By GWEN OREL
Plants and animals and children just seem to go together. That’s one reason Montclair’s Jason Didner wanted to hold a “kindie rock” concert at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. Five New Jersey artists, all independent musicians who make children’s music, will perform in “Party for the Planet” in front of the Reptile House at 11 a.m.
“I’m encouraging families to enjoy nature, enjoy the animals and being outdoors,” said Didner, the leader of Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam. “Hopefully they will hear some songs that get them thinking about ways to help the environment, and about ways to unplug from their gadgets for a while and just enjoy nature and live music.”
Didner gained statewide fame in 2013 when The New York Times spotlighted his 2001 song “You Can’t Get There from Here in Jersey,” about New Jersey jughandles, where you have to “turn right to turn left” off the highway. There was a bill proposed in the New Jersey Senate to ban their future construction.
Caitlin Sharp, of Essex County Cultural Affairs, worked with Didner on the space and date. Music with Molly, starring Molly Dorsman, will play at 11. Baze & his Silly Friends, who mix up nursery rhymes until a young audience member corrects them, will perform at 11:35 a.m.
Miss Nina, a YouTube star well known for her “Brown Bear Rap” based on the Eric Carle/Bill Martin Jr. book, will play at 12:10 and 2:10 p.m. The Fuzzy Lemons, who combine rock, funk and blues, will play at 12:45. Didner himself will perform at 1:20.
All of the bands are from Essex County except for The Fuzzy Lemons, who are from Hoboken.
Didner’s 6-year-old daughter, Holly, who sometimes performs with the band, will probably be in the audience dancing, he said, but his wife, Amy, will be on stage.
Some of Didner’s songs are connected to the zoo: the kiddie train that runs around the zoo and the sight of the water sparkling on the reservoir gave him the idea for the chorus of “Window of the Train,” he said. The catchy earworm “Five Sea Lions” was inspired by the zoo’s getting a sea lion exhibit in 2013.
An Earth Day festival isn’t overtly political, but for Didner there’s an undercurrent of activism: “I hope that by going to events like this, parents will make it a priority to demand that their politicians take climate change seriously, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.”
Party for the Planet
Saturday, April 22, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
The Reptile House, Turtle Back Zoo, South Mountain Reservation, 560 Northfield Ave., West Orange
11: Music with Molly
11:35: Baze & his Silly Friends
12:10: Miss Nina
12:45: The Fuzzy Lemons
1:20: Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
2:10: Miss Nina