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Kidstock at Belleayreby M.R. Smith

Thanks to an abundance of indigenous musical talent, one of the Mid-Hudson Valley’s most positive trends as of late has been its burgeoning “family music” scene, with local favorites like Uncle Rock, Dog On Fleas, Ratboy Jr., Spiral Up Kids, Kidz Town Rock and more, entertaining kids and parents alike in family friendly settings. Quite often, it’s “rock” music bridging the age gap.

Hard to believe, but though rock 'n' roll is almost 50 years old, it still has the power to both allow youth to express itself—and to allow a message to be expressed to youth. Paul Green’s School Of Rock (portrayed in a movie of the same name starring Jack Black) is all about tapping into that power, allowing the students to progress as far as they want with their “rock,” whatever that might mean to them. Founded in Philadelphia in 1998, it has since opened schools all over the country, with students performing over 500 concerts to more than 200,000 people annually, putting fresh life-blood into that old geezer that is rock 'n' roll.

So put the School Of Rock All-Stars on a show with Uncle Rock, throw in a bunch of cool activities and a worthy cause, and put it on a nice cool mountain—Belleayre—in August, and tie it together with Woodstock Ventures (and Woodstock Festival organizer) Michael Lang. Whaddaya get? KIDSTOCK!

Robert Burke Warren, a.k.a. Uncle Rock, has a healthy respect for librarians. Not only because they’re such an important part of inspiring a love for books in children of all ages…they are also quite often his booking agents.


Not that he’s complaining….librarians are way cool. Robert has already run the gamut of the music business, having co-written with Roseanne Cash, and recorded and toured with groups like Wee Wee Pole (with lead singer Ru Paul), Athens Ga. band Go Van Go, and The Fleshtones, before playing the lead role in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, in the West End of London. Shortly after returning to New York, he married writer Holly George-Warren and after the birth of their son Jack in 1998, Robert found himself transitioning from Manhattan musician and bartender to being…Mr. Mom.

With Holly’s job at Rolling Stone magazine covering expenses and insurance, Robert found himself enjoying his new gig immensely. “It was the greatest four years of my life. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to feeling desire-less. During that time I was so invested in it, I didn’t feel the groaning drive to be in bands, be a performer, get an agent, all that stuff. It pretty much evaporated.”

For a variety of reasons Robert, Holly, and Jack made the northern shift shortly after 9-11, and landed in Phoenicia, at the feet of the Catskills. Robert ended up a part-time instructor at Jack’s pre-school, the School of the New Moon, in Mt. Tremper, and it wasn’t long before the guitar started coming to school too, with Robert making up songs for the kids, and Jack helping out. “The kids were drawn towards Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak. Edgier stuff. When people enter the world of making music for kids, often they feel the kid needs to be protected from the harsh reality of life. That’s not quite as true as many would have you think.” Soon Robert and Jack were recording as Uncle Rock together, having a great time. And the word was getting out.

Robert realized there was actually something of a “kids’ music” circuit: mostly family festivals and library shows, with many of the shows often booked via uproarious audition showcases. (Robert swears it would make a great documentary.) With his deeply talented band—presently Robert, Josh Roy Brown on electric guitar, Martin Keith on bass, and Eric Parker on drums—Robert worked the New York/New England/Philadelphia region extensively, with shows going out as far as Austin and L.A. His tunes have been a Sirius Radio mainstay, his latest release Uncle Rock U (independent, 2007) spending most of 2008 in the Top 20.

But this year’s Kidstock happened thanks to a good neighbor: Mary Gormley. A long time music business artist, and repertoire consultant (A&R) who had a hand in breaking James Blunt and The Darkness, Mary is also a talented dog trainer; her dogs Snuffy and Gidget got commercial and movie work, Gidget performing in the movie version of Sex and the City.


After the passing of Snuffy, Mary started a pet food pantry program called Friends Of Snuffy (, a “grassroots organization that helps to keep shelters empty by providing an outreach program that includes education programs, grants and direct funding,” whose current focus is to help people feed their pets during difficult times. Mary helped get Uncle Rock on the Belleayre bill, making it also a fundraiser for the cause.

Then another friend and neighbor checked in. Woodstock festival founder Michael Lang had a long-standing relationship to the Warrens: his twins had been at preschool with Robert, and he was working on his Woodstock memoirs with Holly. He’d been working with Paul Green of School Of Rock, to put together a set of “Woodstock” material for the school All-Stars to perform in a series of concerts celebrating the 40th anniversary of the seminal festival, titled: Kidstock.

Michael approached Robert about tying it all together and Robert said “... why not?” The program has expanded. Not just performances by the S.O.R. All-Stars and Uncle Rock, but there’s also a clothes swap, a “rock 'n' roll fashion show,” (where kids dress up as their favorite pop and rock icons) and something called “the Musical Woodland Journey,”. during a pleasant woodland trail walk, you come upon icons and inventors of rock music: from Robert Johnson at the crossroads through Hank Williams, Elvis, The Beatles, up through modern punk and hip-hop, learning about each on the journey. At each stop, they get a small gift from the “artist.”

But the best part will, of course, be the music, which seems to be the unifying elements between kids and parents. Robert has seen the generational stratification of pop culture (and music) over the years, but also notes that it hasn’t always been this way.

“What’s interesting to me is that (family music) is a throwback in a lot of ways. Pete Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary, even Woody Guthrie: they were doing music that everyone wanted to hear, everything from murder ballads to Jimmy-crack-corn. There was an acceptance then of a broader palette of material.” Either way, at Belleayre’s Kidstock adults will be playing for kids and kids will be playing for adults.

And yes. It’s gonna rock.

KIDSTOCK featuring Uncle Rock & the Playthings and Paul Green’s School of Rock is at Belleayre Mountain, Rte 28, Highmount,, 800.942.6904, ext. 1344. Free admission. I PM

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