ONE of the more eye-catching shows for families in this year’s Cork Midsummer Festival is The Electric Kazoo featuring Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan — and his two children Sam and Aislinn.
The show will be streaming live to people’s homes, with a programme featuring drawings sent in by children from Cork and songs inspired by them.
While some might expect a musician who has been nominated for multiple Choice and Meteor Prizes and received constant critical acclaim to be too serious for a family-centred show, Paul embraces everything that comes with The Electric Kazoo.
“I don’t ‘park’ what I do elsewhere, I think I’ve just turned to the sort of silliness I’ve always loved, the more surreal, daft element that music can celebrate and speak to — which children have in spades and that we tend to lose as adults,” he said.
Speaking of spades, they might feature heavily in the artwork people see in the show, Paul explained that he and the Midsummer Festival want pictures and drawings sent in, and the theme is whatever summer means to them.
“We want it to be about anything you want about summer, kids can draw whatever summer means to them — your favourite beach, you and your friends playing in the sun, holidays — whatever summer means to you.
“I tend to spend a while with all the drawings and paintings myself first, and we’ll riff on those drawings then in the show. It’s sort of a licence to immerse myself in that creativity, I’ve always loved that.”
The shows are a mix of original songs inspired by the drawings and some classic songs, as Paul continued. Down By The Bay is one of our signature Electric Kazoo tunes, also the Randy Newman songs for Disney/Pixar films are just incredible, the complexity of his music is still very much there, even though it’s for families and children, and the likes of You Got A Friend In Me are regulars.”
While Paul himself is a very accomplished live performer, and The Electric Kazoo has been performed in person at other festivals, they have also been livestreaming occasionally during the lockdown, so he is aiming to find the right balance for the audience for the Cork Midsummer Festival.
“There is an obvious degree of separation there, but we’ve tried to make it as interactive as possible. It is a live stream, we will be reacting to comments, in real time.
“We will have written songs and bits of music based on the drawings and pictures the kids have sent in, and we’ll put them up on the screen, and we’ll sing the songs and we’ll name check everybody. That really adds to the interactive factor.
“I get sent videos of kids reacting to seeing their own drawings on the screen, and hearing their own names from the telly, and you see how wonderful that is for kids to feel seen. And that way, especially in this moment, in a year of this fog and anxiety that’s been around everything, I think it’s been a real, lovely thing we’ve been able to do.”
Most musicians have needed to find ways of working in this last year too, and Paul credits seeing how music is heard by new ears as something to have informed this new project.
“I’ve become, among other things, a children’s entertainer, which I would have been very surprised to hear a couple of years ago!
“Having kids definitely changes things in all kinds of ways, but one of the great things about it is kind of rediscovering music and listening to music through your children and seeing why certain music really lands with children.
“I mean, with my own son, he loved AC/DC for a while, because of that immediate energy. The dude is screaming and there’s these really infectious basic hooks, it’s just really attractive.”
Indeed, Paul reflects on what he loved at that age and how it has stuck with him.
“As a child and through my adulthood I’ve always loved the sort of more psychedelic children’s entertainment that we grew up on, the Jim Henson School of Children’s Entertainment in the U.S — stuff like Fraggle Rock and Muppet Show — and the certain shows that we would have had in Ireland like 40 Coats, Wanderley Wagon and Bosco.”
What Paul would draw to remind himself of his childhood summer holidays might be a shock to modern kids used to picnic boxes and tupperware.
“Every summer we had a family holiday to Banna Beach in Kerry, us and our cousins. It was classic 1980s Ireland, every day my uncle would cook bacon and cabbage in a pressure cooker and bring it to the beach!”
The Electric Kazoo, a family music show presented by Paul, Sam and Aislinn Noonan, will be streaming live on Saturday, June 20 at 3pm on Cork Midsummer Festival’s platforms. You can send your creations to Paul at email@example.com