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Rocking out with your kids

All-ages music opportunities in the South Sound

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Kids and concerts. Two words you don't normally hear in the same sentence. When I think of concerts, I think loud, crazy and fun. When I think of kids, I think the same thing. So why aren't these two things combined more often?

I remember the days of carefree concerts. Going to rock shows, hip-hop, reggae. Anything my ears could get a hold of. I could take off on any given weekend and rock out, get wasted and sleep in the car if I wanted. The good ol' days.

Now, I have a 4-year-old and a 4-month-old. I laugh at the idea of getting out and seeing a show. Finding a sitter is hard - and leaving my kids is even harder. That's why I love all-ages shows. With the right preparation, the hubby and I can enjoy a show with the kids in tow.

First things first, make sure the kids are happy. Nothing ruins a good concert like a grumpy kid. So make sure you have all their creature comforts. Snacks, drinks, favorite toys, etc.  You know the drill. Dress them in layers and make sure you have gun muffs for the younger ones and at least earplugs for the older ones.

Next, make sure the adults are happy. Don't forget your snacks, drinks (wink, wink), favorite toy, etc. After all, nothing ruins a good concert like a grumpy adult.

So, now where to go?

In both Tacoma and Olympia, you can expect to see a few bands you love at least a few times a year. The bigger events seem to occur seasonally. Tacoma's Music and Art in Wright Park was revived this summer with local favorites Zeke and Guns & Rossetti, and the Old Town Blues Fest shakes things up every July.

Coming up soon is First Night Tacoma on New Year's Eve - a definite family favorite with plenty of live music. This one is alcohol free.

In Olympia, Arts Walk kicks off the spring and fall with their abundance of art and music. There are a series of summer festivals that follow suit. Lakefair and Hemp Fest in downtown Oly are some of the highlights.

Both cities have a handful of all-ages venues. Oly has Midnight Sun, Capitol Backstage, Eagles Hall, and most recently, Northern. T-town has The Viaduct, The Den and the budding Cake Room - with the fresh loss of Hell's Kitchen since the club moved locations and axed all-ages action. Jazzbones has also been known to throw in an all ages show now and again, including the Sunday afternoon jam with Randy Oxford.

Another participant in the kid-friendly world of music, and an ironic one at that, is local libraries. Tacoma hosts Rock the Books every summer and Olympia recently had metal band Bloodhag grace their carpet.

Sometimes you can run across a gem of a show at more intimate, obscure places like Old School Pizzeria or Traditions Café in Olympia - or Rocket Records in Tacoma. In fact, Rocket Records owner Steve Gaydich has been hosting all-ages shows since Hell's Kitchen decided to move downtown and cease all-ages shows. (The Kitchen and Rocket Records used to be neighbors.)

"It's just great," Gaydich says of the opportunity to provide a place for families to enjoy music together. "I try to do something every weekend. Come on down."

So get out and find a show, it feels damn good.

Just ask my 4-year-old.

"Rock ‘n' roll is awesome, mom," he says.

Yeah, kiddo, I know.

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