- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 24, 2007

Who knew the Washington area had its own tot-rock scene? Well, it turns out it sure does. For a loud and clear example, just set foot in Vienna’s live-music bar-cafe Jammin’ Java on any morning when the three-man group Rocknoceros is getting ready to jam.

In front of the stage on a recent Wednesday were dozens of excited toddlers and preschoolers jumping up and down, ready to dance and sing along. Yes, some of these children are real fans and know every word to the tunes.

“I don’t have any kids, but I have learned that even a 3-year-old can pick and discern,” said Daniel Brindley, part-owner of Jammin’ Java. “Some of them come only for Rocknoceros. … Sometimes we have 200 kids and their parents in here. It’s great — Rocknoceros has really developed a fan base.”

Jammin’ Java offers live “TotRock” at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Artists include one-man acts and bands.

Rocknoceros’ lead singer is David Cotton, whose stage name is Coach Cotton. He dresses in a nylon warm-up suit and wears a whistle on a string around his neck — very coachlike. The other two, Willie Bob (real name Patrick Williams) and Boogie Bennie (Mark Capponi), were dressed like farmers in straw hats, vests and overalls. The sound alternates between folk-rocky and pop-inspired.

Once Coach Cotton started singing, he encouraged the children to dance and sing along. He also frequently left the stage for the dance floor to interact with the children, teaching or “coaching” them on various hand moves that go along with songs such as “The Finger Counting Song.”

“You can tell these guys enjoy what they’re doing, which isn’t always true for performers,” said Vafa Afshar, who was there with his 3-year-old son, Sebastian. Father and son danced for most of the 45-minute show.

“This was our first time, but we’ll definitely be back,” Mr. Afshar said.

Lora Hernandez and her 15-month old daughter, Sophia Rose, dressed in pink and wearing a pink bow, have been to Jammin’ several times, enjoying several acts.

“We’ve seen Miss Belle and Mr. Knick Knack, and my daughter really loves it,” Mrs. Hernandez said. “She doesn’t walk yet, but she moves to the music. … We’re definitely into the kiddie-rock scene.”

Miss Belle, according to Jammin’s Web site, sings original songs as well as children’s favorites. She’s accompanied by her folk-style guitar. Mr. Knick Knack, alone with his guitar, offers up kiddie rock.

Mrs. Hernandez said the TotRock concept done the Jammin’ Java way works for young and old because the music is good and catchy enough to be enjoyed by parents.

Kimberly Maher, mother of 6-month-old Jonathan, agreed.

“He enjoys it, and I can have a cup of coffee and catch up,” Mrs. Maher said, prompting a nod from her friend Becky Poe, who was at Jammin’ with her 7-month-old son, Andrew.

Another draw of the TotRock program — at least for the older toddlers and preschoolers as well as their parents — is it’s educational. Rocknoceros, for example, does a song about how important it is to wash your hands, and another one is about the United States. (It mentions all the states.) A third one talks about the importance of sharing.

“I think that’s what keeps people coming back — that it’s not just entertaining but also educational,” Mr. Brindley said of the TotRock program, which is a component of his business that has exploded in popularity beyond his wildest dreams.

“We’re starting to take this as seriously as we do our evening shows. … There is so much demand out there. We have a lot of regulars.”

Added Mr. Cotton: “Last week I had my first request from a preschooler to sign her Rocknoceros T-shirt.”

These are serious TotRock fans.

WHEN YOU GO:

What: Jammin’ Java’s TotRock

Where: Jammin’ Java, 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna.

Directions: Take George Washington Parkway to Virginia Route 123 south toward McLean. Stay on Route 123 for about 7.5 miles. In Vienna, Route 123 becomes Maple Avenue. The club is on the left.

Admission: $5 for one child, $7 for two, $10 for three. Adults are admitted for free.

Hours: Shows take place at 10:30 a.m. all weekdays. Mondays also feature a noon show. The shows are about 45 minutes long. Children and parents are invited to dance and sing along.

Parking: Large free parking lot.

Information: Click on www.jamminjava.com or call 703/255-1566.

Miscellaneous:

Jammin’ Java serves a variety of coffee drinks and juices. It also serves breakfast and lunch. The menu includes $6.75 chili, $4.95 house salad and $6.50 sandwiches. There also is a children’s menu, which includes $5 meals. They provide a main course (some choices are peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets or cheese quesadilla), applesauce, a cookie and milk.


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