Dan Zanes, former frontman of the ’80s garage-pop band the Del Fuegos, now heads the group Dan Zanes and Friends, which secured a Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children with its 2006 release of “Catch That Train!” and has become a staple on Playhouse Disney. On May 30, touring in support of its two most recent albums, “¡Nueva York!” and “The Welcome Table,” the group will bring its show to Chicago’s Harris Theater for a doubleheader performance.
Going Places: How would you describe the group’s unique musical style?
Dan Zanes: I’d call it wild folk music for all ages. The goal is to spread the joy of music-making and inspire people to want to make their own music. This used to be a very musical country, but these days people are mostly consuming music and not making it themselves. It’s actually very easy to do and very rewarding.
GP: What do you get out of performing music for children and families?
DZ: Our audience is incredible-they’re great dancers; they sing along and it becomes a very communal experience. I guess the answer would be, what don’t we get out of it? It’s great to look out and see people of all different backgrounds and ages singing and dancing with each other.
GP: You’ve called “¡Nueva York!” your “pro-immigration” album. What do you mean by that?
DZ: It’s our way of celebrating the cultures that come to us. There’s not enough celebration and way too much hostility towards our friends from Latin America. So we wanted to create the sound of the party where everyone is invited. Music can build the bridges, and the more we’re able to sing and dance with each other, the more we come to understand each other.
GP: What sorts of messages in your albums are good for kids?
DZ: I think the message is just that we’re all in it together, and that music-making is a joyous experience and it’s something that anyone can do.
GP: What should a family expect from this concert?
DZ: People should definitely be ready to come out and sing at the top of their lungs and do some wild dancing. That’s the nature of the show-it’s like a big party rather than a concert.