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Our Favorite Live Performances of 2009

by Amber on January 14, 2010

bcmWe listen to a lot of kids’ music in this house—I mean a lot!

But what we love even more than the CDs, are the live performances. Every weekend will find us either at a big show at the Regent Theatre or TCAN or maybe at a smaller show at a local library or café. Either way, Ivan is rocking and enjoying himself immensely.

So we kind of think of ourselves as experts when it comes to live kids’ music. Here are our favorite performances of 2009…

Ben Rudnick & Friends

Ben Rudnick & Friends is a hard-working band. They play all over New England and New York (though mostly in Massachusetts) in rain or shine, indoors and out. We’ve seen them in big theaters, at school gyms, and on sunny summer days at beautiful parks. And the thing that I think is the most telling, is that we’re beginning to recognize other BR&F fans at these events. We’re not the only ones willing to follow these guys all over the state for an awesome show! Pair that with the ubiquitous BR&F tie-dye t-shirts and you can see why some people call them the Grateful Dead for kids.

BR&F play great fast-paced songs that really get kids rocking. Their band is tight and I love that John Zevos is a mandolin player. Who doesn’t love a good mandolin solo? The other great thing about BR&F shows is that they play a lot of songs. The don’t chat much—they know we’re here for the music! And when they play Hava Nagila followed immediately by M.T.A., well, let’s just say the dancing can get a bit rambunctious!

Bill Harley

Bill Harley is a story teller, singer, and a writer. He has published works for little kids, middle school kids, and adults. His talents span audiences and styles and it can be hard to define exactly what he does, but the thing that is most important is that he is entertaining. And he can entertain everyone!

We saw Bill perform last year at TCAN and we were really impressed with how he could keep everyone’s attention, from the littlest to the oldest. He told stories and sang songs and was great at getting the audience involved. Everyone had a great time!

Billy Jonas

Billy Jonas is another artist that can be difficult to define. He’s a musician and a singer, but what instruments does he play? Well, Billy seems to think that anything can be an instrument and that anyone can play along. Which of course means that his shows are a ton of fun!

When we saw him play at the Regent Theatre he began with the song Who’s Gonna Make Our Music?, which is all about redefining what music is and who can play it. We all can! He got the kids in the audience to see the world in a new way as they watched him make music with milk bottles and trash cans and then encouraged the kids to join in with their popcorn containers and juice boxes. It was a blast!

Debbie & Friends

Debbie & Friends is one of our favorite bands and we love to see them perform live. Debbie does such a wonderful job of talking to the kids and getting them to really feel like they are an important part of the show. Debbie’s shows have a very inclusive feel to them and they can be a great way to introduce your kids, especially little kids, to full-band live music.

Debbie’s band is just phenomenal, but I have to say that Mike really helps make the show. He is Debbie’s backup singer and all-around silly guy. The kids love him. He responds to all the stories and games and is just so much fun to watch. And I love his singing on the new song, So So Happy.

Flannery Brothers

Flannery BrothersThere’s only word that adequately describes a Flannery Brothers show: energy! Check out the video on their website and you’ll see what I mean. Dan runs around the stage, into the audience, jumps up and down, and bangs his tambourine like there’s no tomorrow. Kids just think it’s great!

And the energy is contagious. Even if you’re usually pretty self conscious and don’t like to get too involved at kids’ concerts, you just can’t help yourself at a Flannery Brothers performance. I’ve seen entire families get up and dance together. It’s a heart-warming sight.


jeanniemackjeanniemack plays solo shows at libraries, the Natick mall, and Finagle-a-Bagel, just to name a few places. Even though a jeanniemack show is simply her voice and her guitar, she still puts on a fun event. Singing some original songs, some classics, and other fun tunes by admired artists (like Laurie Berkner), jeanniemack puts together a nice collection of songs that kids love to dance and sing along to.

jeanniemack’s shows are particularly good for younger kids, toddlers and infants, because she can really personalize her performance for them. She gets to know the kids, asks their names, and finds out what sort of songs they like. She plays requests and really makes music accessible to all the kids. Check out her schedule and see if she’ll be playing near you any time soon!

Michael & Marisa

Michael & Marisa played at the Hard Rock Café in Boston last year and we thought we’d check them out. Ivan is still young so we weren’t sure how he would react to their show, but he had an amazing time! Michael & Marisa are a teenage brother and sister duo who play classic and original rock and roll songs. These kids really do rock! So, if your kids are small, it may be a bit overwhelming for them, but if your kids are rockers (like Ivan), then you’ll definitely want to check them out.

All the kids and grownups at the show were having a great time and it was fun to see a real rock show. Kids’ music is awesome, but it’s nice to have a little variety.


Milkshake came to TCAN last year and put on a rockin’ show! Milkshake is one of those bands that can be both indie pop and cool and a kids’ band at the same time. Their show was bright and colorful and full of costumes and excitement, and the music was upbeat and exciting. Everything you need in a concert!

Lisa is such a great singer and somehow manages to be both hip and approachable at the same time. She’s like the nice cool kid that everyone loves. And the songs are just too much fun to miss!


SteveSongsSteveSongs is one of our favorites. In fact, the very first live concert we ever took Ivan to was a SteveSongs show, so he holds a special place in our hearts. What I always find impressive is how Steve manages to create these huge spectacular shows that still feel personal and individual. Steve will often walk through the theater before a show to meet the families and then when he’s on stage you really get the feeling he’s singing with you, not to you.

Steve also performs with two phenomenal back up singers, the Sensational Sillies, who add so much to the show. They’re not only good singers and dancers, they’re also kids, and I think it’s great for kids to see other kids on stage so that they know the whole performance is accessible to anyone of any age. The lesson here? Never miss a SteveSongs show!

Vanessa Trien

Vanessa Trien is another local star that you just can’t miss in concert. She has some sort of magical energy that makes all of her shows super fun—and sometimes hard to get in to, so make sure you buy your tickets in advance! Her songs are catchy and often very simple, which kids love. It’s hard to explain what exactly makes her songs so perfect—she seems to find that often-sought-after balance of silliness and heart that appeals to both parents and children. Very cool!

Vanessa’s back up singer, Sharon, is also a delight. She’s a mom with so much spunk and energy. I wish I could jump around as much as she does! She really brightens up the stage and makes the whole show work. The two of them together are just perfect.

Click here to find out about our favorite kids’ albums of 2009.

Award images created by John Kane.

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