Beep Goes The Weasel Combines Music, Vegetables And Drive-In Movies

Aug 15, 2014

Most people go to Boulevard Drive-In in Kansas City, Kan., to watch what’s on the big screen, but this weekend they might stumble upon something a little strange on the way to the snack bar — a two-piece band accompanied by a half dozen or so kids playing music on fruits and vegetables. 

This weekend will be the second time the duo set up at the drive-in,

Earlier this summer, as Dave Cedillo started unloading computer equipment, amps, and vegetables, he explained his set up.

“The vegetables are hooked up to this thing called the MaKey MaKey,” says Cedillo. "It’s what I like to call a keyboard hijacker.”

The MaKey MaKey is small circuit board that looks like it should be inside computer, but Cedillo hooks it up to a dozen or so fruits and vegetables with alligator clips. The MaKey MaKey fools the computer into thinking that you’re pressing a keyboard button. 

A line up of a banana, bell pepper, and a carrot might sound like a spaceship, Fred Flinstone running, or something from a dubstep song.

Cedillo says the vegetables don’t have an intrinsic sound. He could make a carrot sound like anything.  That’s in part because it’s not the fruits vegetables but the metal clip wedged into their skins that’s key.

“If it weren’t for that,” says Cedillo. “This thing could be Frankenstein’s head, it wouldn’t matter.”  

The computer, electronics, and even the vegetables for Beep Goes The Weasel are paid for by a Rocket Grant. The program by the Charlotte Street Foundation and KU’s Spencer Museum of Art is aimed at bringing art into places that aren’t galleries or museums. 

Cedillo has two partners in the project. Angie Wolford handles the computer and the kids, and Matt Hawkins plays the banjo. Hawkins also designed masks for Cedillo and himself to wear that are more Donnie Darko than cute.

The kids line up in front of the table of veggies and put on bracelets to ground themselves. Then they join the band in playing versions of "Pop Goes the Weasel," "Old McDonald," and "If You’re Happy and You Know It."

Psychedelic colors synched to the music swirl on a screen behind the band. The whole shebang is projected on the big screen. That was Boulevard Drive-In owner Brian Neal’s idea. He says even though the drive-in is a nostalgic activity for most he likes to do unusual things like this.

He called me out of the blue, and said he wanted to bring down and let kids play vegetables,” says Neal. “And I was like, ‘OK!’” 

And while it may not matter to the sound, the familiarity and colors of fruits and vegetables are important. Cedillo says thing like carrots and bananas draw people in to playing music.

“If I put a vegetable out here, then suddenly they show an interest,” says Cedillo.

As for what’s next, Cedillo says he’d like to get the whole drive-in involved in a song by honking their horns. 

Beep Goes The Weasel, Aug. 16 and 23, Boulevard Drive-In, 1051 Merriam Ln., Kansas City, Kan. 66103