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Family music is more than kid stuff for the Verve Pipe
It's no secret that music has become kid stuff for the Verve Pipe -- and very happily so after two popular releases, "A Family Album" and "Are We There Yet?"
But that doesn't mean family music is easier than the group's more "adult" rock 'n' roll repertoire.
"The kids shows are harder to play," says frontman Brian Vander Ark, 50, the father of two children, aged nine and four, with a third on the way. "With kids you've got to be 'on' for an hour; if you're not on and they see any weakness in your set, they'll want to be gone. Most adults are patient with something they don't know or appreciate and will listen; kids will jam their fingers in their ears and runaway or cry.
"It's tough, but it's a good exercise. Entertainment is entertainment."
But, Vander Ark adds, when everything does click, the family shows -- such as the one the group is doing this weekend at the Ark in Ann Arbor, with a pre-show carnival that features face painting and tap dancing lessons -- are just as rewarding as a room full of screaming rock fans.
"As a parent, I know it's hard to find music everybody can enjoy and listen to, and hopefully we're doing some of that," he says. "And I feel like we're doing something in kids music that a lot of people aren't doing, which is playing to the higher-brow of the kids' stuff. It's not 'Hot Potato' or the Wiggles; it's stuff with more adult-themed shenanigans. We give a nod to the parents, who get a lot of the inside jokes, and I think that's gratifying, too."
The Verve Pipe did release, "Overboard," its first new rock album in 13 years, during 2014 and is working on an EP that may come out this spring, with a tie-in to Major League Baseball. Meanwhile Vander Ark, who also performs as a solo act, is "about halfway through" another family album that definitely has more sophisticated ambitions.
"It's like a kids' version of (Pink Floyd's) 'The Wall,'" he says. "It's a conceptual album about a kid born prematurely who's weak and needs to cover come things at school, bullies and things like that. It runs the gamut from 'The Wall' to Styx's 'The Grand Illusion,' any of the great conceptual albums I grew up with.
"So far it's been a blast. Whether kids get it or not I don't know, but parents are going to love it, and I think we'll get the kids, too."
The Verve Pipe Kids' Show
Saturday, April 11. Carnival begins at 10 a.m. Show starts at 11 a.m.
The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.
Tickets are $12.50.
Call 734-761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.
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