I know some people have certain thoughts about bringing kids to shows and rock festivals but I think it's great. I was brought up listening to music all the time, being around musicians, even traveling with musicians. A trip to Sunderland with The Janitors and my dad will always be a fond memory, back in 80's England. I proudly caught my firstborn dancing to Nick Cave, The Cure or Stevie Nicks on camera (which she mixes up quite happily with Disney tunes), and laugh as our second gets really excited when her Dada plays Alice in Chains at high volume. Music is a huge part of our lives, so much so that I have a playlist in my head for every event in my life, and song or 4 for every moment and hope that I can pass this love along to my kids like my parents did with me. I sing to the tiny baby growing inside me every evening. As long as my kids are comfortable, not trapped in a mosh pit and are having fun, a music festival is a great experience for all ages.
Last year in late October we took the girls to their first music festival (one and two years old at the time). It wasn’t really any old festival either, but a rock/metal festival that has taken place every year for the past 5 years in Sacramento - Aftershock. In previous years I have kind of looked on with a little jealousy from across the country as my sister and mother watched and took photos of old favourites of mine such as Marilyn Manson and Faith No More, so this time around we were determined to participate. We don’t go many places without the kids just yet, and leaving them for two whole days wasn’t really an option for us. Mind you, kids had to pay full price too, so we didn’t go into this without weighing the pros and the cons. In the end I’m really glad we took them, but all in all I think we will only take the baby this year, but probably not for the reasons you are thinking of.
Luna will always be more comfortable wherever we are, so running around festival grounds with tens of thousands of people fazed her a lot less than a few hours with a sitter would have. Aurora is always pretty easygoing anyway, so she was happy enough to be carried around in the Ergo all day and listen to music. We didn’t expect to walk as much as we ended up doing on the first day, because one of the large stages was really far from the other large stage (if you had VIP you could walk through to the other side much faster, one of the biggest perks in my opinion). While we did plan everything pretty well (apart from me forgetting the kids ear protectors, and I’m so grateful that one of my friends was able to bring me two of her kids’ pairs), I think the first day we felt a little at loss on what to do, and seeing as both the bands that we actually wanted to see (Slayer and Tool) were headlining we spent way too much time walking around aimlessly and getting irritated and bored. In the end we left just after 5pm and had dinner right by the hotel (great idea of my mum’s, to get two hotel rooms within walking distance).
So our first lesson was not to go when the doors opened and to make sure that we were going for a reason. We missed the one band that both of us were super excited to see (Tool) because we went too early and got tired and grumpy. We didn’t make the same mistake the next day. On the Sunday we ended up leaving the hotel a few hours later than the Saturday with a real, solid plan in mind: what we wanted to eat and when, and where we wanted to be and when. While we were relaxing in the grass with the girls, waiting for the first band that we wanted to see (Ghost), a really, really awesome man came up, introduced himself as Danny and gave us two VIP bracelets, telling us he was one of the promoters and that he had a young daughter at home too (after a bit of research turns out that this Danny was Danny Hayes, CEO of Danny Wimmer Presents, and if he ever reads this I would like him to know how we really, really appreciated this lovely gesture and it made the weekend all the more memorable for us). Having VIP access literally changed everything for us! We were able to sit with the kids in places close enough to the stage to see well, and the girls were much more comfortable being able to play and dance on the ground during sets (Aurora was hilarious when she started to rock out to Korn out of the blue!). So thank you Danny, you really are awesome!
I didn’t really have a problem with the set up myself, especially after we had figured out where we wanted to be and when. I don’t really have an issue walking a lot, even with a 25lb baby strapped to me, when I have somewhere to be. I do regret not planning things out better and not buying VIP tickets for the first day, but other than that I have no regrets! Oh, actually I do, missing Avatar perform because we kept being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Other than that we will be back next year without a doubt. I used to plan my festival goings out to a tee, but felt that with two small kids we should be more “go with the flow”… I was a little wrong about that!
Apart from the music I absolutely loved the Music Experience tent. We ended up spending a lot of time in there as Luna liked walking around and looking at the instruments. She even played on the big drum kit to the delight of a bunch of people who were hanging out there. Cesar’s dream is to have all the kids play an instrument and rock out together, and we have nearly enough for a band now, so encouraging Luna to play on the big drum kit really made his day! They also had a ton of band signings going on during the weekend, which was really cool.
All in all the entire set up was pretty awesome: great sound, a great mix of bands (not all my favourites, but I’m old and just want to see NIN and Marilyn Manson all the time), brilliant lighting, and loads of food and drink merchants at an affordable price as far as festivals go. A few cons: full price for kids (even babies), and no strollers. The latter was OK for us as we had two Ergos on us and are used to wearing our kids, but having small kids also means extra baggage such a diapers and wipes, and not being able to bring a small bag in for that was a little annoying. Other than that I can honestly say it was super kid friendly (especially if you were in VIP).
So… Why are we only planning on bringing one baby this year? Honestly, it’s too expensive for us to pay full price for 5 people. It will be cheaper to bring the baby and have a sitter watch the girls. Also, the line up this year basically caters to all of my wishes (NIN, Marilyn Manson, Ozzy, A Perfect Circle…), so I really want to enjoy some of my favourite bands without having to chase after a three year old and a two year old while carrying a four month old! Being a little selfish to be honest!
Aftershock will take place on October 21st and 22nd at Discovery Park in Sacramento. All information can be found on the website right HERE (including ticket sales), and I really advise to bring your kids if you are on the bench about it. There is loads of space, we had no issues whatsoever with drunk assholes, and we never felt unsafe. Oh, and there were loads of kids of all ages there, so we weren’t out of place at all!
My amazing photographer mother Alison Toon has shot every Aftershock from the first one in 2012, as well as tons of other festivals and shows over the years. She has a great eye for not only capturing the bands, but also the people and the atmosphere. You can find her work HERE.