When DJ Lance Rock bursts on stage wearing his trademark orange tracksuit, faux-fur hat and big warm grin shouting, “let’s get this party started!” he’s not just talking to the kids bouncing around in the audience. Live or on television, the host of Yo Gabba Gabba is just as likely to introduce bands like the Shins, the Roots, MGMT or the Flaming Lips to his Super Music Friends segment as he is to sing his pro-veggie favourite ‘Party in my Tummy’. Either way, parents and kids can’t get enough. In 2010, Lance and his colourful crew had grown adults chanting “everybody wash your hands!” at Coachella. In their upcoming Australian tour, the team will make its way down to Tasmania’s left-field arts festival Dark Mofo. If this doesn’t demonstrate the show’s grown-up appeal, then we don’t know what does.
“I feel like a lot of kids’ music condescends to them,” says Lance Robertson. “I don’t understand why.” Before the show premiered on Nickelodeon in 2007, Yo Gabba Gabba’s creators began by questioning the idea that ‘grown up’ music can’t appeal to kids. After all, what child wouldn’t enjoy learning to beat box with rapper Biz Markie in the segment Biz’s Beat of the Day? And what’s stopping comedian Sarah Silverman from showing off her excellent mime skills to kids?
At the time, Lance Robertson was a musician and former record store owner – but quickly took to the huge gestures and wide-eyed enthusiasm of his character, DJ Lance Rock. Under the direction of co-creator (and dad) Christian Jacobs – often seen squeezed into a blue spandex suit in alt-rock band the Aquabats – the show became a fusion of music and life lessons. Set in DJ Lance’s candy-coloured toy box, each episode explores a different topic, including Adventure, Friend or Dance.
The live shows follow a similar format to the television show. In past Australian shows, bands like Art vs. Science, Dappled Cities and Little Red shared the stage with DJ Lance’s friends Brobee, Foofa, Muno, Toodee and Plex. “I’ve actually stayed friends with Art vs. Science!” he says.
This time around, Robertson will be joined by the very unexpected Adalita. Don't get us wrong – we love the former Magic Dirt songstress and her hard-edged rock music – but her smoldering on-stage presence wasn't what we'd have predicted for Yo Gabba Gabba. For some, encountering her softer side could be reason enough to buy tickets to this show.
When Time Out asks whether Roberton's trying to inspire a new generation of hipsters, the host replies that he’s “just hoping to inspire a new generation of music lovers, period”. In the end, perhaps Yo Gabba Gabba’s philosophy is as simple as the words DJ Lance Rock repeats almost every episode: “listening and dancing to music is… awesome!”