It would kind of rule if all concerts were split into two half-hour sets with a twenty-minute break between -- but unfortunately, not all shows are geared toward four-year-olds. Yesterday's Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! was, however, and most of my concert-going contemporaries maintained an impressively mature cool through the afternoon event featuring (the real) DJ Lance Rock and friends. Meaning, I was only whacked in the head twice by a super excited kid with a balloon, and only one eardrum-piercing scream was uttered from behind me during the whole of the show.
In our interview with Yo Gabba Gabba! co-creator Christian Jacobs last week, he stressed the importance of having the "real" DJ Lance Rock lead his foam and latex friends through dancy dances. This, in fact, was the key ingredient to the success of the live show -- Lance Rock held it all together, keeping the legions of devoted preschoolers from getting distracted by sometimes blaring and unreal voices of Foofa, Plex, Toodee, Muno, and Brobee.
Opening with a shower of paper from confetti cannons and "The Name Game," Lance and the brightly colored characters wiggled together on the flashing dance floor -- which looked like a literal discothèque, a step back in time that pulsed with all the modern LCD brightness. "Peek-A-Boo" brought the booty bass beats, glow sticks and frantically lit baubles shaking throughout the crowd, as the first of several special musical guests of the evening, Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident, appeared with Special K, dressed as dogs and cats.
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The band was then enveloped in the two floor-to-ceiling digital screens, Lance and friends reappearing to lead a series of songs about celebrating everyone's differences, not being afraid of the dark, and triumphing over self esteem issues. Brobee (the fuzzy green one) was lifted in the air by a handful of giant balloons, inciting tiny "aahs" from the rows of kids, who were then covered in balloons released from nets above. A short break was announced, and kids were free to crawl the seats and stretch out.
Just before the Yo Gabba Gabba crew returned, two humans in civilian clothes appeared for a few awkward moments of promotion for the show's sponsors. The weirdness was broken by a bubble dance triggering a bubble machine, which led into the second cameo of the night: Leslie Hall. Dressed like gold-leaf astronaut, the Midwest diva stepped out of a panel in the electrified wall to teach the "Peanut Butter Stomp" dancey dance. As quickly as she materialized, Hall was gone, DJ Lance Rock coming back to introduce the show's final special friend.
Biz Markie came from the same lit-up panel, kids going crazy upon the sheer sight of the smiley-faced rapper. His live beat boxing was unreal, booming clicks and clacks proving Markie was the true king of his craft. For "Biz's Beat of the Day" the teddy bear of a man took turns on each side of the stage, hugging scared and excited preschoolers as he taught them different orally-created sounds. His appearance culminated in a vocal fireworks show, beats and sounds coming out of his mouth, from the top of his head and rumbling from the exterior of his throat.
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Waving goodbye, Markie was gone, traded out for Lance Rock, Brobee, Foofa, Plex, Toodee, and Muno. The Yo Gabba Gabba crew sang and danced to "Hugs Are Fun" and fervent crowd favorite "Party In My Tummy" before disappearing into the LCD-lit lunchbox to a final shot from rainbow paper cannons. Happy kids and balloons filed out, some lucky enough to be headed to the pizza after-party with the DJ, the robot, Markie and the cute monsters.
Critic's Notebook and more photos on the next page.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: My 22-year-old sister is obsessed with Yo Gabba Gabba!. Random Detail: A lot of the characters and drawings from the show first appeared in artwork for show creator Jacobs' band, The Aquabats. By The Way: A ton of kids were dressed as their favorite Yo Gabba Gabba! characters, but the best was seeing a dad and his toddler in matching DJ Lance Rock costumes.