‘Cut loose and dance or have a cry’: Putting on gigs for kids

‘Cut loose and dance or have a cry’: Putting on gigs for kids

Key points

  • Family Jams is a new series of gigs presented by kids punk band Riot Baby and First Nations jazz trumpeter Charlie Woods at the Brunswick Ballroom from September to December this year.
  • The gigs which are part of the City of Moreland’s Resonate festival aim to show families the diversity of Melbourne’s music scene presenting punk, electro-jazz fusion, hip hop, and deep soul with each line-up featuring a First Nations artist.
  • Organisers say there is a gap in Melbourne’s music scene for kids who are older than the occasional PBS Rock-A-Bye Baby gig and the Wiggles audience. 

John Cheong-Holdaway’s reasons for starting a series of music gigs for families and kids were mainly selfish.

“We wanted to see great bands with our kids and they weren’t organising kids shows themselves so we figured why don’t we just start our own band and then book bands that we want to see?” he says.

He came up with Family Jams, a new series of gigs from kids punk band Riot Baby and First Nations jazz trumpeter Charlie Woods being held at the Brunswick Ballroom from September to December this year.

Musicians Cat Richards, John Cheong-Holdaway, Charlie Woods and Erica Cheong-Holdaway are putting on a series of gigs aimed at families.Credit:Justin McManus

“We want to show both kids and parents that going to bands and original live music can be a thing and to show bands that they can play for kids, and show the venues that this is a viable thing to put on,” Cheong-Holdaway says.

The gigs which are part of the City of Moreland’s Resonate Festival aim to show families the diversity of Melbourne’s music scene presenting punk, electro-jazz fusion, hip hop, and deep soul concerts, with each line-up featuring a First Nations artist.

Cheong-Holdaway says there is a gap in Melbourne’s music scene for kids who are older than the occasional PBS Rock-A-Bye Baby music sessions and the Wiggles audience.

Family Jams is offering concerts for kids who are a little too old for the Wiggles. Credit:Rohan Thomson

“There’s some really fun kind of rock for kids, but it’s pretty kiddy like. It’s songs about bananas and elephants, which is great, but there’s that middle ground [where it] seems like kids kind of get forgotten,” he says.

“It just seems crazy to me that I live in Northcote and there’s literally seven or eight gigs of original live music every single night and yet it’s a rare one that I can actually take my kids to.”

Cheong-Holdaway says it’s not necessary to change much about a music gig to make it appropriate for kids and families.

“I think if performers are engaged, kids will read and respond to that,” he says. “We’re going to make sure the volume is under control … [so] they’re not going to be blasting anyone’s ears out. Brunswick Ballroom is pretty accessible – they’ve got good food and parents can have a beer if they choose.”

Cheong-Holdaway says he wants to create a space where kids and parents are explicitly welcome.

He says concert-goers shouldn’t feel bad about tantrums or misbehaviour.

“They should really feel free to cut loose and dance or have a cry or have a little timeout if they need it,” he says.

Mary Mihelakos from the Brunswick Ballroom says the matinee slot at the venue is perfect for kids and families and artists will play in 30 minute slots to suit young attention spans.

“Music lovers come in all ages and you don’t have to stop seeing bands just because you have to stay home and look after your kids,” she says.

The first gig in the Family Jam series is at the Brunswick Ballroom at 1pm on Sunday, September 11, featuring Squid Nebula and Riot Baby.

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