A little over a year ago, some of my longtime high school friends and I put together a band to perform at a charter school out in North Salt Lake. We called ourselves The Guitar Heroes in order to send the kids the message that if they learn to play real instruments instead of fake ones (read: Guitar Hero and Rock Band accessories), you can rock and roll for real. The set was a big success, and the gym full of jumping, screaming elementary ed kids instantly became one of my favorite audiences.
My current band Groove Theorem has been on a bit of a hiatus lately, so a little over a week ago, I hooked up with BretO and Cheetahman again to play a few more tunes for the K-6 crowd. For this year's performance, we wanted to raise the stakes. We picked up an additional guitarist, put together a four song set instead of three, and even wore suits for the gig. We also added an extended Kanye-Disco Coda to the one song that remained from the previous year's set: Neil Diamond's "America."
Just like last year, playing for the kids proved to be a revelation. For one thing, eight-year-olds aren't the harshest of rock critics, so you are able to relax and have a lot of fun (which was good, because my drum kit refused to stay anchored and was shifting around on my risers the whole show). But what was more fun was watching the kids' faces while we played. Some jumped and screamed, others just sat and stared. It was clear that some of the kids knew the drill, and others were getting their first dose of real Rock and Roll.
Though our message was the same, this year we went with the name Thunderlips, a derivation of a previous name The Cheetahman and I had used a few years ago with another band (The Atomic Thunderlips Traveling Ministry). We may have to go back to that full name, though, after Cheetahman informed me that another band in Cleveland is already on MySpace under that name. Either way, it was pretty cool to have 300 kids chanting "Thun-der-lips! Thun-der-lips!" at the beginning of the show.
I can't remember the first time I was introduced to Rock and Roll. I remember discovering my mom's Beatles albums in our basement when I was in the fourth grade, and I remember seeing ZZ-Top at the Delta Center when I was eighteen. But I know for a fact that I never had a band come play at Tolman Elementary School, even a bunch of amateurs like us. Those kids are totally lucky.
But I think we were luckier for getting to play for them.