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Rock of (all) ages

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It’s the end of an era for Brooklyn parents and their kids; the purple dinosaur has become extinct.

These days, it seems like Brooklyn tots are more likely to care about Telecasters than Teletubbies. They’re more involved with the local music scene than ever, and parents couldn’t be happier to park their strollers at the nightclub door.

“There definitely are 100 percent more bands performing for kids than there were five years ago,” said Jordan Shapiro, a Carroll Gardens resident who performs with kiddiecore bands AudraRox and Astrograss. “That’s just a straight up fact. In Brooklyn, more young families are looking for music outlets.”

AudraRox, the high-energy rock band headed by Audra Tsanos, is one of the most sought after groups on the adult-kid crossover music scene. So much so, that some local kids follow them like the Grateful Dead.

“My daughter Wyatt lives for AudraRox,” said Dean Hattman of Park Slope. “We listened to them all the way from Brooklyn to North Carolina and she fell in love. Once we got home, she begged to go to every concert.”

Songs like “I’m Tired,” and “All My Toys are Broken,” maintain an edgy sound that evokes bands like the B-52s and the Replacements, entertaining kids — their younget fans are three, but pre-teens can be spotted at shows — and meeting the cool quota for parents.

That’s the key to the current crop of Brooklyn bands hoping to make it onto a kid’s iPod mini — engage parents instead of annoying them.

“Parents hear the music first and come up with the idea to go,” said Shapiro. It’s smart to appeal to the whole family, he explained, instead of being something kids enjoy and parents merely tolerate.

This much was obvious at Grammy-winning rock icon Dan Zanes’s recent concert in Prospect Park. Parents and children alike packed into the bandshell to catch a glimpse of the Cobble Hill musician. There were so many families that a “pram jam,” or pile of double-parked strollers, formed. Even local movie star Michelle Williams, with baby Matilda in tow, took in the all-ages party, getting down to Zanes hits like “Catch That Train.”

“The whole idea is to make all-ages music. Songs about learning to tie your shoes aren’t going to have an emotional impact on a grown-up,” Zanes told GO Brooklyn. “But at the same time, singing about breaking up with a girlfriend or drinking isn’t going to appeal to a three-year-old. There’s a lot in between.”

Whether today’s urban parents have more sophisticated musical backgrounds, or they’re just adamant about exposing their kids to live music, the demand is there. “The Brooklyn parents are just as psyched to go to these concerts as the kids are,” Shapiro said.

But kids can be notoriously picky — sappy songs about friendship won’t always do the trick — and bands need to make sure that they keep their primary audience entertained. One of Astrograss’s most popular tunes, “Tot Toast,” is in the style of an Irish drinking song, and calls for kids to raise their cups of juice high in the air. “The kids just crack-up,” said Shapiro. “They really respond to humor. And it leaves parents chuckling.”

And bands aren’t the only ones catching on. Pete’s Candy Store, the popular Williamsburg nightclub, got in on the action by launching “PB & Jam,” a weekly barbeque and music show that charges a per-family cover and provides an afternoon of musical amusement.

Jane Dobson, a Greenpoint resident, recently took her kids Ryan, 3, and Seth, 6, to “PB & Jam,” and had trouble prying them away. “We never knew they are both such hams,” she said. “If only I had heard about this earlier in the summer.”

Another spot hoping to trade on its kid-friendly programming is Mamalu. Owner Mariella Salazar began hosting events for families last year when she opened the “play and munch ground.” Now she hosts “Rockin’ Saturdays,” a regular brunch concert series where parents can dine in peace while their kids are entertained.

During “Monkey Dance Parties,” another family event at Mamalu, parents can boogie with their brood or — gross! — with each other to the tune of live local DJs. Salazar, whose two-year-old son Carlos is a fixture at the events, understands the difficulty couples have in finding time together. “These parties came about as an opportunity for a couples to be able to go on dates and to dance together,” she said.

“The key to what we’re doing is providing music that’s not dumbing down to kids,” she told GO Brooklyn. “I’ve seen both parents and kids really respond to it.”

Mamalu (232 N. 12th St. between Driggs and Union avenues in Williamsburg) hosts “Rockin Saturday’s” every second Saturday at 11 am. “Monkey Dance Parties” are on the last Friday of the month at 6 pm. For information, call (718) 486-6312 or visit www.mamalu.us

Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer St. between Richardson and Frost streets in Williamsburg) hosts “PB & Jam” on Saturdays at 3 pm. For information, call (718) 302–3770 or visit www.petescandystore....

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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