The Shazzbots

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

It was one of those experiences that any musician lives for - that magical moment when a song changes from a breeze blowing from performer to audience and explodes into a cyclone that sucks everyone in. The fact that it involved a platypus only made it more magical.

The Shazzbots arguably are Central Ohio's premier kid-music band. Formed in 2008, the rock- and blues-influenced quintet now performs regularly at music festivals, libraries, parties and family-friendly events throughout the area. And earlier this summer, as they performed at the Gahanna branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, a 4-year-old boy announced he wanted to hear a song about a platypus.

"I told him we didn't have any, so I asked him if he knew any," recalled Ian Hummel, the group's lead singer and acoustic guitar player (under the guise of the "Captain Captain" character).

"He said, 'Yeah, I do,' " Hummel went on, "so I invited him up to join us. Now, mind you, this was in front of about 100 people."

Drummer Steve Frey (a.k.a. "Watts Watson") said the results were amazing ... to them all.

"He started this tune, just making it up as he went along, and we started to follow along," Frey said, "and then somehow he resolves it into this little chorus. Mom was sitting over there on the side, sobbing and telling us he's never done anything like that before."

Frey put the moment in perspective: "There's too much vicarious living going on in this world, but this was real."

And in that experience came a crystallizing sense of where the Shazzbots' journey is taking them, said bass player Mike "Scopes" Heslop (who is also the only parent out of the group of veteran musicians, with sons ages 2 and 4).

"It's about finding those moments of music education," said Heslop. "We've got this idea of getting it out to a mass audience with a TV show and with online content, and working in lessons about the instruments and songs."

The band members - which also include keyboardist Molly "Aurora Borealis" Winters and lead guitarist Josh "Professor Swiss Vanderburton" Tully - have built their lives around music. They may pay the bills with electrical contracting work (in Frey's case), by owning Kafe Kerouac in the University District (Heslop), or teaching preschool (Tully) or music lessons (Winters), but such flexibility frees them up to perform for audiences with an early bedtime.

Although even there, Hummel said, they find they draw just as many adults, and not even as chaperones. The music is well written and well played, as seen at a recent performance at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Perhaps one key to their success is that the Shazzbots don't "play down" to their audiences. The lyrical content may be different, Hummel said, but the music isn't.

"If anything, it's been better," said Hummel, "because we're not stuck in one genre. We can play everything and we do."

Where to Find the Shazzbots (for free!)

9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 8

Lolli-Pops! Summer Children's Concert Series

Village Green Park, 47 Hall St., Powell

10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 27

HOOT Family Film Series

Gateway Film Center, 1550 N. High St., Campus

4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1

Bexley Farmer's Market

2111 E. Main St., Bexley

10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24

HOOT Family Film Series

Gateway Film Center, 1550 N. High St., Campus