Public Library offers Friday entertainment; Duke Otherwise  engages audience

DUKE OTHERWISE drew together members of his band, the Toxic Titanic Tacos, from among an audience which numbered around 80 on Friday afternoon.

No; he does not wear contacts. No; he does not shave his legs. No; he does not pluck his eyebrows. No; he does not yodel. No; he does not get a discount at Walmart.

These are among the answers Noah Reimer, a.k.a. Duke Otherwise, provided to questions he fielded as he ended his performance at Library Park on Friday afternoon. More than 80 people attended the event, which was hosted by the Madison Public Library.

Reimer is a former folk musician who began to entertain children about a decade ago.

"Everyone in my band started having babies and left one by one," he recalled in a brief interview following his performance.

He met a fellow musician on the road who shared with him the joys of entertaining children.

"He showed me I could make a living doing it," Reimer said.

This came as a surprise, but a pleasant one. Instead of writing serious folk ballads, he began to write lively children's songs with humorous plays on language -- such as the song about his uncle who is an ant or one about Joy who is a grump.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, Reimer would do about 125-150 performances per year, primarily throughout the Midwest but also on the East Coast.

"This year was pretty wonky because of COVID," he said. Last year, most of his performances were remote, which provided an income but did not provide the satisfaction of interacting with an audience.

As the year ended, venues were hesitant about booking him for 2021. Normally, his calendar for the following year is booked by the end of November. This year, he didn't start receiving bookings until April. As a result, his bookings are more scattered than usual.

"I have a lot more driving this year, but I'm grateful to be performing," Reimer stated.

This was evident on Friday as he tap danced on a piece of painted plywood, inviting the audience to imitate his rhythm with hand clapping, engaged the audience with questions about his songs, and invited members of the audience to participate in the performance.

"It's more rewarding," Reimer explained when asked what he enjoys about performing for children. "Kids have such a joy in the responses they bring and such enregy."

In addition to entertaining his audience, he provided a tip about writing both songs and stories. He told his audience they could write about their experiences, fictionalizing details to make them more interesting or humorous.

His example was a song in which his brother taught him the wrong answers in math and science. Reimer said his older brother was actually good to him and would not have done that.

Toward the end of the performance, Reimer invited a group of children to join him and handed each a musical instrument -- a bell, a tambourine, rhythm sticks, a washboard tie, castanets, maracas and even a dog's squeaky toy. When he asked for audience participation to name his band, one individual offered Toxic Titanic Tacos, which he adopted.

His band -- and the audience which was also encouraged to participate -- had to listen to verbal cues during his song to know when to play and when to remain silent. With this song, he drew his performance to a close by answering questions.

His favorite among the songs he wrote is "Joy is a Grump."

He is from Madison, Wis. He tapped on plywood instead of in the gazebo because it provided an even surface.

Reimer travels light. As he prepared to move on to Aberdeen, where he was scheduled to perform three times at the Storybook Land Festival, he packed a couple of suitcases, his guitar and sound system, and the plywood he uses for tap dancing into his car.

In parting from the children, he encouraged them to read lots of books.