When I realized that Dan Zanes's show at Rackham Auditorium on Saturday, March 5, may be sold out, I felt like crying. Then I thought — I should throw my own house party. After all, that's this former rock 'n' roll star's mission: get folks to throw out their TV, make their own music, and serve it up with friends, family, and food.
For at least a year there was only one CD in play at our house: Rocket Ship Beach, the first release from Dan Zanes's Festival Five Records. It appeared courtesy of my husband and his relentless quest to fill our time, ears, and hearts with song. Lots of children's music is absolute garbage — screeching choruses of zip-a-dee-do-dah or wheels-on-the-bus contrived to maintain a separation between adult and child. At our house we celebrate and dance with our children. Like all children, they can tell when you're in on the party and when you'd rather be doing something else.
The funky title track from Zanes's latest, House Party, with accompaniment on both acoustic guitar and a comical tuba, opens invitingly with "Ring, ring, doorbell ring, it's house party time — / Everyone's invited — / We're all going to rock and swing and dine." Near the end of the disc, Zanes plays a little yodeling love song / lullaby, accompanying himself on Autoharp and guitar. It calls that raw stream of pure love for my children right to the surface every time I hear and sing it:
| You can take a nickel, turn it to a dime.
You can turn my face into a smile anytime.
You're a shining star day and night.
You're a shining star in my heart all right.
Zanes headed up the Del Fuegos in the 1980s. After the birth of his daughter, he did what all other musician parents do — he enlisted the help of neighbors and friends, some of them famous folks, to help him make family music that doesn't suck. He'd spent years listening to banjo songs, traditionals, folk music, and cowboy tunes. At the hands of Zanes and his companions, "Polly Wolly Doodle" becomes a rock 'n' roll shake-your-boogie song. And "Over the Rainbow" is turned into a sweet pause in our hectic lives.
On stage, Dan and his band perform what he calls "exuberant, handmade music for enthusiastic crowds of kids and kid sympathizers." Zanes sings and plays mandolin, banjo, harmonica, Autoharp, and electric guitar. Joining him on stage are backup vocalist Barbara Brousal on acoustic guitar and mandolin, Cynthia Hopkins on saw and accordion, Yoshi Waki on upright bass, Colin Brooks on drums, and Jamaican rapper Rankin' Don, aka Father Goose.