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On a recent June evening at L.A.’s famed Roxy Theatre — which has hosted U2, Springsteen and Prince — a band performed whose extensive pedigree suited the venue. Members included a former drummer for Jon Bon Jovi, a professional opera singer and an accomplished saxophonist. The bassist and guitarist had toured extensively; their chops were tight. Who was this killer group? None other than local preschool parent band The MutherFathers, whose members were thinking as much about what ungodly hour their toddlers would wake them the next morning as the chord changes.
My introduction to L.A.’s parent band scene began three years ago with an email from my son’s preschool: “Talented musicians needed.” It was like they were speaking directly to me, except for the talent part. But why would I need it? Wasn’t this just a bunch of harried moms and dads reliving their high school glory days? I could hang. And so I arrived at my first rehearsal with The MutherFathers (rejected names: Bad Playdate, Parental Advisory), eager to show off my skills. What I — in my sleep-deprived, raising-two-boys-under-four fog — had forgotten was that L.A. has arguably the greatest concentration of musical talent in the country, if not the world. And because some of those musicians eventually have children, the level of musical talent among preschool parents here is a tad higher than you’d find in, say, Forest, Ohio. (No offense, Forest Ohio Preschool Parent Band, I’m sure you’re great.)
The band was made up of pros, including percussionist Jim, the preschool’s co-owner and Jon Bon Jovi’s former bandmate, and the stylish Mavis, whose all-sisters group once opened for the Goo Goo Dolls. Stefan, a former touring musician, was on flute; the dude kills on the solo leading into Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot.” Also in the band: an actor who recently appeared in one of Broadway’s hottest musicals. So, yeah.
I was dumbfounded by this talent pool. Parent bands, found at public and private schools, gig at school assemblies and fundraisers, covering Led Zeppelin or Taylor Swift. Where were the hacks? Turns out, we weren’t unusual in our deep bench. A multiple-platinum guitarist plays in a parent band at one local school, and an elementary band includes a bassist for Sheryl Crow. (This doesn’t include famous parents who play fundraisers. Head to YouTube and watch Beyonce perform for her kid’s school.)
I spent my first rehearsal paralyzed with fear, certain I’d be axed. But they kept me — I’m in a band! OK, a parent band. No money. No glory (other than getting out of the house). When our vocalist takes forever to return from the bathroom, it’s not because she’s shooting up; she’s pumping milk for her 7-month-old. Groupies? Please. And don’t get me started on how long it takes to schedule a rehearsal when everyone needs a sitter. But we all come together and play our hearts out. ParentPalooza — a battle of L.A. parent bands — is rumored to be coming this fall. God only knows who will show up.
Rob Pearlstein is a co-executive producer on CBS’ Scorpion.
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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