For real all ages

A while a go Defiance, Ohio played a show with Kimya Dawson and Your Heart Breaks at the public library in Olympia.  I remarked that it was an awesome show because it felt like it was “for real all ages” because there were the usual 20-something punks but also parents with their kids ranging in age from toddler to elementary school and a few grey-haired elders as well. A big part of that audience diversity seemed to do with being at a space that was public, culturally neutral and, through the very nature of the mission and programming of many libraries, all-ages.

In the past years, I’ve seen more and more folks in the DIY community organizing shows that are geared toward kids, or recording records of music oriented toward kids. This is cool and its great that DIY culture can flex to reflect people’s changing families and lives, but I’m more interested in how shows can be for real all ages and not just create special, designated spaces for people who don’t fit into the most frequent demographics about punk.

These are some questions that my friend asked me when trying to decide if she should bring her 12-year-old daughters to a show.  It strikes me that these aren’t just good questions to consider when you’re trying to organize a show that is kid-friendly, but really questions that get at a lot of assumptions we make about comfort at shows in general. Taking these things into account can not only make a show kid-friendly but make them more accessible to a variety of people whose needs might be a little different than those of the folks organizing a show.

  • Is the show no drinking? Will the show be more of a party where there might be lots of people there to just drink or hang out, or are most people there to see the bands?
  • Does the space allow smoking inside?
  • How big is the space? Are people likely to feel crowded?
  •  Is there space to hang out between bands where it’s not as crowded?

I know it’s not possible to do a great job with all of these things for every show. It’s also possible that you could work really hard to organize a show that does a good job of these things and no one seems to notice or care, or it creates an environment that’s more sterile or awkward. However, I think it’s important to keep these things in mind and try to make them priorities when it feels organic and to push to create spaces for shows where these things are organic.