Almost Famous, The Mom’s Night Out Edition with Whole Damn Mess

candlebox ticketsSo long guys! The Mom Blog gig has been great, but I’m outta here.  Gonna become a rock journalist.

OK, maybe not, but I did get to experience a minor Cameron Crowe moment when I was invited to a meet and greet with Whole Damn Mess before the Candlebox show at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. I’m going to be honest and let you know I had to Google Candlebox. There’s just a blur of the early ’90s for me that involves raves, pigtails, giant pants and the thumping beat of “boots n hats and boots n hats.” And speaking of “the whole damn mess,” that’s a pretty accurate description of what I had to let happen just to get ready for the night. I let the toddler get into the stack of board games he’s been forbidden to touch, and it kept him pretty entertained while I put on make-up and did my hair.

cranium game toddler mess
Now THAT’s a whole damn mess

Whole Damn Mess only recently released their albumThe Queen and the Outcast, so the media person who contacted me helpfully sent some links to their music. I took a moment to actually listen to several songs before accepting the invite, because I value my journalistic integrity and knew I couldn’t just pretend to like it if I thought it was terrible.

And, I liked it! Like, right away. The sound was familiar, but the songs were new. It was kind of like when you meet someone new and already feel like old friends. After getting to meet and chat with front man Don Miggs and band members/co-writers C. Todd Nielsen and Lawrence Katz, it became pretty clear that they had managed to create exactly the sound they were going for. According to Miggs, their goal was to “make music that’s easy to listen to, but not easy listening.” All the band members cited several favorite bands as inspiration, plucking from different decades, and explained how they wanted to create a sound that brings it all together, the classic and the new. That theme also carried over to their album cover art, featuring a juxtaposition between classical and modern art.

Whole Damn Mess

My friend Jenna and I arrived nice and early so I got to chat with the band for a good 45 minutes before the show, as different band members wandered in and out of the dressing room, bringing pizza and beer and using an impressive amount of hairspray as they prepped. Nielsen and Katz looked straight outta Riverside (Jacksonville peeps will get it) while Miggs’ look was a little more on the L.A. side.

Candy Keane
No really, I know who this band is…

I was wearing my favorite KISS t-shirt, which is always something of a conversation starter. I’ve been a KISS fan since I was little and my mom went to their concert. To four-year-old me, with their white make-up and costumes, I thought they looked like fun singing clowns. (and I mean that in the best possible way) Unfortunately I lost all KISS cred when a member of the other opening band, State to State, asked me my favorite KISS album and I totally blanked. The answer is of course, Destroyer, but all I could do was picture the album cover and answering “the one where they look like they’re all dancing together” seemed like a bad choice. So I all I managed to do was mumble and turn red. Dammit! I wasn’t prepared to be the interviewee.

There was a good amount of back and forth during the interview though, as I found Miggs to be a totally likable, relatable guy. During my pre-show research, I noticed a trend of WDM album reviews popping up on a lot of “mom blogs” and asked about the correlation and their target audience. Yep, that’s us! Once you dig into the lyrics you’ll find many songs inspired by Miggs’ wife and children, even one called “Be Good to Yourself” that came from his wife’s struggle with post-partum depression. With two young sons, Miggs is no stranger to the world of parental struggles and even co-wrote a book calledDads Know Best, filled with quotes on fatherhood from both famous and everyday dads.

As it moved closer to show time, the guys swigged a little tequila out of a flask, as they got ready to perform their very first show together. While everyone had an accomplished musical background, this would be the first time in a long time any of them were going to be part of the “opening, opening band” or the first in a set of three. The fact that they were going on so early, with a recently released album, set the tone for the performance and you could really feel that they were just going out there to have fun. This wasn’t just checking off the box and going to work. It was the culmination of their hard work and they were going to get to share it and introduce it to a whole new group of people.

Jenna and I got a spot near the stage, in a good vantage point to see both the show and crowd watch. The room was about half full when they started, and completely packed by the time they finished. I noticed there were some ladies up front singing every word and when I asked about them later, Miggs mentioned he had some fans from his previous band, aptly named MIGGS, that came out to see the new band perform. And those weren’t the only people I noticed getting into it. There was a lot of foot tapping and head bobbing throughout the crowd as they worked their way through a short 30 minute set from their new album.

It seemed to take only a couple minutes for the band to warm up and find their groove and just have fun up there. Miggs made it look easy, deftly handling some initial technical difficulties while not missing a beat. I was doing a bit of bouncing myself and even sang along a bit to the extremely catchy “We Don’t Need a Reason.” I can say that I truly enjoyed the show. We actually headed home only a few songs into Candlebox’s set because it was getting close to 10:30 and we are after all, stereotypically tired moms that have to get up early even if we go out and live out our rock journalist dreams for the evening. Also, wow, there’s a lot of screaming in those Candlebox songs. My ears could only take so much. How’s that for sounding old?

And that’s where Whole Damn Mess comes in. I could have listened to them a lot longer, and that’s what they want. They don’t need to scream their message at you. They just want to make music you can enjoy listening to and maybe even put on when the kids let you listen to something other than Elmo’s Greatest Hits. Even my toddler decided to sing along when I was sampling songs, instead of yelling at me to turn it off like usual. I think that’s a good sign right there. The hard to earn, rarely given on things not made of chocolate, toddler stamp of approval.

Tinkering around at Tinkergarten

img_8833Our adventure today was a Tinkergarten class, held at Cradle Creek Preserve in Jacksonville Beach, FL. Tinkergarten is an outdoor learning experience held at local parks, where kids 18 months – 8 years learn through play and exploring the outdoors. They have it set up in 43 states so far, so check out the website to find a class near you. They offer a free trial class, so we signed up to give it a try and ventured out on a cloudy drizzly Wednesday morning to go get our nature on.

We arrived nice and early and then discovered there were no bathrooms. As soon as I learn there are no bathrooms somewhere, I always suddenly, urgently have to pee. I wasn’t up for squatting in the woods (at least not this time) so we took a quick detour to the gas station and headed back. Our class leader Sara said she was looking into moving it to a different park with better amenities and parking. There were only maybe 4 spots in the lot, but you can park on the side of the street.

We got started with a little song and then read a story that just happened to be my favorite book from kindergarten, Stone Soup. After the story, the kids got to participate in making their own version of stone soup using dirt, sticks, leaves and whatever else they could scavenge. My favorite part was when they added the “seasonings” from a bag of lavender that smelled heavenly.

The age range for our class was about 2 – 5, so it was hectic but fun. There were wanderers and the occasional tantrum breakdown, but overall all the kids seemed to enjoy it. Keelan wasn’t sure at first, but after a few minutes he got really into making his “soup” with water and dirt and even went back for extra seasonings.

I’m waiting to hear if the class is going to be moved to a park with bathrooms before we sign up. I really did like getting to visit the nature preserve location because there weren’t any other distractions around, but I can’t be peeing in the bushes. I mean, I just met these people and it’s not exactly a kegger in the woods. 😆

Check out their website Tinkergarten.com to see if there is a class near you, and if not, you can also sign up to be a class leader in your area. I’m actually looking into that myself since I’d like to get paid to play outside with the kiddo!

Bay and Bee Play Space

Back in April Bay and Bee offered a “buy two months get one free special,” so I thought it would be a great chance to check it out and really let us get to know it before committing to a regular monthly membership. It’s a Montessori inspired, eco-friendly indoor play space for children under 5, located in Jacksonville, FL.

img_4376They have a great play space with tons of toys, a wooden train set that you can use to build different tracks, a play kitchen area, lots of blocks and creative toys, and a little jungle gym in the middle.

I was really looking forward to trying all the classes they offer from Sway and Play Yoga to sign language. Unfortunately Keelan lasted about 30 seconds in yoga and ran out of the room, and I couldn’t get him to sit still and pay attention to any of the demonstrations. He participated a tiny bit in the art class. But as usual it was not the amazing mom and son activity time I had imagined. He mostly just wanted to run off and play with the dump truck.

It is a great place to go on a rainy day or when it’s too hot or too cold to play outside. Other than that I want to wait until Keelan is more interested in classes before getting a membership again. I feel like you need to do those to really make the most out of the cost of the membership which starts at $48/mo.

If you are interested in checking it out, your first visit is free!

Bay & Bee
13475 Atlantic Blvd
Jacksonville, FL 32266
(904)221-1900

 

 

The Hands On Adventure

IMG_4084Our toddler adventure for today was at the Hands On Children’s Museum in Jacksonville, FL. I went in expecting it to be on the science-y side, but it ended up being more like a museum of real life.  There was a grocery store, bank, veterinarian, cafe, theater, etc. I’m not really sure where the “museum” part comes in… maybe because it has been there for 17 years? Lol

Everything was a little old and beat up, and it was hot and some stuff was stinky, but you know who doesn’t care about any of that? A two-year-old. So I just took a step back and let him go crazy and play with everything. We’ve got to kick that immune system into high gear for our impending date with preschool anyway!

It’s definitely worth checking out if you live in Jacksonville. We were there a couple hours and K didn’t want to leave! I think it’s odd that parents have to pay $5.50 to sit and watch their kid, so essentially that made it a $9.50 visit. But overall worth the trip since I had a tired baby afterwards!

Like a Toddler in a China Shop

In my big effort to “get out there and do stuff,” I signed us up for a handprint ornament class at one of those make it and paint it pottery places. In other words, I took a toddler to a fragile land of no-no filled with colorful animals, flowers and even tanks and video game controllers that he can’t touch! In case you are wondering how fun it is with a 19 month old, well on a scale of 1-10…it’s maybe a 3. And that’s if you just really like arts and crafts. And chasing toddlers. We spent 10% of our time on the handprint and 90% of the time it was me chasing him around going “No Touch! No Touch!”

It all sounded so lovely – a story time with snack and drink, followed by creating a pottery piece that went with the story. Unfortunately they started with the crafty part, so by the time the story time came he was WAY over it. Then the snack and drink were terribly inappropriate for his age group. Little hard gummy bear type things and juice in a small Styrofoam cup that he immediately grabbed and tried to crush in his tiny toddler hands as it sloshed all over my lap. I quickly ate all the gummy bears, took the shot of juice and then gave him a pouch from home. Oddly enough the only thing he didn’t try to crush was his handprint. I could barely make a dent. I was starting to worry I was hurting him, trying to cram his hand into the clay.

Other highlights include a kid peeing his pants in the corner and a mom who thought a loud airplane might be a tornado. I’m serious. She went outside to check the clouds.

So in just a couple weeks we will get a lovely $18 handprint turned Santa ornament to mark this occasion. I’m glad we tried it, but it will be a little while before we try it again. It is making me reconsider the $90 art class I’ve been eyeing. Maybe save that for a couple months from now…

I’m glad I didn’t stick around for the footprint (an additional $18) because I found this nifty idea online on how you can do the exact same thing at home for free:

santaornament