Summer of great music: Dan Zanes does Lead Belly for the pre-teen set at Mass MoCA

Dan Zanes with two future Lead Belly's.

Dan Zanes with two future Lead Belly’s.

Dan Zanes, the Grammy-winning Springsteen of the pre-teen set, dives headlong into the music of iconic American folk and blues legend Huddie William Ledbetter, best known as Lead Belly, with special guests from his forthcoming Smithsonian Folkways record. Dan Zanes’ smart, lively concert for parents and kids happens outside in MASS MoCA’s Courtyard C (or inside our Hunter Center, if it rains) on Saturday, July 18, at 2pm. Join us before the show for the opening of Kidspace exhibition Here Comes the Sun from 11am to 1pm, featuring the work of Nick Cave and Federico Uribe.

Dan Zanes was a founder of seminal garage-rockers, The Del Fuegos. The band made four pioneering albums before laying down its instruments in the late 1980s when Zanes launched a solo career and realized his talent for composing and performing music for families. His 2000 album release Rocket Ship Beach was an immediate hit with kids and their parents, as well as with The New York Times, who said, “Zanes’ kids’ music works because it is not kids’ music; it’s just music — music that’s unsanitized, unpasteurized, that’s organic.”

Zanes’ work occupies a place in the American music canon that forges a connection between the songbooks of folk, soul, sea shanties, and early rock ‘n’ roll. His eloquent and sophisticated approach resonates with a devoted multi-generational audience. People Magazine dubbed Zanes “the crown prince of contemporary kids’ music” for his deft ability to move from thrift-shop basements to Carnegie Hall, from Brooklyn to Bahrain, and beyond. The Grammy Award-winner introduces new songs and reconnects people to traditional anthems with his diverse repertoire. Zanes was last seen on-stage at MASS MoCA performing with his sometimes-musical partner Elizabeth Mitchell at the 2013 FreshGrass Festival.

A tribute to the iconic Ledbetter, Zanes’ Lead Belly Project revisits the African-American folk and blues singer’s established songbook of early standards, which greatly influenced American popular music in the first half of the 20th century. Zanes credits Lead Belly as his inspiration to create music for all ages — he tuned his ears and his first guitar listening to Lead Belly albums on his parents’ turntable.

In tandem with Dan Zanes’ kid-friendly concert, join us for a reception in Kidspace to celebrate the opening of Here Comes the Sun — Colombia-born, Miami-based artist Federico Uribe’s magical, colorful, sculptural menagerie of animals. Artist Nick Cave, advancing his October 2016 exhibition in Building 5, debuts a graphic wrap to the Kidspace ArtBar, his Kaleidoscope Playground. Uribe and Cave’s work shape shift feelings of sorrow, rage, and despair into positive, immersive environments, creating a vehicle for dialogue and exploration about the role of joy and optimism. The free opening celebration takes place with the artists from 11am to 1pm.

Dan Zanes’ Lead Belly Project comes alive in MASS MoCA’s Courtyard C (or inside our Hunter Center, if it rains) on Saturday, July 18, at 2pm. Come early for a celebration of Here Comes the Sun, free to the public, opening in Kidspace at 11am. Lunch and snacks are available from Lickety Split before and during the show. Tickets are $12 kids 6-16, $18 in advance, $24 day of, and kids 5 and under come for free. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am – 5pm Wednesdays through Mondays; closed Tuesdays through June 25. Starting June 26, the box office will be open 10am to 6pm every day, with extended evening hours to 7pm on Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during box office hours or purchased online at All events are held rain or shine.

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