Back in April, my husband bought tickets to go see Phish at the Gorge Amphitheater. I never heard of Phish until I met my husband. He loves music and this was one of his favorites, he really wanted everyone to come with him, yes, including the kids. I was skeptical to say the least. My biggest concern was the other people in attendance at the concert who may or may not be imbibing in alternative products (My hubby and I don’t participate). Jeeshz, I sound so prudish, but when you have kids, you think about how you want to raise your kids.
My attitude about concerts is that they are for adults, or rebelling teenagers. On the other hand, I knew it was important to Honey that we go to the concert as a family. I knew he wanted to share the concert experience and music with Annabelle. First, I did a little research to see if going to Phish with kids was even feasible. This concert has a lawn so we could set up a comfortable spot for the kids. Several other websites gave tips on how to bring toddler kids to a Phish concert. For those reasons, I wanted to keep an open mind and at least try, it might be something that we could do as a family. Well, here’s what I think if you are going to an adult concert with the kids:
Kid Logistics Rule
If you are with a 5 month old baby and a 2 year old it’s not likely that you are going to be able to stay both sets and hear the encore. Be prepared to leave early. We ended up leaving after the first set. The baby fell asleep before the concert even started and Annabelle was overtired, but didn’t want to leave as she was having fun dancing on the lawn. Even so, we left early from an adult perspective, but late from a kids (10pm) and beat the crowd. The last thing we wanted to have was a screaming baby and an overtired 2 year old in a locked unmoving vehicle with us. From a safety perspective, we didn’t want to be around possible drunk or stoned drivers.
The second thing we did, was figured out where to sit where we could still enjoy the concert but not be overwhelmed by the crowds. Find an appropriate place to sit. On the lawn, we set up blankets and our strollers near the edge and in the back in case we needed to leave quickly. Please remember when they say “family section” in the concert arena, find out if it’s a loose term or if there is actually a roped off area for kids and families.
Once the concert started, we put on the 3M Peltor Junior Earmuff, Black for Liam and some pink ones for Annabelle. She took hers off, because she’s a two year old, and immediately ran into my arms scared. Once we put the earmuffs back on, she went back to dancing on the lawn. As far as we know, Annabelle doesn’t have noise or sensory issues, it’s typical for a 2 yo to be sensitive to loud music at a concert. We also used Hearos Ear Plugs Xtreme Protection, 14-Pair Foam (Pack of 3). After Liam fell asleep, I stuffed a pair into his ears and then put earmuffs on.
Snacks & Water
First, check with the venue in terms of what they will allow and what they will not allow. Many venues are not opposed to families, but rather opposed to the kid who is trying to pass off vodka in the water bottle. In addition, they have profit margin to maintain and enforce this by restricting water in favor of letting you purchase it at the venue. We brought Trader Joe’s fruit and veggie crushers, a quart sized bag of mixed Trader Joe’s cheese rockets, nuts, & raisins, a tin of cookies, string cheese, bag of baby carrots, an empty sippy cup and four 16 oz bottles of water. Be sure bring cash or your credit card to purchase additional waters at the venue. I kept her well hydrated because it was hot outside and tried as much as possible to keep her eating schedule on track, but I wasn’t super strict about it. It is better to have too much food and water than not enough.
Check the timing of the concert! For Phish, the doors opened at 5pm and the concert started at 7:30, with nightfall hitting around 9pm. We started with hot dry weather, moved into windy and cool weather, and then much colder weather as the sun went down. The first rule to prevent clothing disasters is to layer! I brought a full change of clothes for both kids, just in case, jackets, and summer hats to wear. Bring enough clothes to layer for warmth and protect from the cold, remember to start with lightest piece of clothing first. I chose a short sleeve shirt, cropped pants, then I added a sweatshirt and socks when it got cold.
We didn’t know if Annabelle would have enough fun dancing, so we brought some toys for her to play with like bubbles, fun sunglasses, headbands with dangly hearts, and a xylophone and a drum to play with to the music. I worried that people would be upset about the music toys, but truthfully, the music was so loud that no one even noticed. I also wondered if she could hear over the music with her headphones on and the answer is yes (at least enough to play the drums and hit her xylophone at the right times). Bring items that involve your kid in the music and fun activities going on so they don’t get bored.
Get a Hotel
The concert was a two hour drive from our house. I wanted to just put the kids asleep in the car and drive home. I thought it would be the easiest on the kids and us, we would get home and could be on a normal schedule again. Honey wanted to stay over at a friends house that night, insisting he would be too tired for the drive home and we could leisurely drive back in the morning. Our friend was in the late stages of building a house nearby, but there was nothing in the finished rooms (no carpet, beds, etc). So, Honey packed up an air mattress for us, Pack n Play, and Annabelle’s mattress. After the concert, we arrived at our friends house. The baby slept great, but Annabelle was up every 30 minutes crying, bumping into the wall, and generally overtired. Our air bed had a leak in it so we were sleeping on concrete. At 3am, Honey had enough and we headed home. I bit my tongue and did not say “I TOLD YOU SO.”. That was harder to do than driving home at 3am with no coffee! A hotel room would have been nice or maybe driving back that evening. Make your logistics work for you rather than against you!
Concern re: Adults using Alcohol, Weed, and Future Concerts
I’m still a bit on the fence about attending future Phish or adult concerts. My fear is at a crossroad of “We want to have her experience awesome music and a great lawn concert with us” and “This is an adult playground, not a kids.”. As she gets older, and if we attend another ‘adult’ concert, I am worried about the opinions she will form about drugs and alcohol. My husband says we will “talk” to her about alcohol and drug use, but she’ll see everyone having so much fun that she’ll ignore anything we say, will want to try it, will like it, become addicted and will die alone on a street corner. Maybe my
paranoia concern goes a little far. Pay attention to what is going on around you and how it may impact your kids.
While I am certainly okay with recreational use when the timing is appropriate, exposing her this early to a topic that would be impossible to have a relevant discussion about concerns me. Honey keeps telling me that if I want a conservative Republican in the family, that we should keep taking her to the concerts (the idea being she will rebel against us). I doubt it. The truth is I can’t handle the dissonance between what we say, what we do, and what they see. For me, I kept an open mind and was willing to try it out, but I don’t think we’ll be back. What I am learning about “Introducing her to many things” and being”Cool Toddler Parents” is that I myself am revisiting my own beliefs about certain activities. For myself, I’m finding I’d rather be conservative by attending family friendly concerts and venues (Hello Caspar Babypants!) and have mock Phish concerts at home, with only a few familial hooligans in attendance.
If you prepare properly, there is no reason why you cannot take your kids to a grown up lawn concert. There are plenty of great venues and plenty of wonderful bands where that you can enjoy with the kids. Be sure to consider all the different things that could impact your kid from pure logistics to forming judgements about pot smoking. I was glad we did went though, it gave both of us an idea of what kind of parents we want to be, logistic nightmares, all wrapped up in a night of fantastic music and an awesome view.