Bouncing Souls frontman Greg Attonito joins singer-songwriter-spouse and PLAYDATE partner Shanti Wintergate for a special all-ages party celebrating the release of IMAGINATION, the debut “kindie-rock” release from the creators of the kids’ book I WENT FOR A WALK.
This one’s just TOO made to order: an event and an ongoing story that touches the aged punk rocker within us; by extension the clueless “cool parent,” and particularly the guy who worked for years in the cut-throat, mercenary world of children’s publishing — designing, copywriting and ghost-illustrating titles in the Clifford the Big Red Dog and Bill Cosby’s Little Bill series, among other things.
Most of all, this is a NEIGHBORHOOD story for us — said nabe being the eastern end of Fourth Avenue in Asbury Park, where we make our home (and our lonely writer’s garret) inside the historic haunts of the Stephen Crane House. Just cattycorner ‘cross the street from Crane’s Crib is the rambling, whimsically arcane ‘n eldritch place known as Little Eden — world headquarters/ clubhouse to The Bouncing Souls and the epicenter of that always-amazing combo’s Chunksaah Records empire. Wave to proud proprietress and Souls den mother Kate as you stroll past, then proceed down the street to the Fellini-esque pageant that we can all call our Corner Bar — everyone’s retro tenpins taproom (turned alterna-arts odditorium) Asbury Lanes.
It’s here on the sprawling steps of Little Eden — one of those majestically seedy old Asbury houses; combining the grooviest attributes of The Monkee’s TV pad, the Sanctum of Doctor Strange, the House of 1000 Corpses and your favorite aunt’s sunlit, frozen-in-time “cottage” — that Souls singer Greg Attonito is joined by his collaborator in the “kindie-rock” project known as Playdate, wife and singer-songwriter-actress Shanti Wintergate. And it’s there at the Lanes that the co-creators of the children’s book I Went for a Walk will set up shop on the afternoon of Saturday, October 20, for a special kid-friendly show celebrating the release of the debut Playdate CD, Imagination.
Now, the connection between the seemingly disparate realms of punk/alternative and children’s music could be said to have been unofficially bridged years ago by the Ramones and the Dickies — and former Del Fuegos frontguy Dan Zanes has bagged a bushel of Grammys for his various ventures into “family friendly folk.” There’s even been a well-received documentary on the phenomenon of the Punk Rock Dad called The Other F Word — a film that featured the Bouncing Souls track “Kids and Heroes,” as well as a cameo contribution by the Souls’ own Michael McDermott, who co-hosted a screening of the doc last year at The ShowRoom.
But with Playdate, Gregory Attonito stakes out a project that exists quite independent of his fervently followed “night” gig, and which grew organically from his working relationship with creative/life partner Wintergate. It’s a journey-to-the-center-of-the-kid-mind that’s perhaps rendered more impressive by the fact that the couple don’t have children of their own, although “we have a lot of kids in our lives” (and come to think of it, no less an authority than Dr. Seuss preferred to live a life of “you make ’em, I amuse ’em”).
“My nephew told his teacher that we were musicians,” says Greg in discussing the origins of what would gradually coalesce into Playdate. “So, we came to the school with no plan, we made up a song on the spot — and we left there feeling pretty inspired.”
Author Shanti and illustrator Greg had been conducting small-scale reading events (like this one) for their book — an imaginative day-trip that stretches from the far reaches of the solar system to the innerspace world within a dish of moldy lasagna — when they began to augment their presentations with original songs. In between the Bouncing Souls’ own recording projects, festival appearances and worldwide excursions (the band celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2009 with what McDermott called “a conscious effort…to circumvent the globe”), the future Playdaters toured various places in the U.S., composing along the way some one dozen tunes to accompany and complement the readings — although it would be several years before the finished songs would see the light of release, and in this case NOT as part of the Chunksaah catalog.
As Greg explains, “We started to get focused on the Playdate songs, and we decided to get in touch with Mike Park” — the punk-rock veteran honcho of kindie-rock imprint Fun Fun Records, and as such someone with connections to distributors who were experienced in the genre (not to mention the fact that “he’s got actual kids”).
Recorded “in house” at Little Eden Studio (with producer and Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf at the controls), the Playdate release Imagination dropped officially on October 9, packed with upbeat numbers like the “esteem boosting anthem” known as “Rad,” the quirkily edu-taining “Number Song,” and the B-52s-y new wave workout “Dance Like a Monster.” The disc is the centerpiece of the Saturday afternoon event, for which the Lanes doors open at 12:30pm and a special session of family bowling follows the 1pm show, from 3-4pm.
Also promised are door prizes, dancing, an open juice bar, kids’ meals, interactive games (including a bean-bag toss), and an art project that invites young attendees to custom-decorate paper table coverings. Greg’s brother in law Matt will join Lanes DJ “other” Matt at the spiral scratch — and, for the first time anywhere in public, Greg and Shanti will screen an animated version of I Went for a Walk, adapted by Jesse Cordtz and featuring soundtrack music by Playdate.
“It’s all just come together, out of pure inspiration,” says Shanti of the multi-platform, multimedia project that is Playdate. “This is the first thing I’ve been involved with, where I felt something behind it that takes ‘me’ out of the picture…it really feels like I’m doing something for somebody else.”
Admission to the October 20 Playdate event is $5 per child (parents/ guardians admitted free) — and adults without kids are welcome too, for an admission charge of $10. More info and tix available from the Chunksaah website — then come back to the Lanes later that night, when the Bouncing Souls present a record release event for Chunksaah artists Luther, with The Arteries, Brimstone AND the final show of Static Radio NJ. Tickets are $12 at the door, which opens up at 8pm.