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Baby-on-Board Review: Mr. Singer

By Elizabeth Shapiro in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 9, 2007 3:00PM

This weekend’s music festival inspired us to check out some local indie talent with our kiddo this week. We’ve heard rumors that Mr. Singer (with or without his band the Sharp Cookies) was the best around: a talented guitarist whose folksy music set featured music you could bob your head to, a kids’ musician who was more Springsteen and less Old MacDonald. We were not disappointed.

We arrived at the concert venue, the yellow barn at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s John Deere farm exhibit, and had to slalom around Bugaboos and nannies chatting on cell phones. Inside, however, the atmosphere was less snobbish and more down-home. Mr. Singer and his friend Marius Mustard (on the washboard and maraca, as well as backup vocals) sat perched in front of a fireplace, chatting with a slew of entranced toddlers, many of whom the performers knew by name. When Mr. Singer left the room to make his entrance, a few little girls burst into tears.

2007_08_Mr.jpgWe were expecting the usual kids’ songs: the ABC’s, something with animal noises, etc. Singer impressed us by starting his acoustic set with a rockin’ Cat Stevens cover, and later got the kids dancing (OK, hurling themselves around) to “She’s the One.” In addition to these surprises, his playlist included songs that got the audience clapping and singing along: “Day-O”, Springsteen’s version of “Jesse James”, and Wiggleworms favorites “Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck” and “Chocolate.”

Singer’s clearly a man who loves to perform; he rocked every tune, brandishing his guitar, jumping to the beat and pausing only to use his hokey bandana to wipe his brow. He towered over the more than one hundred assembled to hear him, and somehow exuded a sexy confidence despite his overalls and twirled mustache. The children adored him, and the mamas and nannies in the audience certainly gave him their rapt attention.

Singer plays around the city, performing at least three shows a week. While you can see him this summer at the Family Fun tent on Tuesdays in Millennium Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo’s farm-in-the-zoo was a great place to kill time with our kid after the show. Show up early to the yellow barn to grab one of the rocking chairs flanking the performance space and hang with one of the coolest indie rockers (for the toddler set) in Chicago.

Mr. Singer performs at the yellow barn, for free, every Wednesday at 9:15 and 10 a.m. Check out Mr. Singer’s other concert dates on his website, or listen to his acclaimed CD, Muddy Water Beaver Dam Band, on CD Baby or iTunes.