This Is What It's Like to Take Your Little Kids to a Music Festival
We decided our whole crew was going to attend a legit multi-day music festival together and see if it would be the greatest two days of their young lives and would make us the coolest parents on the block.
The happy family
My wife and I run a music site that requires us to go see bands and shows often. We used to do this together but then we decided to have kids for some reason. We have two boys now. They’re fine. However, up until this point their existence has pretty much prohibited both of us from going to see the same show. One of us stays at home (because babysitting is mad $$$ these days) while the other goes solo. This arrangement works in that we’re both kind of miserable but it allows us to keep doing what we do because #DIY and all that.
But now that my bros are a little older (seven and five) we decided it was time to try going to see shows as a family. Sure, we’ve taken them to a few short day shows here and there over the years and when our oldest was a baby (before he was a real person) we slinged him up and dragged his ass around to whatever. But we’ve never truly gone big time with them, until recently. This summer we decided our whole crew was going to attend a legit multi-day music festival together and see if it would be the greatest two days of their young lives and would make us the coolest parents on the block.
So we packed the water, the hats, the sunscreen, the snacks for the car, the snacks for the snacks, strapped in the child seats, locked doors, triple checked we had the snacks, and headed to FYF Fest in our pimped out rental economy car that sometimes makes it up the steep streets of LA and sometimes would really rather not.
The sweet rental ride
“Dad, what’s Feef Fest?”
“We’re not going to Feef Fest. It’s called FYF Fest.”
“Doesn’t FYF spell Feef?”
“No. It stands for something.”
“What does it stand for?”
“You know the bad word that starts with F?”
“It stands for that.”
Actually, if you want to be technical about it FYF Fest stands for Fuck Yeah Fest Fest but I didn’t get into all that. So yeah, the first real music festival I took my children to was called the Fuck Yeah Fest. I’m a really great dad sometimes.
We managed to get there without anybody crying or kicking or dying in record time and even after walking a solid mile to the grounds (and that was the “close” 20 dollar parking lot) I realized that we were an hour and a half early, the gates we’re even open yet, and the first bands weren’t even scheduled to play until another hour after that. I’m also really great at reading schedules. In some ways I’m glad we allowed some extra time to pick up our wristbands because that took all of about 45 seconds. And they were these new fangled type of wristbands with this permanent pull string thing and of course I pulled it too tight and all five of my fingers suddenly had a heartbeat. It was only then that I looked in the envelope it came in and discovered that these new fangled wristbands (kids today) included complicated instructions on how to tie them properly and they included ominous words that said something like “Once you pull you cannot loosen. What is done can never be undone!!!!” Well, I fucked it up and so I asked the people in the booth if I could have a replacement because wearing this for two days would surely choke all life out of my hand and I couldn’t have that because that’s the hand I check my phone with and they said “replacement wristbands are 20 dollars” and I said “that’s OK then, no thank you, I’ll make do.”
It was brutally hot and we were now stuck with two small children in the middle of downtown nowhere LA waiting for doors. We cleared somebody’s leftover Carl’s Jr. litter from a concrete bench nearby and sat down for what seemed like the rest of our lives. This spot afforded us a great view of the local street scene where apparently old friends congregate and pretend to fight each other on a regular basis (at least I think they were pretending, it was hard to tell) and throw around the other worse word that starts with F loudly and often. And it was there for the next 90 minutes my wife and I stared at the dirt (this California drought, though) and contemplated how shitty this day was starting. Our kids found a tree nearby and ran around it about hundred times and had a delightful time. The pure hearts of children and all that.
Finally, the gates opened. But not before we had to pass through security. And I shit you not, when we were finally next up in the slow moving line, the guard patted down both of my children. A pat down….of a seven year old and a five year old. To his credit, he did discover a Lego Mixel that my youngest had mistakenly left in the pocket of his sweatpants shorts (like his old man, he prefers comfort over style). Can you imagine the shitshow if that $3.99 toy would’ve gotten through? Sometimes it’s better not to think about that stuff.
Everyone is having a great time.
So now we were in and only had another hour to kill before the first bands played over several very spread out stages (this is the same place the 1984 Olympics were held which might give you a better sense of the ground we had to cover, like the whole world could have fit in there - also, side note, give 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Greg Louganis his due and put the guy on the goddamn box of Wheaties after snubbing him all these years because he is gay it’s like seriously what is wrong with you, cereal). Now, an hour downtime with little kids can be an ETERNITY and we had already used up all of our luck up finding that tree by that bench. There’s was nothing left to do but to seek out some overpriced food that makes you feel bad shortly after eating it. Thankfully, there was a cart selling $5 stale churros so I purchased one, broke it in half, and gave it to my kids.
This wasted a good two minutes so we found another place selling $6 lemonade. I purchased one and put two straws in the lid.
After several more stops to several more snack stands where I sought out the cheapest item on the menu to split in half, we were just about at first band time. So we walked seemingly forever in fruitless search of the stage we needed to be at even though we were holding the official map which, to be frank, was NOT to scale.
Finally, we got where we needed to be and the first band played (they were fine) and there we stood as a family, united in our love of music, watching them with frowns on our faces. It was really hot and our kids let us know it. They also thought it was too loud even though they were wearing those ear muffs that dudes wear when directing the big ass jets coming directly for their face. Also, about halfway in the set a woman in the hippie garb that’s fashionable with the young people of today puked her shit all over the concrete ground right next to my oldest son. It was 3:30 in the afternoon at this point. The festival went until 1 AM. I’ll kindly control my kids, lady, if you kindly control your liquor.
“Why did she get sick, Dad?”
“Bad $5 churros.”
Dad telling kids to look like they're having fun.
It was right around this time that a super intense woman in a Michael Jordan jersey approached my hot children, pinched their cheeks, said how cute they were (I’m just reporting facts) and then wouldn’t leave. She just wanted to have a conversation about whatever. Where are we from. Do we like music. Do we like basketball. What’s our take on San Francisco. I swear she would have chilled with us forever if she could. After a few minutes, my wife made an epic save and said we were going to get a snack and I was sure the woman was going to say “cool, what should we eat?” but she didn’t and we escaped a harmless and friendly encounter with a well-meaning stranger. Whew! (PS I have a Michael Jordan tattoo on my shoulder - this is 100% true and something I omitted from the conversation)
We saw a few songs by another band on some other faraway stage (they were fine) before my kids pretty much lost their shit. They were tired. They were hot. They were hungry (this they complained to me while they were eating). They have nothing left in the tank. They were done. So we left with approximately nine hours of music left on the docket, including headliner Kanye West who I’ve heard good things about.
The next day we woke up and did it all again and except for timing the doors correctly this time, and no security pat downs for my two sons (guess they weren’t deemed a threat considering both were wearing Spiderman apparel), and no extended casual encounters with a Chicago Bulls fanatic, the day played out virtually the same. One $5 Churro. One $6 Lemonade. A few bands. Lots of walking. Hot. Tired. Complaining. Home by 5:30 PM. We just missed headliner Morrissey by about five hours.
Parents creating shade for kids.
On our final ride home after I disengaged my wristband from my now numb hand without scissors while driving my pimped out economy rental car in boss McGuyver-esque fashion, I tried to engage with my kids in a spirited discussion about the bands they saw over the past two days. Did they like anybody they saw? Did they not? What were some highlights? Anything that could have gone differently? Give me some good material for this article I’m going to write. My 7-year-old said the bands “were fine” (the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree) and my five-year-old said “what’s a band?”
Even though I didn’t get much from them, I’d like to think some of the experience seeped into my kids’ consciousness and will help them one day have great appreciation for music because, let’s face it, music is the best. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. But if I’m honest with myself I bet the only conversation they will ever have with their friends about our summer music festival weekend together is gonna go something like this.
“Yeah, my mom and dad took me to FYF Fest once and can you believe they made us leave before Kanye West played?”
“Serious? That’s some serious bullshit right there.”
“Seriously. Just one of the many reasons I never call them even though they raised me and still love me unconditionally.”
(they high five)
I don’t know, man. You just try to raise your kids to be kind and considerate people who maybe also like interesting things like music and then you cross your fingers and hope for the best.
I’ll tell you what, though. The entire time at the festival I saw zero other people with little kids. Not a one. So we must have either been doing something really wrong or really right. I’ll let the anonymous Internet commenters decide. But the next music festival that comes around, I’ll probably pony up the $$$ and get a babysitter, go see some fine bands, and split a $5 stale churro with my wife.
Patrick McNamara is the coolest dad on the planet. Follow him on Twitter.