Arts and Entertainment

Kid rocker plays high-octane music

A rocker who has built a national fan base of kids and parents, Justin Roberts sings songs that all ages  can relate to — catchy dance tunes about whales and meltdowns and soothing ballads about birthdays and imaginary friends. He’ll bring his Not Ready for Naptime Players to Vashon Theatre at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. - Courtesy photo
A rocker who has built a national fan base of kids and parents, Justin Roberts sings songs that all ages can relate to — catchy dance tunes about whales and meltdowns and soothing ballads about birthdays and imaginary friends. He’ll bring his Not Ready for Naptime Players to Vashon Theatre at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Justin Roberts and his Not Ready for Naptime Players will serve up some memorable music for the whole family during a special concert slated for 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, at Vashon Theatre.

Vashon’s all-girl band Just Fiddlin’ ’Round will open the show, performing from 1:15 to 1:45 p.m.

Roberts has been compared to everyone from Elvis Costello to Paul Simon to indie rock star Nick Lowe, but unlike those performers, Roberts writes songs about the high drama of childhood.

A typical Roberts song might revolve around a temper tantrum triggered by a shared crayon (“Meltdown”), an interminable wait for a school bus (“Yellow Bus”), a brother who gets blamed for everything (“My Brother Did It”), or the solace found in a gentle imaginary friend (“Imaginary Rhino”).

His high-octane brand of music has also received a steady stream of critical acclaim, with People Magazine weighing in that Roberts’ music is “on your feet fun and laugh-out-loud funny.”

Amazon.com called Roberts’ lyrics “some of the most inspired and intelligent” kids lyrics ever.

Eileen Wolcott, Vashon Theatre owner, said she was excited to bring the band to Vashon.

“I think its going to be a really fun concert,” she said. “I really enjoy his music, and I’m an adult.”

Karen Eliasen, owner of Vashon Island Music, also testified to Roberts’ broad appeal.

“He’s someone that parents have told me about over the past few years,” she said. “I think his music is smart stuff that would appeal to a wide group, not just little kids, but big kids and parents, too.”

Roberts began his music career in the Minneapolis-based indie-rock band Pimentos for Gus. As he waited for the band to take off, Roberts decided to moonlight (during the day) as a Montessori preschool teacher.

It wasn’t long before Roberts began writing and singing for a new generation of fans: his students. The kids immediately responded and inspired Roberts to record some of his new songs. That Christmas, Roberts sent copies of his new kids’ songs to his close friends as holiday gifts.

One of the gift recipients was Liam Davis, a college pal and music producer, who suggested that they record the songs professionally. In 1998, Roberts released his first CD, “Great Big Sun,” and the critics took note. Sesame Street Parents Magazine named the collection its “Best Music Gift of the Year.”

By 2001, Roberts and his band, The Not Ready for Nap Time Players, had hit the road full time, playing music for appreciative crowds. Kiddie mosh pits broke out, word spread, and shows started selling out. Over the years, he has played at big-time venues and festivals, including New York City’s Symphony Space, National Geographic Live, Los Angeles’ Getty Museum, Seattle’s Moore Theater, Lollapalooza and Chicago’s Ravinia.

Roberts has also put out a string of popular CDs and has performed in front of millions of people on The Today Show. His song “Get Me Some Glasses” was featured on the World Series’ broadcast during a story about ballplayers who wear glasses.

To listen to a sample of Roberts’ music and see his music videos, visit www.justinroberts.org.

Tickets to his Vashon Theatre show are $15, and are on sale now at Vashon Theatre, Vashon Island Music and online at www.vashontheatre.com and www.brownpapertickets.com. A group rate of $12 per person for 10 or more people is available at Vashon Theatre only.

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