Bring on the kids

Accordions, chick keyboard players, and ironic-mustached men move over. Incorporating children’s choirs into the mix seem to be the thing to do now. The Decemberists (listen), Karen O. (listen) and Dead Man’s Bones are just a few of the bands that exhibit this trend.

And as far as I’m concerned, kids singing along to ‘adult’ music seems to be such a better idea than adults singing songs meant for kids a la Kidz Bop or something of that nature. (I am still scarred by Kathie Lee Gifford’s painful rendition of a song on a Winnie the Pooh soundtrack my brother used to listen to as a toddler.)

In particular, I’ve been listening a lot to the Dead Man’s Bones album lately, which features the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children’s Choir on many of the songs. Now, I realize these children’s choirs may seem gimmicky, annoying, or just plain out weird for some, but unlike Karen O’s Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack (which I discussed recently here), the Dead Man’s Bones album manages to avoid falling into the trap of being overly whimsical, and the adult vocals are nowhere near as jarring as Karen O’s shrill singing. Instead, we are left with a delightfully ghoulish and creative group of songs highlighting heartbreak and the day-to-day concerns of the dead and the dying.

I was just lucky enough to witness Dead Man’s Bones live at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, and let’s just say it was an interesting show. They didn’t book a normal opening act such as a band that compliments their music style. Nope, that would be too obvious; too routine. Instead, the band allegedly put the word out that they were looking to showcase local talent, so when I arrived, I witnessed quite a few strange acts that included, juggling with swords, time traveling, ghoulish behavior, strange contortion, and exotic dancing.

Dead Man's Bones posing with a Children's Choir

Dead Man's Bones posing with a Children's Choir

For the show itself, the beautiful people of Dead Man’s Bones (which features Zach Shields and actor Ryan Gosling) were joined on stage by no less than seventeen kids from St. Peter’s church choir in Philadelphia. Each wore a white robe with a hood and had his or her face painted to make them look like skeletons. In the low light and black light… let’s just say, the effect was creepy… but in a delightful way. The kids were adorable and their vocal contribution was quite compelling.

One of the high points came near the end of the show when a young girl of maybe 12 or 13 stepped forward to enact her own death as a drum beat simulated a gun shot. Gosling and Shields then held up a white sheet in front of her as images of her memories and ‘afterlife’ were projected onto it. Then, the sheet dropped down and the girl came back to life to sing a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” as the crowd went wild with applause.

Sure, the show wasn’t perfect. It seems like Gosling and Shields are still working on how to translate their music into a live, theatrical setting, but even though the band’s live sound wasn’t quite on par with the album version of their songs just yet, both the children’s choir and Ryan Gosling himself, sure helped make it a memorable evening. Gosling looked so excited and proud during the show as he paced the stage and directed the choir. It was pretty adorable–even the part where I got pelted in the neck by a Snickers thrown by a twelve-year-old in the choir who was violently reverse trick-or-treating. So worth it.

**See my original assessment of Dead Man’s Bones here.


2 Responses to “Bring on the kids”

  1. 1 Peter Hopkins October 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the show! The children’s choir was actually from St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia. The NY choir that had originally planned on turned out to be a fake, so we came up at the last minute, the kids had a thrilling experience, and Ryan and Zach were just an nice and supportive of the kids offstage as they were on. My daughter, Hannah, was the soloist for “Bang, Bang.”

    Peter Hopkins

  2. 2 rachelkowal October 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Thanks for your comment! I’m glad to hear that the kids had a good experience. I think Hannah’s solo was definitely a high point of the show. I’d love to see any pictures you have from the show to include them on my blog (with your permission of course). My email is

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"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."

- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being


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