GRAND PRAIRIE -- At the entrance of Verizon Theatre Friday night, Timothy Islas and Jade Aparicio were intently studying the instructions on how to get access to the VIP meet-and-greet of their current favorite band.
The North Texas couple had made special T-shirts to mark the occasion and was hoping the band members would sign them.
"We're not sure if they'll let us," Islas said.
For the VIP treatment, they paid more than $100 each to gain access to one of the hottest concert tours this year and they didn't have to hire a babysitter because their toddler son, Rylan, was with them sporting the same T-shirt emblazoned with "The Fresh Beat Band."
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With sold-out shows in many cities across the country, Islas and Aparicio weren't the only parents who went through great lengths to watch their children scream, sing and dance along to Nickelodeon's popular TV quartet in their first live concert tour, which The New York Times called "Beatlemania for Tots."
For the uninitiated, the Nick Jr. show centers on four friends who perform as The Fresh Beat Band. Shout (Thomas Hobson) plays the keyboard, Marina (Tara Perry) plays the drums, Kiki (Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer) plays guitar and Twist is a beat-box machine (Jon Beavers). The show, created by the husband-and-wife team of Scott Kraft and Nadine van der Velde, follows the four as they learn about music and solve problems -- through song and dance. Think of it as a mini-me version of Glee.
What's been instrumental to the show and the tour's success has been the array of pop-worthy, happy tunes that parents aren't embarrassed to sing aloud. Some of the songs have hit No. 1 on the iTunes children's songs chart including Just Like a Rockstar, which is still in the Top 10. A compilation CD was released last month called The Fresh Beat Band: Music From the Hit TV Show.
At Verizon on Friday night, it seemed like everyone knew the words to every song of that CD. The frenetic energy that occurred when The Fresh Beat Band hit the stage was addictive. The opening number was the familiar theme show tune that introduces each character by name.
Hobson warmed up the crowd with a quick rendition of Deep in the Heart of Texas, then the Fresh Beats revved up for a fast-paced half hour of their greatest hits including Stomp the House, A Friend Like You and I Can Do Anything.
Each transition from one song to the next included a little lesson on friendship or problem solving or music -- the core subject matters from the TV show. The segues were seamless and the band members were so attentive to the audience. Perry was especially good at making eye contact with the kids and seemed so much perkier in person than on the show. Beavers as Twist, the resident goof-ball on the show, carried that persona on the stage. When he began the set-up for the boppy Bananas, even the adults were yelling out "Bananas." Of course, the youngsters went wild and things got really crazy when the 6-foot-5 Twist walked up one of the aisles and was immediately swarmed by dozens of little ones screaming "Twist."
The four back-up dancers didn't get to show off all the impressive moves indicative of the well-choreographed TV show, however, they displayed the same upbeat, high-octane energy that surrounded the entire live performance.
After intermission, the band exploded onto the stage with Just Like a Rock Star, which is getting heavy rotation on Nick Jr. because of Rock Star month. For those wondering, they did bring up a little girl from the audience to wear the Rock Star jacket, just like in the video. Then, it was another 30 minutes of fan faves including Reach for the Sky and Another Perfect Day. In all, the band performed 16 of the 20 songs from the CD.
The night was capped off with Here We Go, but as every Fresh Beats fan knows, the show isn't over until their signature Great Day comes on. So, it was a nice surprise to get a bonus rendition of Twist and Shout popularized by that other Fab Four, The Beatles.
If I'm going to be honest, I didn't care for the huge bouncy beach balls that were thrown into the audience during Twist and Shout and continued through the end of the show. To me it distracted from the build-up to one of my personal favorites, Great Day. For me, the show lost some of the interpersonal connection it had so admirably displayed throughout the show.
Although most of the audience knew every word of every song by heart, it would have been nice to see the lyrics displayed on the screens behind the band (I'm writing this for the adults in the audience, of course. Kids don't need the help.)
But these are minor misgivings.
It would be easy to dismiss the band as just a kiddie act but it's evident when watching the live concert how talented these young people are. Not only can they act and dance, they all play instruments. The vocal standouts for the night were Hobson, who really can belt out that high note on Bananas, and Gonzalez-Nacer, whose voice in the acoustic version of Shine was sublime. Not to be outdone, Beavers' rapping is the real deal and Perry's performance and drum playing were in sync with the mood of the night -- utter elation.
With so many reality TV shows vying for attention, it's refreshing to see truly talented young people express genuine pride and joy in what they're doing.
As parents know, toddlers are bundles of unfettered emotion. The beauty of The Fresh Beat Band is that they are able to evoke such positive expressions from those who can't even form sentences yet.
By the end of the night, the aisles on both sides of me were filled with mini-rockers and their adult chaperones. They were jumping, screaming, singing and laughing. For one night, parents set aside their scolding, sleep times and a little sanity to dance side-by-side with their daughters and sons.
To see your children in such extreme happiness -- that's worth every penny.
IF YOU GO:
Here are some things you should know if you're going to a Fresh Beat Band show:
What should I do if the show is sold out?
A second tour leg was added last month but there were no Texas sites listed. So, your best bet is to go to nearby cities where tickets are still available. Here are some cities that would be doable as one-day trips for folks in DFW: Tulsa, OK, May 10; New Orleans, LA, Oct. 27; and Baton Rouge, LA, Oct. 28. Or maybe it's time to see some out-of-state relatives?
Money's tight so traveling isn't an option. Could I still get base-level price tickets?
The surprising answer to that question is yes! Venues/promoters hold seats for VIP guests (family, media, etc.) Sometimes, the seats go unfilled and the venues release the tickets to the general public at the last minute -- even for sold-out shows. This was the case when I checked on the Sunday, May 5 performances at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie. On Saturday morning, I would have still been able to book 4 seats (together!) at the $37.50 base price ($199.80 for a family of 4 including fees and taxes) for the 1 p.m. show. Of course, you could also go the stubhub or ebay route, but ticket prices tend to be more inflated. Also, don't forget to budget for parking. At Verizon, parking was $15.
Can I still get VIP tickets to the shows and do the kids need to pay the same price?
Unfortunately, there are a limited number of VIP tickets available (150-200) per show and they've sold out quickly. If you were lucky enough to get tickets, you know that each member of your party, including the little ones, had to pay full price for that special treatment.
How long is the show?
The official run time is two 25-minute acts and one 15-minute intermission. I clocked the Friday night show at 1 hour and 15 minutes. Also, if you have VIP tickets, plan on spending extra time because the meet-and-greets are usually after the show.
What should I bring to the show?
Most venues are a little chilly so it's good to bring light sweaters or jackets for the kids. Check with the venue to make sure that cameras/cell phones are allowed before you go. Most music acts don't allow videotaping during a performance so be sure to check in that as well. To save money, eat lunch or dinner before the show.
Is the Rock Star jacket available to purchase?
Yes, for $50 but the folks sitting in front of us said there were a limited amount of sizes. T-shirts are $25 and posters are $10. One complaint I heard from parents was that T-shirts didn't come in adult sizes. Hint, hint Nickelodeon. If you find yourself having to take a potty break during intermission or unable to stand in the long lines for souvenirs, there are T-shirts, CDs and posters available for the same prices on nickjr.com
How do I get more information about The Fresh Beat Band or the tour?
THE FRESH BEAT BAND, BANANAS, MAY 4, 2012, VERIZON THEATRE