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'Kindie Rock' Bands Entertain City Kids and Music-Loving Parents Alike

By Ben Fractenberg | December 28, 2012 10:13am

NEW YORK CITY — Keep on rockin' in the wee world.

A new cadre of children's musicians — sometimes affectionately referred to as "kindie" rockers — have cropped up in the city, bringing original music and fresh interpretations of classic songs to parents starved for something new.

"I couldn't listen to people sing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' or 'The Wheels on the Bus,'" said Upper West Side resident Erin Leyton, who has a 2-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl. "I couldn't do it anymore."

And, as the kids who came of age eschewing mainstream rock begin to raise their own children, it is easy to see how the trend will continue to grow in increasingly family-friendly neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn. New child-friendly venues and festivals, such as Brooklyn's monthly Hip Tot festival, mean expanding options for families.

Here are some local kids' musicians making waves:

Miss Nina

Brooklyn musician Miss Nina performs original songs with styles including jazz, blues and hoedown. She also performs unique interpretations of favorite children's books for private playgroups, as well as at venues throughout the city for children from 3 months to about 6 years old.

She also produces a weekly video posted on YouTube, leading kids' through her songs, and has released two CDs.

"She has a edge to her that is unique and different," said Leyton of Miss Nina, who played from the book "This Jazz Man" at her son's birthday. "It got my kids excited about reading."

Nina herself is seven months pregnant, but is still doing a few more weeks of performing for private playgroups.

Tim and the Space Cadets

Brooklyn-based Tim and the Space Cadets are as wonderfully zany as their name implies. Their bubbly pop-rock sounds cover everything from pretending to be a superhero to building a spaceship and endless summers.

"It's not music for kids, it's music about being a kid," said lead singer Tim Kubart, 28.

Kubart described their sound as "power pop" that kids of all ages and parents could enjoy. 

Their new album, "Anthems for Adventure," is due out January 29.

Check them out on Jan. 19 at the Bell House on Seventh Street in Gowanus for the release of their new album.

The Deedle Deeedle Dees

Brooklyn-based The Deedle Deedle Dees mix classic Americana sounds like bluegrass, folk, rock 'n' roll, country and New Orleans-style piano music with a vocalist who sounds like Tom Waits — if he was performing children's songs.

Billing themselves as "America's Ultimate Teaching Band," they perform sing-alongs while teaching kids about figures such as Sojourner Truth, Fiorello La Guardia and Abigail Adams.

They are a band indie-rock enthusiast parents not only tolerate, but even listen to by choice when the kids are asleep. Band members use the same last name, "Dee," like a child-friendly version of The Ramones.

Their next NYC show is March 2 at Symphony Space on Broadway at 95th Street.

Amelia Robinson and Mil's Trills

Brooklyn-based Amelia Robinson combines a sultry voice with an electric ukulele. Her project, Mil's Trills, is a series of interactive live performances for children and adults with a rotating cast of more than 80 musicians.

A live performance could include Robinson reading a children's book while a fellow musician plays the violin, or her singing about body parts.

Her music is suited for children ranging from newborns to 4 years old. Parents are encouraged to bring shakers, blankets and other instruments to Robinson's shows.

Her next gig is Jan. 9 at The Rock Shop on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope.

The Pop Ups

Brooklyn-based rock duo The Pop Ups play danceable, synth-laden children's music with shows using cardboard props, handmade puppets and hand-drawn animation.

Their second CD, "Radio Jungle," received a Grammy nod this year for best children's album. 

They also received good reviews for their musical "Pasta!" — a puppet musical about their quest to find ingredients for the perfect pasta sauce.

The music is something any New Wave-loving parent could enjoy listening. Their live shows are recommended for children 2 years old and up.

You can check them out at The Jewish Museum at Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street on Feb. 3.

Suzi Shelton

Another Brooklyn-based rocker, Suzi Shelton, was mentioned as a local favorite by both parents and musicians. Her latest album, "Tomboy in a Princess Dress," has a little country twang behind its message of female empowerment.

Shelton also teaches class where kids are encouraged to play along with shakers and dance to her call-and-response songs.

You can check her out on Feb. 3, when she'll performing as part of the BAMkids Film Festival at the BAM cafe, 30 Lafayette Ave. in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Hot Peas 'N Butter

NYC's Hot Peas 'N Butter reinvent classics such as the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" with beautiful harmonies and impeccable musicianship. Many of their songs are also influenced by their Latin American roots, with songs sung in both English and Spanish and featuring a mix of Latin, Afro-Caribbean and pop melodies and rhythms.

Their latest album, "Catching Some Peazzz," is a collection of classic and original lullabies to help children fall asleep.

The band is playing Jan. 12 at the The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater at 5 W. 63rd St.

Jeremy Plays Guitar

Jeremy Plays Guitar bills their music as "rock-ucation," combing catchy pop sounds with language and social-skills education. The songs are written by pre-school music educator Jeremy Zmuda and early childhood specialist Lizzie Bicknell.

Their classes are geared toward children from 6 months to 5 years old, who get to sing, dance, play instruments and practice social skills such as waving and shaking hands. 

Their debut album, "Use Your Words," was developed into social curriculum adopted by the NYC Board of Education, according to their website.

Jeremy recently rocked out a the monthly Hip Tot Music Festival at Littlefield in Gowanus.

They are playing the Tribeca Y at 200 Hudson St. on Jan. 20 at 11 a.m.

The Jimmies

NYC-based The Jimmies bring some serious guitar riffs to their kindie-rock sound. Songs like "Cool to be Uncool" sound like '70s arena rock for kids, while other tunes sound like punk for kids or weave more melodic, worldly sounds.

Their second full-length album, "Practically Ridiculous," came in 2011 to rave reviews.

The Jimmies don't have any local gigs lined up in the immediate future, but keep checking their website to see when they are playing next.

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

While Secret Agent 23 Skidoo isn't based in NYC, they bring self-described "kid-hop" to the city often. Rapper/producer 23 Skidoo played with the likes of Run DMC and Mos Def, before recording a children's record with his 5-year-old daughter, Saki, in 2008.

The grooves mix a classic early '90s hip-hop sound with soul and funk. They turned to Kickstarter to raise money for their latest album, "Make Believers," which was released in May.

They don't have any immediate gigs lined up, but are sure to play the city in 2013.