stuff we are doing to their planet? How old? I mean kids learn about religion all the time and when I went to see the Lorax (classic eco Dr. Seuss) there was a tar sands ad in the preview. Anyway, it still makes me feel bad that someone didn’t have the most amazing time at our show…. I mean, he should’ve heard what I said at the next show when the mayor was there. Oy. More cream. I’ll moisturize this feeling away.
The festival begins tomorrow and we are simply thrilled. More kids, more teachers, more parents, more love of music, comedy, art and life.
We rode a small plane from Merritt to Calgary. There was turbulance. Henry didn’t notice as he played with Graham (Graham was pretending he was the pilot and Henry the co-pilot) while I was sweating and shaking and picturing my own death. Maury held my hand and talked me through. Don’t like those little planes one bit!
Calgary. Land of cowboys, beef and the best mayor in the country. How do they do it?! We made our way to sound check and met the Jack Singer gang. Terry toured with Maury when he was playing with K-os way back when I was pregnant. Try as I might I could not get him to tell me any good road stories. I guess it’s true that what happens on the road stays on the road. Unless you are on the road with the Monkey Bunch and then you get all the sordid details. Like that Lyle really loves sluprees and M and M’s no matter what he tells you and Graham could hurt his pinky finger with only his iphone and Gibson Explorer and that Brooke can recite the entire alphabet inside her Dizzy Gillespie cheeks that Henry keeps saying strange things to the waiters like when Maury ordered the “All Canadian Breakfast” and Henry said, “My dad’s not Canadian!!” (he meant jewish).
After sound check we went to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner and Henry was in noodle heaven. Maury and Graham were in double rum and coke and mojito heaven. Henry actually shouted out, “Please don’t get drunk, Mama!” Did you know they have a gluten free menu? Wow. Only the finest for The Monkey Bunch. Everyone had an early night in preparation for our early morning on Breakfast Television.
Our day started at 6:30am, sneaking out of our hotel room like thieves with Henry still asleep and Brooke curled up on the couch. We arrived at City TV early and set up gear. They gave us 30 seconds of sound check which seemed to go well and then we waited, “camera ready”, until the cue to start our song. What could go wrong? Uh… lots. My mic wasn’t on. No sound at all from my mic on live TV. The band kept playing as I tried to signal the crew that nothing was on. I tried to keep singing but couldn’t hear a thing. When the song was almost over the sound came on and so did the massive, deafening amount of feedback. We finished and began packing our gear as the crew shifted their attention to an outdoor lobster bbq segment. One crew member walked by and gave me an off handed, “Sorry bout that.” I was shocked. Like a Lava Life date that you get all dressed up for even though you aren’t sure you want to go and then you work really hard to make conversation and you pay for the meal and then at the end the person just wants to leave without even saying good-bye. Graham, Lyle and I are filling out our forms and about to leave when an old friend from Toronto starts talking to me and saying that he works on the show. Maury walks up and starts yelling about what a terrible show it is and how terrible it was that we were treated this way. That everyone makes mistakes but they should have apologized, etc. There were a few f sharps in there too but we don’t need to go into that. Then I say, “Maury, this is Paul.” And he says, “What do you do on the show?” And Paul says, “I’m the executive producer for Breakfast TV.” A real Ricky Gervais moment. A real one! We walk back to our hotel to find Henry and get some breakfast for him. Oy.
We race through breakfast, rush to the Jack Singer Hall and get ready to play our first Calgary show. Exhausted, angry and PMSing (not ALL of us), we all are hoping that the day gets a lot better. And….. it really really does. We take the stage and the crowd is wild!!! Maybe 700 kids and all dancing and screaming and lovely. The teachers and parents are having a good time too. The sound is dreamy. The lights are rock perfection. The crowd is the biggest, best we’ve ever had. When I scream into the audience, “POWER TO THE LITTLE PEOPLE!” I get a huge cheer from the crowd. Breakfast TV is not what we do. THIS is what we do.
Maury and I go to the lobby to sign CD’s and a mob of kids surround us. A little 7 year old asks me if I have ever smelled a poopie diaper while another tells me what it’s like to change her cousin’s diaper. Each one has a great poop story to convey. Who doesn’t? (that song really connects with the crowd I tell ya!) Then a very small girl in purple comes up and taps me on the leg. “Um um um…Excuse me excuse me excuse me excuse me!!! Um… Um…Did you notice that my hair has really grown?” I had not noticed this. I love kids. I love my band. I love my job. Tomorrow 2 more shows in Calgary’s Jack Singer Hall.
Rolled or flat? No I’m not talking about crepes, blinzes, tortillas or hair. I’m talking about packing. This is an age old question. Like do you prefer the Beatles or the Stones? Same idea. I’ve always just thrown it all in and never looked back but then I might end up with 12 shirts and no underwear…. and then one doesn’t make friends so easily. I was lucky enough to have Kathleen Schratz, master packer, organize my suitcase. My bag is a thing of beauty! Little croissants of socks and gitch. It’s so pretty! Reminds me of my mother packing my bags for Camp Tawasi. Thank you Kathleen!! If you don’t have a friend like this you should get one.
Next came the actual travel. Waking up after very little sleep and many Victoria Day fire works, I showered and silently moved 5 suitcases full of t-shirts, cd’s, back drop and Kathleen’s handywork. After two airplanes, two giant vans, baby carrots, apples, lentil chips and many cups of tea we finally arrived in Merritt, BC. So beautiful!! Henry learned what a “runaway lane” is and we saw many ravens. We also ate the most amazing chinese food. Henry (5 year old rodie) was thrilled to eat many many noodles and then fall fast asleep in our hotel room. WHAT A DAY!
Our room had two double beds for three people. Henry and I shared a bed. Maury had a great sleep.
Time change can be fun. Can be. Henry woke up at 5:35am and exclaimed, “Lyle loves Trouble!” He then went on to whisper to me that Lyle loves to play the game Pop-a-Matic Trouble so we should go wake him up and start playing our travel version. This wouldn’t be the first time that Treehouse saved The Monkey Bunch.
Today is our very first show of our tour so Graham and I went to explore this beautiful town and find coffee. Country Capital of Canada means that Merritt has many murals on the walls of all of country music’s finest. We better add some new songs to the set!
We did a quick tour of the mountains and Henry cut himself on some kind of odd cactus while we took a nice breath of real air. Sorry Toronto.
Maury, Lyle, Graham and I all piled into our giant van and drove across the street to our venue. It wasn’t there. So we drove around the corner and then right back to the building right next to our hotel. Wow. I can see the headline now. “Eco kids band drives 4 feet to show.”
A lovely man named John helped us with our sound in Merritt. Why lovely? Because after every song in our sound check John clapped.
Then there was Felicity Pete and that’s her real name!! So I yelled her name all day in a southern accent like a cussing cowpoke from Deadwood.
The show was AMAZING!! The kids were AWESOME!! The people in Merritt were funny, sweet and some pretty good dancers. Some.
The B-story to all of this is Brooke and Henry watched Treehouse, ate chinese noodles, drew birds in the nature journals, discussed how it is possible to drive 100 cars and never ever ever peed. The whole time. Never. He saved that for me. He loves his mama. I’m sure that’s why.
Whew! Bye Bye Merritt and hello Calgary International Children’s Festival!!
Photos by Graham Powell check out his website