We have been curious for awhile about these You Who shows everyone keeps mentioning – so we reached out to co-creator Chris Funk and he was happy to answer some of our burning questions! You can see them live at McMenamin’s Kennedy School on Mothers Day – May 13th at 1pm. Laura Veirs and the Tumble Bees are the featured band! Details here. And if you’re not familiar with Laura Veirs, read our review of Tumble Bee here.
Q. Tell us a little about when, how and why you started You Who Portland.
A. My wife and I, Seann McKeel, started it 3 years ago, so we just ending our 3rd season of it with this show (starts again in September!). We started it as new parents who were looking for something new to do with our daughter having felt like we had exhausted our kid options in town. Or more specifically, we just were doing the same things with our daughter, especially during the rainy months.
Also, we felt like there was a lacking in musical events that parents could access with their children; most concerts are too loud, or too late, or you couldn’t find a sitter, or couldn’t afford it as a family. So we addressed all those “cant’s” by hosting rock concerts for families that were very affordable and in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I think we will always be challenged to find a time that works with everyone’s nap schedules, and it took us a while to figure out what a reasonable sound level was for the first few shows. But now we have it down!
Last, Portland is recognized as an “arts Mecca” by so many people. We just wanted to get kids in front of that in another format for them to experience …and I suppose a little disguised so parents could get out to see cool concerts as the bands play their regular sets.
Q. Tell us what happens at a You Who show – a run through of the day from doors opening to closing.
Doors open at noon, which is when our DJ Anjali spins dance music from India. We always have an extensive themed and directed art area for kids to get to work at while mom and dad can grab a beer and some pizza. Then at 1pm, our house band Sneakin’ Out plays a few songs which sound something like bluegrass meets a cartoon from the 1940s. Then it’s off to the races with our variety show which features animation, magic, folk, hip hop, comedy, puppets. Then our feature band performs, which over the years have included The Shins (last month), The Decemberists, Dandy Warhols, Blitzen Trapper, Quasi, Fruit Bats, Sallie Ford, on and on.
Q. What do you love best about putting on You Who shows?
A. It’s starting to have the feeling of church, and in this case it would be “rock church” I guess. What I mean is that it’s taking a cast of people on stage and in the audience that we see from our community every time. And when parents come up and tell us how they and their kids look forward to the shows, that’s really great to feel like we are adding something to a family’s experience together for a few hours.
Q. What do kids love best about You Who shows? How about parents?
A. For kids, the art, the giant owls that are our mascots of sorts, and the bubble machine – that thing drives kids into a frenzy! For parents, I think it’s really the music and being able to set your kid down in a carpeted theater that doesn’t smell like beer or is full of drunks at a rock show, knowing that you can enjoy a band and your child is happy.
Q. What’s next for You Who?
A. This last show of the year with Laura Veirs on May 13th, and then we start all over again next September, so the owls have a nice summer break!