Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb heads to McCabe’s for a family-friendly set aimed to please both fan bases

By Michael Aushenker

4Lisa Loeb looks forward to Sunday’s return engagement to McCabe’s Guitar Shop.

“It’s an intimate space. You can interact with your audience. It’s great for a musician in there. People feel so good,” she said of the Santa Monica venue.

And she’s got a message for her audience: Bring your parents!

That’s because at this weekend’s concert, billed as a “Matinee Kids’ Show with Lisa Loeb,” the emphasis is on making kids sing and laugh.

Loeb is still most widely identified for her trademark cat-eyed glasses and “Stay (I Missed You),” the breakout song included on the soundtrack for the movie “Reality Bites.”

But it’s been a long time in music industry years since that 1994 hit and her subsequent gold records — “Tails” (1995) and the Grammy-nominated “Firecracker” (1997) — and so much has changed since then.

Loeb said she actually prefers keeping up with today’s system of disseminating songs digitally one single at a time rather than wait two years between albums.

For more than a decade, however, Loeb has also been releasing children’s albums with covers of popular tunes and original songs she’s written with various collaborators. In 2003, she recorded “Catch the Moon” and followed it up with “Camp Lisa” five years later.

The material she recorded for the 2011 children’s book (illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke) and album “Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing-Along: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs” and 2013’s “Movin’ and Shakin’: The Air Band Song and Other Toe-Tapping Tunes” happened during the same sessions, she said. “Moon” featured “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “Little Red Caboose” mixed in with standards “Oh Susanna,” “Fais Do Do” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” “Movin’ and Shakin’” puts originals “Turn It Down (The Air Band Song)” alongside “Father Abraham.”

For the pop singer, there’s something refreshing and more proactive about making music for children: “They’re not songs about broken hearts,” Loeb said.

Numbers such as “Father Abraham,” something from her summer camp days, prove to be “fun, action-packed” ditties, she said, where kids “put your hands up and on your body and see how fast you can go.”

Loeb said she loves the physicality of performing something such as “Monster Stomp” or her own “Turn It Down (The Air Band Song),” where kids can really act out.

“Not to be sexist, but they’re fun — there’s hand clapping. There’s something masculine about the song,” she said of “Monster Stomp.”

Another favorite: “The Disappointing Pancake,” in the mode of the classic “On Top of Old Smokey,” about a lowly pancake
that wasn’t served for breakfast but later
becomes an underdog hero.

“It’s always such a conglomeration of songs,” she said of her kid-friendly concerts these days. “It came to my attention to play some of my grown-up songs for the parents [during her children’s sets.]”

The San Fernando Valley resident doesn’t believe in pandering to her young audience. Loeb grew up appreciating two-tiered songs such as the New Seekers’ “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” and “Puff the Magic Dragon” — essentially folk songs that doubled as tunes accessible to kids.

A generation ago, children used to find out about Loeb’s music through their parents. Now, adults find out about her music through their kids. At 46, Loeb herself had children relatively late in life with husband Roey Hershkovitz, Conan O’Brien’s music production supervisor: Daughter Lyla Rose, who turns 5 this month, and son Emet, 2.

Loeb said she was not inspired to concoct her children’s material simply because she had kids, nor does she test her songs out on her own children.

“My son loves ‘September’ by Earth, Wind and Fire and right now my daughter’s really into [Queen’s] ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’” she said.

“I continue to make music that’s enjoyable for parents and their kids. It’s never talking down to kids,” she said. “Kids are just like grown-ups. They like some songs and they don’t like other songs.”

The Matinee Kids’ Show with Lisa Loeb starts at Sunday at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Tickets are $15, or free for kids under 2 accompanied by an adult. Call (310) 828-4497 or visit lisaloeb.com.

michael@argonautnews.com

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