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Yo Gabba Gabba! @ The Riverside Theater

March 14, 2010

Mar. 16, 2010
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Since its debut on Nick Jr. in 2007, “Yo Gabba Gabba!” has joined the ranks of countless other kid shows that, by accident or design, seem to appeal primarily to the very young and habitual users of psychedelic drugs. But the program also seems intent on drawing in another demographic: music nerds. The series’ past guests include such modern music favorites as Cornelius, Of Montreal, The Shins, The Roots, Rahzel and Enon, and it features regular segments starring Biz Markie and Mark Mothersbaugh. The diversity (and relative obscurity) of the guests is easier to understand in light of the fact that co-creator Christian Jacobs was a founding member of the long-standing (and rather wacky) pop-punk/ska group The Aquabats, who appeared along with Markie Sunday as part of the touring live show.

The program’s candy-colored visual style falls somewhere between Sid and Marty Krofft’s 1970s creations and the clean lines of Japanese designer toys. Since the show features a live-action cast consisting of host DJ Lance Rock and a quintet of costumed creatures interacting with animated backgrounds, it achieves a rather seamless transition from screen to stage with the help of some rear projection.

Although there were a few gentle pop songs with kid-friendly themes—like how it’s OK to be scared or what have you—the majority of the event consisted of agreeably frantic, up-tempo dance tunes accompanied by a lot of silly shouting. The high-energy vibe, along with the flashing lights, bubbles and peace-love-and-understanding platitudes, suggested something not unlike a rave (but, you know, for kids).

The guest stars’ appearances were frustratingly short. The Aquabats burned through a pop-punk ode to pool parties in a few minutes flat, and Biz Markie, whose “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” image makes him a natural fit with the kiddie set, never really flexed his considerable beat-boxing skills. He did, however, turn the mic over to the tykes and let them give it their best shot, with hilarious results.

One thing is beyond any doubt, though: The kids went wild for it all. The adults—some of whom could be seen indulging in the Pabst Foundation venues’ “legendary” $3 PBR tall boys—didn’t seem to be having too bad of a time either. That’s not too surprising: You’d have to be made of stone not to at least crack a smile at something this exuberantly ridiculous.


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