Entertainment » Jim Harris

Preschool culture reveals new world


Keep this little secret between us, but we're taking our 2-year-old to the biggest concert of the year Monday. Well, it's the biggest concert of the year for 2-year-olds, and anyone else between 1 and 6. The Wiggles, preschoolers' answer to what their parents would remember as the Fab Four, are the biggest thing to come out of Australia since Crocodile Dundee, or for a rock reference, perhaps Colin Hay and Men at Work. They have a certain goofiness that hearkens to those MTV videos of Men at Work singing "We come from the land down under …" The kids love 'em, and the parents can tolerate them. Thank goodness the silly songs have a beat and you can dance to them. It sort of reminds me of the Archies. Michael Marion, the general manager at Alltel Arena, simply laughs out loud when talking about how well the shows, at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday, have sold. About 5,000 seats are available for each show. They could sell out. The Wiggles do that everywhere. Thanks to "Playhouse Disney" and videos and CDs, they've moved past Bob the Builder, Elmo and Blue's Clues as the preschooler's entertainment du jour. So, just how did these guys lead the Aussie invasion? Three of them were studying early childhood development in college. Two of them were in a real band, rocking Sydney venues. They're like the Monkeee; all four can really sing and play. They recorded education tapes for preschoolers about 13 years ago, the Australian Broadcasting Co. picked them up, American entrepreneurs noting a good thing jumped in during the past few years, and the rest is history. So, Greg, Anthony, Murray and Jeff are as well known in our household, and countless others, I'm sure, as all our other relations. "You gotta get me some Hot Potato seats," Marion quoted a recent calls from a friend who had just learned his child was a Wiggles fanatic, too. Sorry, he had to tell them, the Hot Potato section with its special Wiggles gift and the up-close-and-personal view of the foursome is long gone. Probably a good thing for him. I'm expecting it to be a screamfest up there. Our 2-year-old, Scott, has exposed his father to a whole new world out there, and every parent can relate. I never appreciated the beauty of Handel's "Aire" from the "Water Suite" until we endlessly watched "Baby Neptune" from the award-winning Baby Einstein DVD series. Who knew how beautiful Dvorak's "New World Symphony" could sound emanating from a synthesizer as giraffes lope in the African savanna in Baby Einstein's "World Animals." Tony Award best actress nominee Stephanie D'Abruzzo was deservedly recognized for her work in "Avenue Q" this year, but her best acting may come in another of Scott's favorites, "Oobi," where D'Abruzzo's hands portray "Uma." Then there are all those ditties by the Wiggles. Really, it's hard to get "Fly Through the Sky" and "Yummy, Yummy" out of our head once you've heard them. So it is that my life of loving music helped me to be a reasoning parent. Scott was a little more tearful than usual this very morning I write this, not getting his demand for chocolate milk satisfied. "Scott," I said sternly, "you can't always get what you want." Then just seemed natural to remind him, "But you get what you need." Terrible, I know. But Scott's been lucky to be exposed to rock and roll earlier than I was; I had to carry him with me to part of last week's big show at Riverfest Amphitheatre. "Was that rock 'n' roll?" he asked as we got back in our car. "Well, Scott, they would call that just rock and leave out the roll," I answered. "I like rock 'n' roll," he said. There's a song in there, too, I imagine. The show last week, headlined by Nickelback and 3 Doors Down, drew about 9,000, Butch Stone of Stone Concerts told us. The paid count was 8,100. But it seemed like one of the biggest turnouts the venue has ever had. A mild night helped lead to a walkup of about 1,000 ticket buyers. Also, several hundred folks were outside the fences, either under the River Market pavilion or in the nearby restaurant patios. All in all, a huge success. Fans were extolling the greatness of Puddle of Mudd's heavy show. Nickelback sounded good to this listener, but others around me didn't enjoy the Canadians as much as Puddle, or the show's closer, 3 Doors Down, which roared into its strong set with an impressive laser display. It was, all agreed, 3DD's best show here in four visits.

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