Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gabba returns for unforgettable show

When Yo Gabba Gabba announced its return to Charlotte this year, I felt like this might be our last time seeing the Gabba gang live. My oldest son will be 6 this winter and his brother isn't far behind. While Nick Jr.'s "Yo Gabba Gabba" was a near 24/7 fixture in our home for the first four and half years of their lives, they have already moved on to other entertainment from superheroes to other Nick Jr. shows that are now in more regular rotation than Gabba like "The Bubble Guppies" and "Paw Patrol." Those shows are fine, but I doubt I'll ever embrace a children's TV show the way our family embraced "Gabba." We are a pop culture family and Gabba is pop culture incorporating `80s video games, indie rock, skateboarding, Puff N Stuff-style creatures, and music that is more contemporary than kiddie (my favorites are the title songs to the episodes "Flying" and "Big").

Sunday's show at Ovens Auditorium marked my older son's fifth time seeing it live and his brother's third. We went the first time in 2010 when my son was only one and a half. We sprung for VIP passes that first time and had our picture taken with the gang, but Sunday's show at Ovens was the first time I felt like my kids were comfortable enough to really let loose.

Sunday wasn't without a hiccup though. The earlier show was interrupted by the massive power outage. When we arrived DJ Lance, Leslie Hall and the characters were holding an impromptu meet and greet to pass the time and reward patient toddlers. WSOCTV reported that attendees were offered tickets to the later show in exchange as well.

The format hasn't changed much over the years, but as co-creator Christian Jacobs stated in our recent interview, this year's tour is more about the series' greatest hits and plays more like a participatory concert than a typical kid's show. More so than years past I felt like it hit on more songs in quick succession - like they were trying to cram in as many favorites as possible. Kids' songs are short and they zipped through "Party in My Tummy," "Get the Sillies Out," and "Dancey Dance" and combined "Try It, You'll Like It," "Jumpy Jump," and "Don't Bite Your Friends" into a medley.

Regular tour guest Leslie Hall joined in for "All My Friends are Different" and led the "Razzle Dazzle" dance, which was a big hit with kids bouncing and dancing in the aisles. Gabba is the only place you can witness spastic dancing, sleeping babies, meltdowns, and literal rolling in the aisles simultaneously. I'd heard of rolling in the aisles, but I'd never seen it until a little boy did a forward roll down the inclined walkway beside me. Gabba creates unbridled elation for children. For a parent it's hard to keep your eyes on the stage when so many cute kids are freaking out around you.

Speaking of freaking out, I was sitting there filming my kids getting the sillies out out on my phone when it happened - every Gabba mother's dream. A tour staff member tapped me on the shoulder and asked if my kids wanted to get on stage and dance. Seriously? For real? I asked them both, because you never know with kids. They might be completely petrified. I always try to hide under my seat during Blue Man or when Chris Isaak cruises the crowd for ladies. They both agreed and a little while later they were on stage beatboxing with Biz Markie in their fuzzy orange DJ Lance hats and pogoing to his classic hip-hop set. It was one of the most amazing moments.

The woman in front of me asked if we knew someone on the tour. Nope, it seemed completely random although I think maybe having an older child who they could be confident wouldn't bolt without a parent and the fact that they were dancing so animatedly - but at their seats right beside me - that their escort knew exactly who to ask for permission. Maybe it was just luck, but I'll take it.

They were returned to us safely and the show finished up just like each TV episode with a remix of the day's set. If it was, as I suspect, our last Gabba exceeded all expectations.

There is really nothing like it and, as I said, I doubt there ever will be. That age is a unique time and "Yo Gabba Gabba" is a unique show. I love sharing live music with my boys and taking them to see Against Me! and Damon Albarn earlier this year will go down in the scrapbooks, but "Yo Gabba Gabba" truly belongs to them. They know every single word, absolutely adore the cast,
and they can really let lose without the shadow of adults looming. I imagine someday when my kids are grown and I'm old and lonely, I'll watch those Gabba DVDs and sob. Heck, I may do that next year.