There are moments at a concert—guitars riffing, lights pulsing, the drumbeat physically pounding against my chest—when I can’t help but think, “Geez, my kid would love this.” In fact, the noise and visual splendor of live music seems like the perfect fit for the active mind of a child. But, as quick as pauses between beats, I can’t help but wonder how much my fellow concertgoers would appreciate the presence of a young music lover in the adjacent seats. So I contacted Swallow Hill Music‘s director of marketing and mother of two Gwen Burak for advice on how to make music shows a family excursion. Here are a few of her tips on surviving (and loving) the summer concert season with kids in tow:
Primetime: Concerts are always more enjoyable and memorable, when you know the words to the songs. As soon as you buy concert tickets, start playing the band’s albums in the car and at home. Once the show gets started, your kids will instantly feel like they belong since they will recognize the words. In addition to knowing the song list, don’t expect them to take in a concert as an adult. Have an open conversation (or five) before the show about the different jobs the band and crew members have. This will give them a mental checklist of things to notice, especially during the lull between acts.
Personal Space: Start out with loose, outdoor concert environments. Choose seats where your little one can dance in the aisle and keep an eye out for an easy exit if Junior’s hollering isn’t of the “Encore!” variety.
Time Out: If there’s time between acts or an intermission, use the spare moments to explore and move. Check out the venue from other locations and grab a beverage, but also check-in to make sure you kid’s ears are enjoying the concert. (Also important: ear protection.)
Worth the $$$: If you drop $100-plus per ticket, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed if a mid-show meltdown requires an early evacuation. The more money you spend on tickets, the longer you may try to force your family to stay for just one more song. As much as you want to introduce the musical arts to your kids while enjoying the show yourself, remember that everyone around you also bought tickets. It’s crucial to respect their experience and the artist playing. So, in this case, take no-cost baby steps: Start with free shows where no one will be disappointed if after four songs you trade the jams for a trip to the ice-cream shop.
Decompress: Congratulations! You took your kids to their first concert. Now what? Answer all the questions they asked during the show that you couldn’t hear. How does a person become a musician? Did they write their own songs? Where do the band members sleep when they are playing concerts everyday? And ask if they would like to go to another concert while the experience in fresh. Chances are, they’ll be eager to sign up.
Five summer concerts perfect for first-timers:
Swallow Hill Music’s Shady Grove Picnic Series: Wednesdays, June 10 to August 19; $10 general admission, $2 for kids 12 & under (under 2 free); Four Mile Historic Park, 715 S. Forest St.
Bands on the Bricks: Wednesdays, June 10 to August 12; free; Pearl Street Mall, Boulder
Summer Stage Concert Series: June 18 to September 11; ticket prices vary; 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada
City Park Jazz: June 7 to August 9; free; City Park
Highlands Ranch Summer Concert Series: June 4 to July 23; free; Highland Heritage Regional Park, 9651 S. Quebec, Highlands Ranch
Follow assistant editor Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter @LindseyRMcK.