You may not know it, but we’re alive in the Golden Age of Family Music. It’s the golden age of live kids music too.
However, aside from Sirius XM Kids Place Live (channel 78!), the occasional blurb in People Magazine or USA Today, podcasts like my OWTK Kids Music Monthly, the Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl and Spare the Rock, hardly anyone is paying attention.
That’s a real shame because there’s never been a better time to be a music-loving family.
All over the U.S., there are passionate, talented musicians putting a fresh spin on music for children and their adults. The songs are remarkable, both musically and lyrically, and have something to say about topics far more interesting than morality tales or teeth brushing reminders. In short, kids music doesn’t suck. But you have to know where to look.
Modern kids music, often referred to as ‘kindie’ or ‘all ages alternative’, respects the complexity of childhood and doesn’t pander to its youthful audience. It also doesn’t drive mom and dad bonkers!
Before I discovered the current Golden Age of Family Music, I was under the impression that all music for kids was nothing but banal instructional tunes, retread folk songs, or the abomination that is TV cartoon music. But I was wrong. If you think that’s all kids music is, then you are wrong too.
My family has rocked out at home and in the car to hundreds of different kindie records and at dozens of all-ages daytime concerts and festivals across the country over the past decade and we’re better off for having had those experiences together.
Importantly, we’ve done all the kids music stuff not at the expense of our ‘grown-up’ music but in addition to it. My girls have seen more live music, both kindie and adult, than most people will in their lifetime but the whole time my kids have had music that spoke to them and their experiences, music to hold close to their chest, to call their own, to grow up with.
So put down the phone and put on your dancing shoes because this is music your entire family will love. And here’s where to find it!
Here are the 6 best cities to experience live kids music!
Not only is it gorgeous in Seattle, but the Pacific Northwest tech hot spot is also home to some of the best bands in the world: Recess Monkey, The Not-Its!, Caspar Babypants (Chris from The Presidents of the United States of America), and Johnny Bregar, just to name four.
Where to See Live Kids Music in Seattle
In the summertime, there’s live kids music all over Seattle! There are at least a dozen well-curated weekly (often free) family concert series all around the city (Magnuson Park, Kirkland, Everett, Tukwila, Hiawatha, Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, Bonney Lake, and more), the NW Folklife Festival on Memorial Day weekend in the shadow of the Space Needle, and the Kindiependent Family Music Festival.
During the school year, the Mount Baker Club has the Kindiependent Kids Rock Series, a set of stellar Saturday morning shows from November to March. Town Hall Seattle hosts local and national acts in their Saturday concert series too. Finally, the Seattle Symphony frequently collaborates with kiddie artists to create unique, kid-driven blends of symphonic and pop music.
The family music scene in the Rose City is as fantastical as the city itself, with the foot-stomping folk of Red Yarn, the incomparable singer-songwriter Mo Phillips, the Flaming Lips-inspired Pointed Man Band and piano mastery of Lori Henriques.
Where to See Live Kids Music in Portland
Last year, my family saw Red Yarn bring down the house at Mississippi Pizza Pub, a quaint, but lively joint which has live kids music four nights a week. There are also a host of cafes and community spaces in Portland with weekday morning family concerts — Warehouse Cafe, Cafe au Play, Treehouse Boutique, and Poa Café, to name just a few.
In the summertime, Aaron Nigel Smith’s Rox in Sox festival and “Kidathon,” this year’s kids stage at the awesome indie roots festival Pickathon, are new staples of the burgeoning modern family music scene in Portland.
New York City
Some of our favorite NYC bands include two-time Grammy nominated The Pop Ups and Brady Rymer at the Little Band That Could, Shine and the Moonbeams, Joanie Leeds, Moona Luna, Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke and Dan Zanes. We could go on…
Where to See Live Kids Music in New York City
New York City has both the quality and the quantity to please families of all ages and musical tastes. In the summer, there’s a massive kids’ concert calendar in parks across all five boroughs, with free performances nearly every weekday from June through August. During the chillier months, the action moves to indoor stages like Symphony Space, the famous Upper West Side venue that reliably features the best kids concert season lineup in the country in the Just Kidding series. Also check the event schedules at New York City libraries, the Jewish Museum, and Jalopy in Brooklyn, for frequent if not regularly scheduled family concerts.
L.A. is wildly diverse and appropriately, the kids’ music scene there reflects that. From the psychedelic neo-soul of Mista Cookie Jar to the sunny (and sometimes bi-lingual) pop of Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, and from the bedroom fuzz rock of Todd McHatton to French Quarter vibe of Jazzy Ash, there’s a wide array of “kindie” talent in the City of Angels.
Where to See Live Kids Music in Los Angeles
The Getty Museum’s summer program brings in the finest national acts in one of the most pristine settings imaginable. The Wake Up With The Waves series at the Santa Monica Pier and The Theatricum Botanicum stage in Topanga Canyon also deliver top acts in gorgeous surroundings. The legendary Santa Monica guitar shop McCabe’s has been booking children’s music for over 40 years!
And many Los Angeles farmers markets will sporadically have local acts performing while you shop for fresh produce and the talented piano man David Tobocman can be heard tickling the ivory at restaurants in and around the Santa Monica and The Grove areas of L.A. throughout the year.
Highlighted by Grammy nominated folkster Alastair Moock, the rambunctious dance-rock of Josh and the Jamtones, bi-lingual singer-songwriter Mister G, the pop-rock of Karen K and Stacey Peasley and the Cat Stevens charm of Keith Wasserman aka Mr. Whirly, Boston deliver the goods to music-loving families.
Where to See Live Kids Music in Boston
The Center for the Arts in Natick is an old firehouse bringing in some of the country’s best bands. The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, a landmark and one of the country’s only independently operated movie houses, as well as The Regent Theater, another converted movie house, host a mix of national and local kindie concerts. The former haunt of Dylan and Seeger, Club Passim has a brunchtime kids series that Alastair Moock and Ellis Paul call home. The city also offers the Kids Really Rock Festival annually.
While the number of outstanding kids musicians in Philadelphia doesn’t compare to cities like Portland, Seattle and Boston, the chance to see touring kindie rock bands live in concert is great in the city of brotherly love.
Where to See Live Kids Music in (and around) Philly
The Kidchella Summer Concert Series at the Smith Memorial Playground is in its 4th summer and continues to bring in some of the most talented acts from across the country for Friday evening 2-band concerts set in the massive legendary playground. The World Cafe Live PB&Jams Saturday morning concert series goes on vacation during the summer but for the rest of the year, some of the best and brightest bands making all-ages alternative music play this gorgeous venue every Saturday morning. The grand Philadelphia Art Museum will often bring in the likes of Okee Dokee Brothers, Recess Monkey and other greats.
Outside of the city, the stunning Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square and the home of The Blob, the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA play host to national kindie bands and artists throughout the year.