Family Concert


There’s a 21st century parenting phenomena that intrigues me, whereby new parents continue to see the bands they enjoyed while childless, and just haul Junior along with them for the show. The family concert going trend is part of a wider movement for people who refuse to cede a seat in the audience just because they can’t find a sitter, like bars with “Family Tables” and movie theaters advertising Baby Nights. To enjoy these opportunities fully requires the type of wishful thinking perhaps familiar to those who were fans of hardcore punk in the ’70s: “If I just close my eyes and pretend hard enough, maybe I’ll forget that I have to wipe poop off someone’s butt between sets.”

When I explained this trend to my pal Susan, an Irishwoman in her sixties with grown children, she said “Chaysus. One more bit of togetherness we could do without.”

I myself heartily endorse the right of parents to demand a night off, to make the idea of concert going seem mysterious and special and a grown-up prerogative to your young child. It, along with legal drinking and a driver’s license, could become one of those signposts to which you point and say, “You’re not there yet. But if you eat those green beans and study for your spelling test, someday you will be.”

There’s something to be said for the ambient approach to music appreciation, where parents play the music they like at home and the kids absorb it through osmosis, without force. I wish I had a dollar for every interview I’ve read with a musician who said variation of, “Mom and Dad always played a lot of Johnny Cash when I was growing up, so maybe that’s why the bass line runs so slow and steady in my songwriting.” Good music is like good nutrition; you make it available, but in the end it’s up to your child to partake.

In fact, I worry that if you strap the saddle of your musical tastes too tightly to your child, they’re going to have no choice but to buck it off. The potential damage is even worse if your tastes really are discriminating. In the inevitable rebellion of the teenage years, during which a child is forced to define herself as “other” to establish her independence, isn’t a child who has been force fed Tom Petty and the Ramones and prime old school hip hop by Erik B. and Rakim going to run straight into the welcoming white trash arms of Ke$ha?

When our oldest daughter was in 5th grade, Crowded House played a show at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, a place saturated with rock history. Maddy asked to come with me. I said yes, in part because I sometimes overheard her humming tracks from their album “Together Alone” while she was doing homework, and in part so that she might have a good answer when someone asks “What was the first concert you ever saw?”

And let’s face it. I took her, in part, because having a pint-sized companion might earn me a second look from the band. When the panties you might be tempted to throw are no longer lace but purchased in a ten pack at Costco where you are also buying dog food, baby wipes, and a gross of paper towels, you have to get creative.

On an unseasonably hot spring night, we drove across the Bay Bridge from Oakland into the City to go stand on line for the general admission show. Since she was barely 4’ 10” at the time, Maddy was worried about getting crushed by excited fans. Having seen the band play dozens of times, I promised her it was not a concern, as the average age of Crowded House fan is 49 and they almost all, male and female, wear Dansko clogs and contribute to Greenpeace. The inherent gentleness of the CH fan base was driven home as we walked past the fans already waiting in line. Maddy received smiles, hellos, even a high five from other fans.

Here are the other things that happened during Maddy’s first concert:

While waiting for the opening band to start, we chatted with the people around us, standing a few bodies back from the security barriers that separate the crowd from the stage. A married couple who were 5th grade teachers delighted in seeing a student in the crowd, and invited Maddy to come and stand in the front row with them so she could see better.

Shortly after Maddy took her place in the front row, a security guard motioned to me and said, “Do you think she’d like to sit down for the show?” He then fetched a padded folding chair and placed it in the no-man’s-land between the security barriers and the stage. As soon as the lights went down and Crowded House took the stage, Maddy tucked in her bright purple ear plugs, snaked around the barrier, and settled into her comfy perch in the pre-front-row, three feet from the stage.

Partway through the show, as the fug of audience perspiration rose to the burgundy walls, the same security guard reached up onto the stage and took one of the water bottles clustered around the microphone base of Mark Hart, guitarist, and handed it to Maddy. Mark, though in the middle of playing a particularly challenging riff on “Locked Out,” still managed to give Maddy a wink and a smile as she drank down his water.

As the show began to wind down, our security guard friend said, “Don’t leave yet!” and disappeared into the back of the crowd. When he returned, he pressed a rolled- up concert poster into Maddy’s hands. “We’re not supposed to give these out!” he yelled over the music.

When we finally made our departure, reluctantly slinking out between encores (it was 11:30 pm on a school night, and I do have some standards,) an old man with a laminated pass around his neck stopped us. “Here ya go, kid,” he said, and handed my daughter a backstage pass. “For a keepsake!”

That’s the other risk with indoctrinating your kid too closely with your own musical tastes. There’s a risk that one day, all your fantasies will come true – for them.


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  1. Ludicrous Mama says

    We took our 3-year-old to see Weird Al in concert. I figured she’d like it (she’s a weird kid – I can take her to restaurants, she can sit (mostly) quietly through an entire movie, tolerates long shopping trips, etc.) And child care was SO inconvenient to arrange in this case – we’d have to drive an hour North to take her to Nana’s house, then 90-minutes South for the concert, then 90-minutes back up to get her, then another hour home. (She doesn’t tolerate babysitters. Or Aunties. Just our moms. And only recently have they been acceptable, at that. But I get to take her just about anywhere and she’s an angel. Fair trade, I figure.)
    She LOVED it. But he puts on a great show, with video clips, cartoons, and bits in between songs. And costumes! And the concert was at the local Fair, so it was a big fun-filled family day. She still talks about it, whenever I mention the word ‘concert,’ and it’s been two months since we went! (Again, she’s 3, so a 2-month-long memory is pretty good!)

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    • Ludicrous Mama says

      I DID buy us tickets in an area with space around it, in case she needed to get up and move around. And near the entrances, in case we HAD to leave. But it wasn’t an issue. Next time he comes out here, I’m getting seats on the aisle he comes off the stage and serenades down for one of his songs. *Swoon!*

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  2. mommy23girls says

    I LOVE CH and together alone was one of the best albums. When I bought it I was 21 and didn’t ( yet) wear Dansko’s. Still listen to it pretty often. I have a 9 and 7 y/o, I would totally take them to one of thier concerts. However I do have a hard time understanding why people would bring a 5 year old to a Lady Gaga concert. Even if your kid likes the music , it is important to know what kind of show they put on.

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  3. Life with Kaishon says

    I am so glad your daughter had that experience. It sounds like it was a very magical night for her : )
    Laughed out loud about the underwear that comes in 10 packs… : )

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  4. Vinobaby says

    I am back and forth on this. I took my Kiddo to his first concert last year–Paul McCartney–assigned seats, and I figured, how crazy could the crowd get there? He fell asleep.

    I have been amazed how many kids I see at concerts. Little ones with green hair at Greenday, a whole kids section at DMB. I was a bit PO’ed when I had a mom holding a crashed toddler directly in front of me in a packed general admission Florence + Machine show. I thought the kid would be road kill and I was torked I had to spend the show worrying about his welfare instead of dancing.

    Concerts now are MUCH tamer than 20 years ago–no crowd surfing, no cigarettes or lighters, and few people seem to even dance. It’s not nearly so dangerous a place for kids. As long as SEATS are available, I’m okay with it.

    But I’m not ready to drag my kid with me to all my favorite shows. I need some time to let loose and feel like I’m 20 still…

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    • Nancy Davis Kho says

      Vinobaby we shouldn’t go to a show together, we’re obviously cut from the same cloth. Most times I want to go out to a concert to recapture the feeling of joi d’vivre from my youth, but if I spy a kid who I don’t think should be there (like your experience) my Bachman-Maternal Overdrive flips on and I spend the whole time being worried for the child. When I saw Lykke Li play it was all I could do not to march over to the dad near me and say “Really? Do you not see your kid falling asleep next to you in her seat?!”

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  5. KalleyC says

    Aww, everyone was so nice during her first concert. It must have been a truly magical night for her, especially with all her keepsakes. Glad that both you and her enjoyed it, and all your dreams came true…for her.

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  6. Mel says

    I am tucking this all-access due to child thing into my memory’s back pocket for use in a few years when I want to get a little closer to Dave Matthews or something.

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    • Nancy Davis Kho says

      Uh, feel free. My best friend is a huge DMB fan and strategically deployed her blonde haired, blue eyed daughter to get an autograph. She’s still recovering from the experience (the mom, not the daughter. That kid couldn’t have cared less.)

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  7. seriously sassy mama says

    How awesome is that! I would have been so excited. I would love to take my kids to a concert with me. I am unsure of what they might think of Pearl Jam?

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  8. cindy says

    I LOVE that your daughter’s first show was CH. They have been my favorite band for 25 years, and I have seen them live more times than I can count. They always put on a fantastic show – it sounds like such a great experience for her.

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  9. Skinny Mom's Kitchen says

    I love taking my kids to concerts. It was one of the many things I really looked forward to as they got a little older. They are always amazed to see real live people on stage singing. I do bring earplugs because it does get a little load :) But it is fun!

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  10. Arnebya says

    What gets me are the infants (oftentimes sans ear plugs) at concerts.

    That was a wonderful first concert experience for your daughter; I’m so glad she will have a happy memory. We have a small local park that has bands during the summer and we took the kids last year when the boy was only one. We didn’t make it through the entire set but they enjoyed the experience (being out in the woods after dark) and he is such a musical person that I don’t think he’d have complained had we stayed. The girls are actually regulars each year (usually multiple times, various locations) to see Chuck Brown with us. Neither has had the full-on concert experience yet, though, and I actually can’t wait. The oldest is now the age your daughter was. I just have to figure out who I can take her to see. All the boob shaking, butt gyrating that’s going on w/performers these days make me wary.

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    • Nancy Davis Kho says

      It’s a fine balance, isn’t it – I bought tickets to a show coming up in December that features a lot of my oldest daughter’s favorite bands (she’s a teen now) but we agree that their lyrics and the hoochie mama backup dancers are really inappropriate. So do I let her go and call it a “teachable moment” or do I leave her home and feel guilty that she’d have enjoyed it more than me?

      Much depends on how clean she keeps her room between now and then…

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