ACL 2011 – Austin Kiddie Limits

Austin Kiddie Limits

The Austin City Limits Music Festival has come and gone once again, and the 2011 edition of the annual event brought together lots of great music and a fantastic atmosphere.  The Austin Kiddie Limits area was the place to be for budding rock stars and families who wanted to avoid the frenzy of the larger crowds.  AKL offered a wide range of fun activities for kids and diverse musical artists from all over the country.

The activity booths inside Austin Kiddie Limits proved to be very popular with the younger festival-goers. Many of the kids running around and playing inside AKL had bright pink and orange hairdos, including some impressive Mohawks, courtesy of 77Kids by American Eagle.  The tattoos to complement the hairstyle were provided by Kati Hammitt and Hip Tattoos.  Once the proper look was established, kids took their talents to the Rock Star Video Karaoke booth (also provided by 77Kids) and got a chance to record a video singing and rocking out.

Dance, Drumming, and Hip Hop Workshops were held throughout the day during the festival, giving kids a chance to bang on some hand drums with Michael Marcionetti at Drumzone, or learn some new Zumba dance moves with the help of the Fuzemoze team.  Walking by the Hip Hop booth, one could hear The Q Brothers leading kids through call-and-response rapping over beats and samples. The schedule was managed well so that there was always some kind of interactive activity happening in between the music sets on the Austin Kiddie Limits stage.  H-E-B Kids provided healthy snacks at their Snack Shack, and also offered shade under the tent in the H-E-B-sponsored Zilker Beach area, which included a roped-off section for kids only.  Lifeway Probugs gave away samples of their Organic Kefir to the delight of many AKL attendees.

For the artists in the family, Abrakadoodle offered a rare chance to throw and splatter paint (with protective suits to cover clothing and head) and create a large work of art.  Kids had a blast working with the paint, and doing something they couldn’t get away with at home.  In addition, Café Monet had a booth set up for kids to decorate a Rockn’ Magnet to keep for themselves. Theater Action Project provided the interesting Alter Ego Factory, where they showed aspiring actors how to get into a wide array of characters and costumes.

All of this was trumped by the fantastic musical artists playing on the Austin Kiddie Limits Stage.  Here is a quick review of some of our favorite sets.

Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could played two great sets of music.  The front of the stage was crowded with kids who were having a blast with his songs “I Found It” and “Love Me for Who I Am.” The band featured some accordion and mandolin to back up Brady on guitar and vocals for his fun-filled tunes, and Tor Hyams sat in for several songs on keyboard. See our feature on Brady Rymer here.

Recess Monkey really engaged the crowd with their superhero-themed set of songs.  They had the kids acting out the motions as they flew, jumped, and threw imaginary objects up in the air.  Three elementary school teachers from Seattle, the trio delighted the kids with their wacky and high-energy music.  A giant banner with their monkey logo flew behind the drumset.

Quinn Sullivan plays the blues guitar at a level beyond his years.  At the age of 12, he has already toured with the legendary Buddy Guy, and one of his original songs that he performed told the story of meeting him for the first time.  He sounded like a polished player already as he worked through some originals and a solid cover of Derek & the Dominos’ “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?”

Mariana Iranzi brought a skilled band and some bilingual flavor to Austin Kiddie Limits.  She encouraged dancing and participation as she declared in English and Spanish, “I have the rhythm in my hands, I have the rhythm in my feet.”  She showed off her talents on the bass while the band played a rocking set.

Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band delivered some Hawaiian-influenced flair on her ukulele-led folk songs.  Heidi started playing and teaching children’s music after a successful acting career.

School of Rock received the honor of closing out Austin Kiddie Limits with the final set, and they were up for the task. In addition to performing a set earlier in the festival (and throughout all three days at the School of Rock tent), they put their stamp on some classic and modern hits with a resounding confidence to wrap up the festival.  The band consisted of all-star music students from the local School of Rock, and they served to inspire and entertain the kids and parents in attendance, with a strong take on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” and a clever mash-up of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”

Sara Hickman played two set’s with her band Family Time Rocks!. Sara and her bandmates, Jason Molin and Gray Parsons, use interactive performances to show “how fun, easy, and rewarding it is to make music and art with your family”. How cool is that? Sara’s latest projects include a new CD “Best of Times” (all proceeds for Theatre Action Project) and “Family Time Rocks” (music for families/”Big Bird, Little Bird” (animated DVD). She’s an advocate for the homeless, youth education and an amazing visual Artist.

Peter DiStefano & Tor Hyams put together an all-star band of their own featuring some of the School of Rock musicians, and they creatively put a family-friendly spin on some classic rock songs.  In addition to JJ Cale and Peter Tosh covers, they played the song “Pets” from DiStefano’s band “Something for Pyros” (as he introduced it – probably a wise choice).  During that song Peter invited the kids to line up and join him on stage, and they got a chance to strum his guitar while he took an extended guitar solo.  The School of Rock players really did a great job of keeping up with Peter and Tor, and holding down a steady groove.

Tor Hyams is the mastermind that makes Austin Kiddie Limits happen.  Tor is everywhere, acting as MC up on the stage, directing events in between the music sets, coordinating backstage activity, and playing keyboards live with several of the bands on the bill.  He also puts on a similar show for the Lollapalooza Festival up in Chicago every year called “Kidzapalooza,” which has grown to be its own separate event.  In addition to putting on festivals, Hyams is a music producer and songwriter, and you can read our feature on Tor here.


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