AUSTIN, Texas — While thousands of adults checked the credential requirements to get into the Vampire Weekend show or staked out seating for the Flaming Lips evening concert, Oklahoma City's Sugar Free Allstars were playing for the next generation of South By Southwest fans.
Singer-organist Chris “Boom!” Wiser and drummer Rob “Dr. Rock” Martin were featured players at Friday's “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child” showcase at Tamale House East on Sixth Street, just a few blocks from the SXSW epicenter. A weekly “kindie rock” show hosted by Bill Childs and originating from Austin, “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child” regularly features Sugar Free Allstars, alongside other kid-friendly acts such as They Might Be Giants.
“We've known Bill for a long time — he's one of the founding members of the “Kindiefest” conference that we go to all the time,” Wiser said after playing a 30-minute outdoor set for a group of little rockers. “Since we're fairly close, he asked us to come down, and we did it without hesitation.”
The Sugar Free Allstars have been playing soul-infused rock since the 1990s, but Wiser and Martin started recording rock music for small fans in 2007 and found a growing niche. Friday's lunchtime show was just part of the duo's busy schedule: They will play their first orchestra show at 2 p.m. April 7 as part of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic's Discovery Family Series. The show will feature orchestrations by Nathan Siler of the Fellowship Students and Portraiture. They will play KindieFest April 26-28 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and will stage their own family music festival in Oklahoma City, titled Wiggle Out Loud, on Sept. 1 at downtown's Bicentennial Park, featuring the Verve Pipe.
Wiser said kid-oriented pop and rock music became a serious genre because bands such as SFAS and the Verve Pipe — which enjoyed success in 1996 with its Top 5 hit, “The Freshmen” — wanted to make music for kids that was just as good as what adults enjoy, but with more relatable subject matter. He said the “Spare the Rock” showcase and the growth of KindieFest are signs the genre will only get bigger.
“It's like a ‘family music has arrived' kind of thing,” Wiser said.