I had the chance to see a lot of amazing acts over the course of CMW but I definitely had the most fun watching Fred Penner take the stage at Drake Underground on Saturday night for the Paquin Showcase. By the time I arrived shortly after 8:30 pm Penner was already on stage so I can’t report if he crawled through a hollow tree trunk to get there. Supported on stage by guitarist Paul O’Neill and two of his daughters, Penner put on a show of songs, stage banter and antics that was no less charming or genuine for being obviously scripted.
While children’s entertainment is certainly an genre easy to dismiss it is impossible to overlook the craft of Penner’s music; catchy folk-pop featuring lyrics about social issues and values that are accessible to young children and adults alike without being trite or preachy. Sampling recognizable melodies from Led Zeppelin, K-OS and even the theme song to Bonanza added new twists to old favourites like The Cat Came Back, Happy Feet and Sandwiches.
As a stage presence Penner is charismatic and his enthusiasm infectious – I can’t imagine any other venue saw a room full of adults gleefully making cats noises or completing the hand motions and recitation for a Navajo blessing in English, French and Spanish.
With a relatively short set there was a palpable sense of disappointment when Penner played his last song and many took him up on his offer for a post show chat – Penner had barely left the stage when a line of almost a dozen people had formed where was sitting. I guess this goes to show that you never really outgrow the unconditional love a child has for a truly inspired entertainer.
Video: A story about bicycle safety.