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VOL. 124 | NO. 120 | Monday, June 22, 2009

Rock N Romp Provides Musical Outlet For Parents With Kids in Tow

By JONATHAN DEVIN | The Memphis News

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Parents of young children often find themselves shedding their favorite hobbies and pastimes in favor of family time. But a group of live music lovers say children and rock music can coexist.

In April 2006, Stacey Greenberg, a mother of two sons, started the Memphis chapter of Rock N Romp, a loose collection of young parents who plan several rock concerts each summer.

FOR KIDS: Derrick Dent and Lauren Ray Holterman of the Rozelle Artists’ Guild prepare a sheet of plywood as a wall-sized paint-by-number for children. -- PHOTO BY JONATHAN DEVIN

Rock N Romp was originally the brainchild of Debbie Lee, a mother in Washington, who missed the club scene after her child was born.

“(Lee) was in the scene, but then she had a kid and couldn’t go to shows any more,” Greenberg said. “She decided that she was going to start having bands in her backyard. Then it just got bigger and bigger.”

It wasn’t long before Rock N Romp groups sprang up in Baltimore, Austin, Texas, Boston, and Portland, Ore.

“In 2006 we decided to hold just one show and see how it went and it was awesome,” said Greenberg.

While none of the groups hold nonprofit status, their individual boards operate without making a profit. Admission is $5, which pays enough for three bands per concert and basic expenses – including two kegs.

“We can trust parents to have a couple beers and handle themselves,” Greenberg said.

There is one fast rule:

“Adults must be accompanied by children,” Greenberg said. “We do this for the parents. It’s not a kids’ show. We try to come up with some kid things to do without turning it into a Barney show.”

On June 6, Rock N Romp hosted The Goodnight Loving, Evil Wizard Eyes and Jeffrey James and the Haul on the grassy lawn at “the Junkyard” – the former maintenance building for the Marine hospital next door to the National Ornamental Metal Museum.

Concert locations are never published in advance. Instead, parents can sign up on the group’s e-mail list at www.memphisrocknromp.blogspot.com to receive details on future concerts.

Parent and board member Marvin Stockwell said Rock N Romp allows him to enjoy his favorite music, but also opens his two daughters’ eyes to “real music.”

“I liked that my daughters would see real people playing songs they wrote,” Stockwell said. “I wanted them to understand that music is made by regular people who haul their own gear.

“Rock N Romp is the polar opposite of the Hannah Montana experience, where kids are led to believe that music is created by unapproachable superstars who have an entourage, play to stadiums full of people and who are on TV and in movies. I want my daughters to see that music is something that they can participate in and that the bar to entry is low.”

Stockwell’s punk band PEZZ played a Rock N Romp concert in 2006. He hopes to help the group secure sponsorship in the future.

Parents are asked to bring snacks to share and many bring blankets, lawn chairs and picnic baskets. At a recent show, off to one side, members of the Rozelle Artists’ Guild painted outlines of flowers and cartoonish figures on sheets of plywood for a wall-sized paint-by-number, which was available for children to paint.

Even as the first band warmed up, small packs of children formed and roamed the lawn in search of friends, potato chips and mud puddles.

“For my children, it’s more about the fun and running around with their friends,” Greenberg said.

The group operates from show to show, meaning that bands are continually being booked as the summer progresses, though concert dates already have been set for July 11, Aug. 29 and Nov. 7.

Concerts typically attract about 300 people.

“We’re trying to get one out-of-town band, one in-town band, and one up-and-coming band or solo artist,” Greenberg said.

“Basically, it’s like having the Hi-Tone in your backyard.”

To attend upcoming Rock N Romp concerts, go to www.memphisrocknromp.blogspot.com.

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