Keep calm and rock on!

26 Feb

Wow! My kid is going to be 13 in May. I’ve been intermittently using this space as a private blog for the past couple of years…going back to read old posts and remembering I was kinda good at this parenting thing for a while. While I’m struggling in some ways with parenting an adolescent, I am definitely confident about how I’m exposing my kid to music in general and live music specifically.

I’m going to say this a few times: parenting at shows is still parenting.

It might also be fun for the adult, but that’s not the primary goal. The primary goal is to keep your kid safe and teach/model how to be a responsible part of our community.

Most of the tips below are based on my experience as an aunty and a mom with kids 8+.years old. Here are some quick thoughts on developmental stages of rocking out:

  • You can bring a baby anywhere (wear them, no strollers please) and they’ll be happy.
  • Here’s the hard truth, parents: your toddler does not want to go to shows. Honestly. Maybe a few minutes of open air music at a street fair…but in general, leave the under 3 year olds at home. Get a sitter, swap with your partner or friend…do what you need to for everyone to feel good and have a good time. Toddlers are like Gremlins: they’re cute until you break the rules. Don’t keep them up late or feed them after midnight.
  • The 3-5 year old crowd can party! As long as they’re well rested, well snacked, and well supported.
  • 5-10 year olds probably have more fun than anyone else at a show.
  • Your 11+ year old will have fun as long as they have a friend and you help curate an experience that works for them.
  • Don’t bring anyone’s 15+ kid to a show unless you are prepared to be 100% responsible for any possible outcome. Have very direct conversations with all adults and youth involved about expectations, potential risks, and potential consequences for not following expectations.

It’s really exciting to see how the Seattle music scene continues to evolve, supporting musicians and fans of all ages and stages of life. These days, I’m much more likely to bring my kid to an all-ages show than a kid-friendly early dinner/happy hour–although it’s pretty great when the two can go together and we can enjoy cheap early dinner and a show that ends early enough to get up for school the next day!

Since venues have re-opened after COVID, I’ve made it a priority to get out to support artists and venues around town. I’ve also really, really enjoyed taking my kid to festivals–in particular Summer Meltdown (sure hope we can get melty again next year…).

I will (and do) listen to every style of music when the artists and the crowd are really into coming together for the experience. Blues, ambient, classical, jazz, punk, rock, folk…all of the above and more! I truly believe that sharing music in person is a critical part of being human–of connecting with each other. We absorb live the emotion and information artists share when performing live into our cells (our souls, if you’re okay with that word). I want my daughter and her friends to have as many chances as possible to create and enjoy every possible style of music in every possible way–whether it’s a fuzzy car stereo, a 3000 person crowd, or 10 people awkwardly avoiding eye contact in someone’s garage while someone’s cousin pokes at a computer keyboard during a silent disco in their garage.

My tips for bringing to shows with confidence look a lot like how I approach taking toddlers out to eat:

read the room, always leave ’em laughing!

  • Safety: You and your kid should feel physically and emotionally safe in the space and the crowd. When my daughter is with me, I want to know that she’ll be able to navigate the crowd to find what she wants and needs with confidence. Start with smaller venues that you already know and model/teach/practice good concert habits:
    • show your kid the location of the nearest bathroom
    • look for venues with assigned seating so your kid knows where to look for you on the way back from the bathroom
    • make a plan for where to meet/how to connect if you get separated and can’t reach each other by phone (it happens)
    • review general courtesy and awareness: hold on to your stuff; stay off your phone; don’t cut in line; be aware of your surroundings, including the people around you
      • Have open, honest, direct conversations about drugs–including alcohol. Talk about only consuming food/beverages from you/your group or purchased directly from vendors. However you feel about specific drugs, be aware that your minor child is by definition not an adult. Youth cannot understand the risk of consuming a specific substance (legal for adults or not) and cannot be responsible for the outcome of a poor decision. This is your kid. Protect them with information and supervision.
    • have ongoing, honest, direct conversations about creepy behavior and how to a) not be creepy and b) deal with someone being creepy to/around you
    • point out what kind of uniform security/staff wear and practice conversations that might come up: “I lost my mom, is there someplace I can wait while she finds me?” “This guy is following me around.” “I lost my phone/coat/purse, is there a lost and found?” etc
  • Respect: know and understand the rules and norms of the venue. Specific tips for parents:
    • If you have young children, keep them with you or a designated adult at all times. Actively supervise them. Take responsibility for meeting their needs: naps, diapers/toileting, food, rest and/or activity breaks.
    • Older kids need clear, consistent expectations for how to behave and clear, consistent consequences for when they behave otherwise–including an understanding of local laws and venue policies. If you’re letting your kid/s wander, you need to have a time and place to check in at least once every couple of hours. They need to have the ability to pay for what they want/need and they need the gear necessary to be physically safe and comfortable: sunscreen, clothing appropriate to the weather, water bottles, wristbands or barcodes for re-entry, etc.

Whether you’re at a farmer’s market watching someone strum a guitar or in a huge arena shaking it to Beyonce, if your kids are with you you are parenting. That might mean you have to leave earlier than you want, you might spend part of a set standing in line for the potty, you might be carrying wet wipes and cookies in your backpack–or it might mean that you’re holding your 15 year old’s hair because she accepted a beverage from someone.

If you are not planning to parent 100% while at a show with the minor children in your care, you should not bring them to the show. That means don’t get wasted. Don’t hook up with strangers. Model the kind of behavior you want your kid to have when they’re 17.

Last piece of advice: please, please, please model excellent self-care and wear quality ear protection. Teach your kids to wear quality ear protection: every show, every time. I’ve had tinnitus for over 20 years and it sucks. Straight up sucks. Standing up front next to the speakers screaming at the stage is awesome–soul filling! It’s also really, really bad for your ears. To quote Kurt Vile: “Plug ’em up.”

Some amazing options for enjoying quality live music with kids

(and feel good about letting teens go on their own)

School of Rock

Bring your kids and watch students (maybe even your kid!) perform at bars all over town. This is exactly how we grow the next generation of artists and audiences!

Vera Project

Vera is the place you wish you had when you were young…unless you’re raising a second-gen Vera kid. All-ages shows, classes, community…so good!


The only reason KEXP isn’t top of the list is that I consider it a radio station first, venue second. You don’t have to rank choices–just go! It’s free, all-ages, and shows are always excellent. Also look for shows the station sponsors/recommends around town.

Listen, donate, volunteer, show up. If you’re a parent, check out the 90.teen program and the internship program and tell your kid/s and their friends!

Other venues that frequently host all-ages shows (check carefully for each offering). Be aware that many venues won’t/don’t allow alcohol in the all-ages area, so if you order a beer you’ll be separated from your kid while you drink it.

The Paramount

Musicals, rock shows, other cool stuff. The Paramount is intimate, welcoming, has great sound, and offers accessible seating. They will also allow you to bring your beverages into the theater if you have a lidded cup.

El Corazon

Old school Seattle punk venue. Always awesome,

Showbox (downtown is great, I’ve never been to SoDo)

Diverse programming, excellent sound, great security crew. Expect to be crammed into the bar during all ages shows. Not recommended if you’re solo with kids under 12.

Seattle Symphony

Not a bad seat in the house! Excellent, excellent sound quality and really good programming. Way more diverse and fun than you would expect if you haven’t been in a while. Kids under 10 should probably stick with the “family programming”–short, sweet, and more affordable. Everyone else should be prepared to sit still and be very respectful. Teach about when to clap, maybe pre-listen to the music. Note: Benaroya Hall has lots of other programming beyond the symphony.

Town Hall

Seattle Opera

Same as the Symphony: leave your littles at home.


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