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Family Values: Handmade Music

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By Scott Fields

Published Jan 1, 2011 12:25 PM


It's hard to predict whether the Dan Zanes & Friends shows at Royce Hall on March 19 will be more akin to a children's concert or an all-ages dance party. In the 10 years the Brooklyn-based band has been performing its handmade music for exuberant crowds at UCLA, it's always been both at the same time.

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Photo courtesy of UCLA Live.

"It's our version of a little Grateful Dead show," says Dan Zanes, whose main goal is simply spreading the joy of music. "What we always hope is that the audience gets inspired about the experience of music-making. They can go home and make their own."

Zanes is the former lead singer of the Del Fuegos, having recorded four albums with the 1980s garage-style, Boston-based pop band. He released his first solo CD in 1995, and in 2001, his Rocket Ship Beach became an immediate hit with families around the country. Since then, Zanes and his seven–piece band have released a steady flow of wel-received CDs for children, featuring guest stars such as Rosanne Cash, Loudon Wainwright III, Lou Reed, Aimee Mann, Deborah Harry and Philip Glass. The music includes original pieces, dance classics and American traditional songs.

The fact that Zanes makes certain the band's music is culturally mixed — songs are performed in both English and Spanish — is one reason why he appreciates performing at UCLA, where "the audience is more comfortable singing in Spanish than a lot of other places," he says. "Culturally, L.A. is an exciting place to be."

"UCLA is our home away from home — it's the highlight of our tour," he continues. "We always have a handful of celebrities in the audience, and we've done some very memorable shows." Guest stars have included America's first all-female mariachi band, an Albanian family band, John Doe from X, and music producer Mitchell Froom, who often stops by to play the piano.

At press time, the guest star for the upcoming performances had not yet been selected. "But we're talking about doing something slightly spectacular," Zanes says.

Dan Zanes & Friends. Royce Hall. Saturday, March 19, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets: $18-$28, $15 for UCLA students. Call (310) 825-2101 or visit www.uclalive.org.

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