Walking through a rainy Manchester with a toddler who is in the middle of a tantrum, I think to myself what am I doing out of the house? The answer, we are off to Band on the Wall for a gig, yes, a gig. Possibly the only type of event that can make me leave the house on a day like today and it’s a gig specifically for Under 5’s!
I didn’t think my first visit to Band on the Wall would be with my toddler but here we are! When babyrocksampler invited me along to review a gig aimed at babies, I jumped at the chance. It’s Saturday afternoon which historically would be spent in the house, too full of anxiety to leave and brave town. Since becoming a full-time worker again, I only have the weekends to spend with Cora and I have struggled to find baby classes/activities where I can meet other parents in places other than the dreaded soft play.
Babyrocksampler is an organisation who are bringing social lives back to parents! On the website, the first line is ‘Struggle to get a babysitter to go see live music?’ and it’s a stroke of genius. It’s well known that if we become parent’s life changes, gone are the invites to anything that starts after 6 pm and you find yourself looking forward to a nice Green tea and Marie Kondo on your Friday nights! In some ways that’s the dream but why can’t parents have a family and a healthy social life too?
Walking into Band on the Wall I am greeted by smiley people with cheeky beers and instantly I wonder where these parents have been all Cora’s life! Sarah my friend who I’ve known since uni joins me and it’s fitting as we have gone to so many crazy events, but this is a new one for us. It feels like the episode of Friends where Chandler and Joey mind Ben …but I’m the parent! Neither of us has an idea of what to expect but we do know that we are getting a beer too!
The bar area outside of the gig venue has a buggy park, face painting and even packed lunches (nice touch). The organisers do not oversubscribe their tickets, leaving lots of space to socialise, dance and not feel squashed…I wish adult gigs did this. The kids are at the forefront of their minds at all times, if the gig got too loud or uncomfortable you could go into the bar area and watch the band play on a big screen.
I kept an open mind about who might be playing. I Imagined indie, soft, fluffy and light-hearted’ but this band are in a league of their own. Two band members are dressed in cosmic outfits and are accompanied by two aliens taking you on an intergalactic journey with their catchy songs. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in hoping the babies won’t be frightened of the masks but I am proven wrong! Babies love aliens…who knew? I’m not sure how the band are doing it but they manage to hypnotise their audience and to my surprise, Cora sits on the floor near me and Sarah and just stares. The songs are aimed at both adults and kids which creates an amazing atmosphere. I would happily play this in the car over E.I.E.I.O all day long. Henge band have a disco/electronic sound to them and are very charismatic. The lead singer arrives on stage with an orb on his head and a stick with a moving alien tentacle attached…or at least that’s what I think it is. Cora has her eyes on that and I heard a few ‘wow’s’ escape from her. Can these guys move in with us, please?
The gig is aimed at Under 5’s with older siblings welcome too, the kids are buzzing and it’s so nice to see. The venue itself is set up with soft flooring and DIY rattles encouraging sensory play. Ear defenders are provided and encouraged but there’s no judging if your kids refuse, the music is much lower than an adult gig anyway. Most items in a music venue are already perfect for babies, disco balls, neon signs and flashing lights so nothing that needed to change there. Leading up to this event I had no time to investigate the venue and what to eat etc. so I packed a bag of fruit and chocolate, I tried to think what a kid might want at a gig so out came the leftover Easter Egg. In hindsight the chocolate was a mistake, since Cora doesn’t have it often she was a woman possessed and took her attention off the band at the last moment. I only gave it to her because I thought she was going to have a tantrum, but because this isn’t a normal event and the music was louder than the babies if they cry you can’t hear them! Am I mean to think this is a plus?
The babyrocksampler events are supported using public funding from Arts Council England and it is a great idea, gigs are a time where you can discover new talents and meet like-minded people. Music is so important to everybody and watching live music really does help whatever mental health issues you may be having, in my case, it’s my anxiety. This event wasn’t just a gig for me, it gave me the confidence to try something new and find something we both love.
I’ll be keeping an eye on future events held by babyrocksampler, if only to witness my toddler down a Fruitshoot and shout ‘Let’s go’ again!