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Dan Zanes’ Sensory-Friendly Holiday Show

Come to World Cafe Live for a special singalong concert.

Dan Zanes is bringing his peppy, folksy brand of kindie rock to Philadelphia for a holiday singalong, at a World Cafe Live show that’s not just family-oriented, but also sensory-friendly.


The former Del Fuegos frontman has carved a super-successful niche making music that kids and parents can love (if you’ve never heard of him, ask your children). On Saturday, December 10, he’ll perform with Pauline Jean and Claudia Eliaza, with lower lights and sound, and what Zanes called “a chill-out room” so kids can take a break if they need to.


“We’ll have a song list that we’ll give out to people so everybody knows what to expect,” Zanes said. “But most importantly, we’re just acknowledging that all behaviors and reactions to the music and in the space are welcome.”


Creating an environment where every fan feels included has clearly become a passion for Zanes, who has recently started tailoring his shows to broaden the audience.


“We’ve done a number of these so far, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to know that families that have generally not been explicitly welcomed are being welcomed,” he said.


The Philadelphia show, part of World Cafe Live’s Peanut Butter and Jams children’s concert series, starts at 11 am and aims to recreate the feeling of an old-fashioned community singalong. Zanes released a holiday album in 2012, and said he loves the traditional Christmas tunes of his youth.


This version of the show grew out of an older, more elaborate series of performances. They were great — “probably the best thing I’ve ever done,” Zanes said — but unsustainable. He found he missed being with friends, fellow musicians, and loyal fans this time of year, though. When he was growing up in New Hampshire, the community really came together during the holidays, and he wanted to keep that spirit alive.


“It came from sort of an inner need to be with other people,” he said.


So he started a smaller concert, that’s run in New York City for six years. This year, he’s taking it on the road. The songs will cover a wide array of celebrations, he said, from traditional Christmas carols to tunes from Haiti, Puerto Rico, and around the world.


“This is a different time we live in. We’re living in a multicultural world, and it feels funny not to recognize that,” he said. ” It feels right, and it feels more festive, to be singing from a variety of traditions, because that reminds me that we’re all in this thing together.


“Everybody brings something to the party.”


Zanes said he’s especially excited because he’ll be performing with Jean and Eliaza — the first time the three will be on stage as a trio.


“To me it was something that I’ve been looking for my whole life, in a way, to be part of a group that was primarily about vocals. It’s always been a dream of mine,” he said. “The spirit of the event is a singalong with the audience, but for me it’s also the opportunity to sing with two of my favorite singers.”


The sensory-friendly atmosphere is another highlight. Zanes described a recent encounter with a mom who thanked him after a show. Her daughter, he said, was about 10, and the mother said it was her first concert. Opening up these shows is a win for everyone, he said, and he hopes to make all of his performances sensory-friendly from now on.


“I benefit from knowing I’m playing to a larger audience, and knowing that people that haven’t been invited are being invited means a lot,” he said. “And families with kids with special needs know that they’re welcomed … I’m super-grateful to be able to do that.”


Zanes also welcomes family bands that are interested in joining in on the concert. If you fit the bill, he said, email him at dan@danzanes.com.


World Cafe Live Philadelphia is at 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia. Tickets for the show are $15 plus tax.


Photograph courtesy of World Cafe Live. 





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