Kids Rock for Peas
From San Francisco Chronicle - March 20, 2005 'Kid Rock' by Delfin Vigil 'This is a song that our friend Syd Barrett taught to us,' says the soft-spoken man wearing a turquoise-blue blazer and a goofy top hat. 'He used be in a band called the Pink Floyd. And they wrote some wonderful children's songs.' Before the dozens of parents in the audience have a chance to question why this cuckoo character and his band have decided to entertain their kids with lyrics from the warped mind of the king of psychedelia, an extraordinary thing happens. Nearly 100 children are jumping up and down and singing along to ... good music. From the impeccably cool likes of T. Rex, Sly & the Family Stone, the Monkees, the Velvet Underground ... Put the Tylenol away. Barney is not in the house. In the time it takes the Sippy Cups to unicycle through a bouncy rendition of Pink Floyd's 'Bike,' it becomes clear to the assembled moms and dads, most of them Baby Boomers, at this rock concert with training wheels: Their children could use this kind of musical education. Leave them kids alone! 'We don't want to be too squeaky-clean,' explains the Sippy Cups' lead singer, Paul Godwin, 43, at a Montara cafe about a week after the show. A casual striped shirt and corduroy trousers have replaced his top hat and 'Miami Vice' turquoise sports coat. 'If anything, our M.O. is preaching good music to children.' Godwin came up with the idea to form a grown-up rock band for young audiences (and their parents) about three years ago while playing 'Bike' on the piano as his then 2-year-old son circled around the living room on a red tricycle. The band name came first, inspired by the hundreds of kids who have brought plastic sipping containers to the music classes Godwin teaches as director of Music Together of San Francisco. And after an impromptu living room jam with his friend and Montara neighbor, lead guitarist Mark Verlander, Godwin's vision of the Sippy Cups was filled to the brim. Amid the wine and revelry of that first evening, Godwin and Verlander wrote their first song, set to the tune of Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit. ' They performed it at a benefit to build a park in neighboring Moss Beach. The lyrics went something like: This is Moss Beach/ Build a park here/ It's less dangerous/ Get your checkbook. 'After we performed the song at the benefit, I said 'Thanks, we're the Sippy Cups,' ' remembers Godwin. 'Mark and I had no idea what were getting into.' Doug Nolan, who stilt-walked at the Moss Beach park benefit, joined the group as the band's leader juggler, unicyclist and quite possibly most popular Sippy Cup. AJ Kim was on bass and David Gilmour (not that David Gilmour) banged the drums as the band performed set lists of elite classics, like the Velvet Underground's 'Who Loves the Sun,' the Kinks' 'Village Green Preservation Society' and Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah.' What followed was a year of steady gigs in packed theaters throughout the Bay Area -- and shows at some of the coolest, most coveted rock clubs in the region, including 12 Galaxies and the Rickshaw Stop. Classic -- but never cheesy -- cover songs for kids seem to be the secret to the Sippy Cups' success with this particular subculture. That and their friendly interactive shows: At most Sippy Cups gigs, children get to bang on drums, xylophones and are encouraged to jump on the stage, squeak their noses and get crazy. Sometimes Verlander even let's kids push the buttons of his effects pedals while he's playing. 'We try not to do any Top 40 stuff,' explains Verlander, the mellowest Cup. 'Even with Beatles tunes, we try to play their more obscure songs. That way parents can say 'Wow. I haven't heard this song in sooo long.' ' Verlander realized he and the band were onto something special during a rendition of the Beatles' 'Dear Prudence.' 'All of these kids were in front of the stage singing along to one of my favorite Beatles' songs. It was incredible. I was practically in tears,' Verlander says. 'I'll never forget the day my dad brought home 'Sgt. Pepper's. ' I was about 5 or 6 at the time. That's the kind of experience I want my daughter, Lia, to have too.' 'My son loves kids' bands like the Wiggles,' says Nolan, 39, of the Australian kids' sensation (see related story on Page 20). 'The Wiggles are great at what they do. But I think parents sometimes think 'I'm going to go insane if I hear this song one more time.' Hopefully that's where we fill in the gap.' There's already a long line waiting to fill any gaps and spaces available in the Sippy Cups. Since demand for the group's performances have expanded past the Bay Area and into Grass Valley and Santa Cruz, the original drummer and bass player were replaced by five new members: puppet mistress Jen Kantor, keyboardist Alison Faith Levy, bassist Adam Donkin and drummer Joe Becker. The Sippy Cups get musicians offering their services after every gig. 'Check this out,' says Godwin pointing to a binder full of post-gig requests and comments. 'I'm available as guitarist with cow suit,' reads one applicant. 'I can be backup singer!' begs another. The response to the Sippy Cups has been overwhelmingly positive -- with one exception. Godwin's son was reprimanded by a preschool teacher after being caught singing the lyrics to the Ramones' 'I Wanna Be Sedated.' 'They said, 'Bodhi, that's not appropriate,' ' says the clearly proud papa. 'So now we changed the lyrics to 'I wanna be elated.' ' The Sippy Cups hope to reach a national audience as part of their next phase. A puppet show gig based on Pink Floyd's 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' album, performed in it's entirety, is in the works. Kind of their rock- opera move. Think the Wiggles meets Blue Man Group with an edgy, interactive and grander scale, they say. 'It's not like we're against Disney entertainment or the folky bluegrass stuff that is traditionally associated with children's music,' Verlander says. 'That's nice and natural music. But you're never going to hear us playing 'Kumbaya.' '