A Kids Guide to Live Music. (part 1 of 2)

My kids are now 8 and 4. Collectively they’ve been to more shows than your average high school kid; Social Distortion, Dropkick Murphys, Rancid, Great Big Sea, Lori McKenna, Deb Talan and The Weepies, to name a few. Most folks think I’m nuts but this is something that’s been important to me since long before I had kids.  The seed was planted back when I started going to my first all ages, Sunday matinee punk shows at T.T. the Bear’s, the Rat and the Channel. I would often see college-aged, mowhawked punks walking around with their younger siblings in tow. The reality is that they were probably supposed to be babysitting the little ones while the parents were out, but they instead snuck out to catch an afternoon show. But to me this seemed the perfect family experience. And why not, punk was always a democratic DIY scene. There’s no reason not to bring the kids along, right? “All Ages Show”; the name says it all.

I have to admit that when I queued up in front of the Avalon for my son’s first show, I was worried. The Dropkick Murphys annual St. Patrick’s home-town stand. I bought the tickets to the Saturday matinee for his 5th Birthday. No simple task itself. If you’ve ever tried to secure tickets to one of these annual shows, you know what I mean. My wife stood beside, hands on hips, side-long glances at the sheer volume of tattoos and piercings. I immediately realized I’d taken my life in my hands on more ways than one. If this didn’t go exactly as I’d envisioned, I’d be in a heap of trouble.

Funny thing how parenthood changes your perspective on all life’s pleasures. For the better part of 20 years I’ve thought nothing of launching headlong into a mosh pit filled with 250 pound sweaty skinheads and spike-wielding punks; of jumping diving off stage risers onto an ever-shifting sea of bodies. Suddenly, with 5-year old in tow, I feel I’ve been dropped into downtown Fallujah; into a fully engaged fire-firefight. My perspective on the situation swung 180 degrees and I, for the first time ever, knew what it means to fear for my life. Well, maybe not my own life, but certainly that of my son. I’m immediately convinced that I’ve made a grave mistake.

Thankfully I was wrong. In fact, I could not have been more wrong. Remember, I’d been envisioning this moment since I was 16 years old. I had a lot to lose. And in the end I couldn’t have imagined a better experience. As we worked our way to the stage we sidled up beside another family of aging hipsters. We learned that they were in Boston on an annual pilgrimage to the St. Patty’s show. The whole family; Mom, Dad, and sons aged 14 and 16 had been coming to the shows every year for 3 or 4 years. They moved over so my son could sit atop one of the go-go boxes where he could watch the show up close but safely out of the melee. 3 songs into the set and he’s tapping me on the shoulder, then pointing to the mosh pit. “Take me in there”, he mouths. Never going to happen. 2 songs later, the same tap, the same message, “Take me in there”. I don’t know. Seems a little dangerous. Another couple of songs and he’s at it again. “Comeon Dad. Please take me in.” Well, my resolve softens. I very carefully take him down from the go-go box and walk him to the edge of the pit. I’m nervous, but something strange happens. An extra-large skinhead shouts “Kid in the pit” and proceeds to act as a bodyguard. My son now gets to dance around the pit under the protection of the most enormous punk I’ve ever seen. Someone who probably would have kicked my ass if I’d looked at him sideways.

After a couple of minutes I get a tap on the shoulder from a bouncer. “Come here”, he says. He’s worried about my son, so he lifts him to the side of the stage in front of the stack of amps. On stage! 5 years old! Unbelievable. A few minutes later the band invites their family and friends on stage to for a rendition of AC/DC’s TNT. And who is on stage with the band? Yup, he is. 5 years old and hanging out on stage with the Dropkick Murphys.

For me it’s the ultimate. Remember again, I’d built this moment for years and years. I could not have hoped that it would have turned out better. I’d learned a valuable lesson about family time; it is what you make of it. It doesn’t have to be all about Disney on Ice and crappy magic shows. If you pay attention and do things right, there’s no reason why you can’t share your passions with the kids, even when others might think them too young. My advice to you; share your music with your kids. Start as early as you’re comfortable. Don’t wait until they’re 16 and don’t want to spend time with you. Build your traditions early. Whether it’s music, or hiking, or skiing, or anything else. Start now!

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~ by spinthis45 on December 14, 2008.

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