David Byrne at his most eccentrically kinetic has nothing on the dancers who take over RecordBar for two hours one Friday a month. From 6 to 8 p.m. on those evenings, enthusiastic music fans dress in bright colors and shake and spin and bop, making for the city's most literally happy happy hour. They're not the usual moving targets for the venue's servers, either.
I wasn't trained for this, say the eyes of a young woman who has just managed to avoid a catastrophic tray spill as she pulls up short to keep from running into someone. She smiles. The patron she has dodged was underfoot because he — like the majority of the others darting around the room — is a child. A child who's all but running laps around RecordBar. And what, exactly, has turned all of these kids (and more than a few of their parents) into playing, dancing, shouting obstacles?
That would be the quartet onstage, wearing matching red-and-white bowling shirts and playing music to the accompaniment of bubble machines and projected cartoons. The footage shows the four men tooling around in a red-on-white sports car, playing their instruments and bouncing through scenes that call to mind late-1960s Hanna-Barbera, with a touch of Mike Judge.
The band, called the Doo-Dads, is composed of men in touch with their inner children despite receding hairlines (or all-out baldness) and more than a touch of gray. They all wear blue-tinted glasses.
And what is it about this music, one parent asks Doo-Dad bass player Matt Kesler, that causes waitress-stymieing wildness? Sitting around a barroom table later, this band of brothers has no problem answering the question in unrehearsed unison: "That's rock!"
Specifically, organ-bright, four-piece garage rock akin to that of, say, the great Sir Douglas Quintet. In fact, any rock-and-roll fan who attends a Doo-Dads show quickly comes to see that there's not much difference between what's happening here and what happens at a show by his or her favorite "adult" artist. The Doo-Dads reach back to rockabilly, mix a Bo Diddley beat here, fire up some Count Five psychedelia there, and never stray far from the tattered pop of the Ramones. They concentrate on originals but also cover children's favorites. The home-brewed porch-swing reflection "I'm So Lucky" shares set-list space with the rap-metal rave-up "Let's Potty," along with the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird," Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" and, of course, the Rivingtons' "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow."
The musicianship is first-rate. The band's "Doo-Dad Theme," for instance, begins with Kesler's surging bass riff, which gets its answer from Ken Lovern's organ, bouncing high with a glockenspiel effect. A fill from drummer Joe Gose throws everything into a tight, swift strut, further energized by sunny harmonies. Not afraid to shred a little, Mike Niewald uses his guitar to fill any gaps in the ultraviolet spectrum that aren't covered by Lovern's organ.
It's hard to imagine a Kansas City rock band covering as much territory in a given set — and covering it well — as the Doo-Dads on this Friday.
Given the members' individual pedigrees, that's no surprise. "The stars were lined up for the Doo-Dads," Niewald says. "We all played in heavy bands, cool bands that were respected and tried hard, always tried so hard to write great songs, significant songs. But we've experienced an extreme amount of joy playing for kids and seeing the reaction from them. Joe used to say it was particularly appealing to see parents dancing with their own kids."
"And singing along," Gose adds. "It's awesome."
Niewald continues: "And the thing is, you know, little kids are incredibly honest. But they would never sit there and cross their arms and go, 'You like these guys?' 'No, this sucks.' "