Arts and Entertainment

Presidents of the United States of America frontman brings kids songs to Vashon June 12

Chris Ballew, performing as Caspar Babypants, will do a show at 10:30 a.m. at Chautauqua. - Courtesy photo
Chris Ballew, performing as Caspar Babypants, will do a show at 10:30 a.m. at Chautauqua.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Island music lovers are in for a treat this weekend, with two concerts coming up that promise to please both kids and grownups.

Better still, both concerts are benefits for organizations that serve Island families.

The fun will start before nap time, with a show by Caspar Babypants, set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12, in Chautauqua’s multi-purpose room.

Caspar Babypants is the latest creation of Chris Ballew, a two-time Grammy nominee and chart-topping musician best known as the lead singer of the Seattle band, The Presidents of the United States of America.

Laurie Thorpe, an Islander who helped organize the concert for Vashon Park District, is excited about Ballew’s brand of music, created especially for toddlers, and his upcoming appearance on Vashon.

“He’s an incredibly nice guy and loves to spend time on Vashon,” Thorpe said.

Ballew’s Web site contains links to songs and YouTube videos from two albums, “Here I Am” and “More Please,” that have received high praise from both adults and kids.

“Caspar Babypants isn’t music for just kids,” said Stone Gossard, rhythm guitarist of Pearl Jam. “It’s fantastically hooky, cool, authentic pop.”

“Creating memorable songs seems to come naturally to Ballew,” said Christins Refford, a writer for, who went on to describe Ballew’s music as “fun and tender sing-along songs that parents can croon to their own little ones.”

Admission to the show is a suggested donation of $3, and non-perishable food donations will be accepted as well, with all proceeds going to Vashon Maury Community Food Bank.

“It’s never too early to get our kids involved in giving” said Thorpe.

Islanders will get another chance to donate to a worthy cause later in the afternoon, when renowned singer and songwriter Dana Lyons performs a family show at 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Vashon Havurat, 15401 Westside Hwy.

The concert is a benefit for two nature-based programs on the Island, Vashon Wilderness Program and Homestead Farm and Wilderness Learning Community.

The Vashon Wilderness Program, now in its fourth year, provides a wide range of nature immersion programs and camps for Island kids.

Homestead Farm and Wilderness is a nature-based learning community located on seven acres of farm and woodlands on Vashon’s west side. The organization offers agricultural, ecological and academic mentoring to children ages 5 to 12.

Amy Morrison, who is helping to organize the benefit concert, said that Lyons’ music dovetailed with the missions and messages of the two organizations.

According to Morrison, Lyons’ music mixes “playful humor and environmental activism.”

Lyons is one of the best known minstrels of the environmental movement; critics have called him a “current-day Pete Seeger” and “an out-of-control Johnny Cash.”

His musical roots reach back to the 1980s, and he has performed worldwide, sharing stages with such musical giants as Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Nickel Creek and John Trudell.

According to his Web site,, his policy of “I’ll play anywhere once” has landed him gigs on a tropical island in the Great Barrier Reef, an Irish Pub in Beijing and the Hanford nuclear waste storage site.

Indeed, Hanford inspired one of Lyons’ best-known songs, “Our State is a Dumpsite,” which was nominated to be Washington’s state song and appears in the official state song book.

Lyons is also known for his collaboration with Dr. Jane Goodall on her Roots and Shoots program for environmental education and peace.

At Lyons’ show on Saturday, children from the Homestead Farm and Wilderness Learning Project will join Lyons as he performs another of his well-known songs, “At Night They Howl at the Moon”

Families are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner to the outdoor event. In the event of rain the concert will be moved inside the Havurat. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 and older. They can be purchased at Books by the Way and Vashon Bookshop.

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