Dance like a robot

Musical Robot wants kids of all ages to goof off

Photo Credit Chelsea Namanny

Photo Credit Chelsea Namanny

Bad news: The robots are coming for your kids. Good news: They’re goofy as hell and command you to dance.

Jason Adair and Scott Namanny—known on stage as the ukulele-strumming Jason 2.0 and drum-banging ScottBot—comprise Musical Robot, a local musical duo that gets kids of all ages on their feet with raucous tunes like “Robot and You Know It” and “Boom Chugga.”

“When we got the amount of goofing off to a high-enough percentage, we knew we finally did it right,” Adair said.

Whether they’re pretending to be every manner of fauna or waking up ScottBot from a nap (“Wake Up Robot!”), kids and occasionally adults in the audience are as much a part of the show as the performers. After shows, the duo often receive compliments for teaching kids about nutrition and exercise. Unlike Mr. Rogers, the lessons that slip in are an afterthought.

“We never sit down and say, ’What’s a lesson we can convey?’” Namanny said. “It’s just us trying to get kids moving.”

As any parent who’s slid the duo’s CD into a minivan stereo can tell you, Musical Robot’s sound harkens to the lighthearted irreverence and reliable pop hooks found in a Talking Heads or Donovan song.

Between and during their hits, there’s always a Smothers Brothers-esque patter between the two.

“… And then I stop and think,” Namanny begins.

“Oh wait. You don’t want to do that,” Adair says.

“Why not?”

“Because that’s when you get ideas.”

Keeping the show unpredictable, “like the original Sesame Street,” is crucial if kids are going to remain captivated. At a show in Wyoming, Adair performed acrobatics on a stack of chairs. At another show, he spent 10 minutes trying to jump into a pair of shoes. “It was kids watching a grown man just failing and failing,” Adair said. “And they couldn’t get enough of it.”

On one occasion, Namanny was punched in the face by a kid, but the show went on. “It’s all vaudeville, and we’re both naturally gracious people,” Namanny said. “I was happy he was there, to be honest.”

Musical Robot’s biggest break came in 2015, when pop-up book legend David A. Carter worked one of their songs into If You’re A Robot and You Know It. The book is a storytime mainstay for librarians from here to Denver, and has nabbed countless gigs for the duo.

And as shows line up, their fan base grows, like 5-year-old Grace Smith and her mom Margy, who listen to Musical Robots’ two albums Wake Up Robot and Flyabout on heavy rotation.

“I listen to them almost every day,” Grace said. “I want to invite them to my birthday party.”

This summer will be Musical Robot’s busiest, with a bustling tour schedule and plans to publish a children’s ukulele how-to, You Can Uke, which will be lousy with robots and sheet music for their most popular songs.

Still, creating an environment for positive chaos is the prime objective for Adair and Namanny.

“We’re just trying to have fun, trying to teach fun,” Adair said. “And dancing. Always be working on your dance moves.”

Published in the Sacramento News and Review, 2017