The Toy Trains is not a *totally* new project for singer/songwriter Vince Schreck. After all, 4 of the 6 members have played music together (Vince Schreck & The Expendables) since 2001. The Expendables focused on Vince’s music, which is rooted in Americana. While the Expendables had some great gigs, the “Americana” audience is finite and picky in Portland. Around 2006/2007, Vince started feeling like it was time to disband the entire project.
About that time, Vince took his son Rhys to see Dan Zanes at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon. Dan Zanes is an old indie rocker from the 80’s band “The Del Fuegos.” Their record “Boston, Mass” was quite inspirational to Vince during his early college years. It seemed Dan Zanes too had a falling out with the indie rock/Americana crowd and decided to take his music elsewhere. Although much of his new music still has an indie feel to it, his audience has changed significantly.
Zanes’ audience includes parents who were, most likely, listening to the Del Fuegos or other indie-rock, and now these parents have children, and they don’t want their children listening to Raffie, The Wiggles, or other mindless droll that is often characterized as “children’s music.” The show at the Aladdin was a sellout. The entire time Vince kept thinking, “Portland is THE place to have a band that both parents and kids can enjoy.” He felt confident he could start covering much of Dan Zanes’ music, but also mix in much of his own material under the guise of “kids’ music.”
He ran the idea by his longtime bandmates – would they go for it? To his surprise, the band members were all for the idea, and The Toy Trains was born as Portland’s premiere kids’ band. CORRECTION: Captain Bog and Salty is actually Portland’s premiere kids’ band, but The Toy Trains are a close 2nd! The Toy Trains went to work learning as much of Dan Zanes’ music as possible. They coupled it with covers by Tom Waits, The Beatles, Jack Johnson, Lisa Loeb, REM, etc. Parents were quite shocked to hear REM’s “We Walk” move seamlessly into Dan Zanes’ “Shining Star.” Parents were genuinely excited too hear some music that appealed to their kids and their own musical tastes.
What is a show like? Expect lots of energy from wildly dancing children! The band does its best to keep the volume manageable for little ears. The band currently features: drums, stand-up bass, harmonica, accordion, violin, mandolin, banjo, and electric and acoustic guitars. It’s a great opportunity for your kids to see a wide variety of musical instruments, sounds and songs. You’ll hear a bit of bluegrass, blues, indie-rock, Americana/rootsy rock, and whacky kids’ music. Most shows close with a medley of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The ABCs, This Land is Your Land, and She’ll be Coming ’round the Mountain.
The shows are always held at a reasonable hour – usually starting around 5 or 5:30PM and finishing by 6:30 or 7PM. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to get your kids home for their bedtimes routines. It’s also very common at shows for kids to interact with the band, which might mean coming on stage to take a tour of all the instruments. If you haven’t been to a show, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon!