At first glance, live music shows may not seem the most family-friendly of places. Crowds, loud noises, and smoking keep many parents and kids at bay.
However, as music lovers grow older and start families, they need not fear abandoning the shows they love just because they now have little ones in tow.
“They don’t want to settle down, so it’s understandable,” says Pierre Brahin, a Beijing-based composer and musician from France who plays world music, jazz, and flamenco. He is also father to 6-year-old Lucien.
While many musicians and die-hard fans worry about how having a family may impede their chances of catching gigs, those gripes are usually unfounded. “I have a lot of friends who are musicians, and nearly all of them have kids,” he says.
Ian Burns has a similar outlook. The lead singer of The Beijing Beatles, this Brit is also an avid music lover who still regularly attends shows. His 10-year-old son, Max, does not impede Dad’s regular gigging around town. On the contrary, father and son have been bonding over live shows for years.
“I constantly talk to him about the music I listened to while growing up, the influence my dad and brothers had on me as a child with their records, how important it is to know and love music,” Burns says, adding that those heart-to-hearts led Max to become a fan of vintage acts like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and The Kinks. “Max also loves to sing and listen to classic songs from my dad’s era. He’s a little nostalgic, just like me.”
“Unfortunately, he does also like Justin Bieber,” Burns adds with a laugh. “I’m trying to get him out of this phase. Just kidding. Well, not really.”
When it comes to live music, however, Burns is much more deliberate about being a good influence. He was careful to not only expose his son to studio recordings of his
favorite songs, but to live renditions as well. “I spoke to Max in advance to make sure he knew what to expect at the concert,” Burns says of the first live performance they attended together.
“I took him to a quiet classical concert in Qingdao when he was 5. Once he said he wanted to come along, [I told him] it wouldn’t be possible to leave in the middle of the performance [if he didn’t like it]. It would be inconsiderate – not to mention I didn’t have a babysitter.”
Pierre Brahin encourages parents not to worry about the volume level or potential rowdiness of a live performance. The real risk lies in depriving children of the chance to see talented performers, he believes.
The subject matter of certain songs is not always appropriate for kids, however, and should parents shoud not disregard crowd control and volume levels. The distinction is that families should not feel intimidated by these factors. In the end, the advantages outweigh the risks, Brahin argues.
“The benefits are the same as going to an art gallery or any cultural event,” he says. “It’s about being aware of and able to enjoy different types of artistic expression. It’s also about learning how to [form]an opinion by yourself. Any kind of musical performance is good for your children to see, even if it’s Justin Bieber.”
Burns agrees. “Max has been to many live gigs and volume hasn’t been an issue so far. We can always leave if it is,” he says.
“Obviously I wouldn’t take Max to an extremely crowded event, but usually there’s somewhere to stand or sit if the place gets too busy.”
In addition, families should look into taking children to age-appropriate shows, where many of the issues that parents stress over do not tend to crop up.
“I am often asked by friends if the Beijing Beatles ever play daytime or kid-friendly gigs so they can bring their kids,” explains Burns. “We have tried it and would like to do [more]in the future.”
“I would be careful to not bring the kid to a loud concert indoors,” Brahin says. “But as long as it’s not too late at night, I really don’t think there is an age limit to bring your kids to shows.”
To minimize potential problems, Burns gave Max lessons in gig etiquette and concert safety. With these guidelines in place, father and son’s musical bond got stronger, with the younger Burns overtaking his dad at times.
“He performed at Mao Livehouse before I did!” Burns exclaims of his son’s early performance at one of Beijing’s most renowned live music venues. “At the age of 7, he sang ‘Highway to Hell’ with some friends of mine at a birthday party.”
Burns loves sharing music with his son. But the whole experience runs deeper than father and son simply having a common interest. Letting your children in on your fixations, obligations, pursuits, and passions can help them better understand when those commitments keep you apart – be it a business trip, night shift, or a gig.
“Being flexible and spending time with your children is very important, but sometimes you just have to be a little bit creative,” he says. After all, his regular shows with The Beijing Beatles play tend to eat into his spare time. “I am sad when I have to leave the house and go play at a gig. But on the other hand, Max gets it. He knows that I love [what I am]doing and that I will make it up to him in other ways.”
Photo Courtesy of Pierre Brahin
This article originally appeared on p52-55 of the beijingkids February 2014 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com