City Paper: How often have you been able to go out and see shows since having a kid?
Tracey Gaughran-Perez: (laughs) Pretty much never. When I was pregnant we thought, Oh, yeah, we’ll still be able to go out, because we thought we’re still going to do stuff. But you can’t really imagine how life-consuming having a child is until you have one. We thought we were going to be able to work around it and get baby sitters and blah, blah, blah, but first of all, you’re so exhausted all the time. And most shows around here don’t start until 11, and for me to stay up that late after I’ve spent all day taking care of a toddler is practically impossible.
It became something where our priorities have shifted and our lives have completely changed in so many ways. So, even though we still care about music and still want to see live music, being able to get out to see bands at night is difficult to impossible. So this—it provides a service. (laughs) Because a lot of other parents will say the same thing: I wish I could get out to see bands.
CP: So Rock N Romp originated in Washington?
TG-P: This was started by Debbie Lee, who is actually in Silver Spring, and she started it about three or four years ago with just small backyard shows. She was in a band at one point, and a lot of people would come and play, just friends of hers. So I started going to the shows and got to know her, and we became really close friends. And then when we moved up here last year, though it’s not that far [from Silver Spring], within a very close proximity I’ve met a lot of parents that are interesting and very interested in music, and we bemoan the fact that we don’t get to go out and see shows. So I talked to Debbie about it and said, “Hey, maybe we can have a little franchise or something,” and she was into it.
CP: Are kids encouraged to dance, and do they?
TG-P: You can’t stop them. They tend to break off into factions. There’s always one who heads straight off for the swing set, and they’ll be going all over that. And there’s the dancing contingent that will be standing in front of the stage and dancing and stuff. They form their own little groups. So, you know, it’s a lot like any other show.
CP: Except you kind of have to be a parent to get in.
TG-P: Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out—if I have to boot people. Because some people have e-mailed me and said, “Hey, I don’t have kids, but can I come?” Well . . . no. I hate being the heavy, but if we’re going to let just anyone come, then it’s like an all-ages show, and it’s not really what it’s intended to be.
CP: Are nontraditional family events like this hard to come by?
TG-P: I think you just have to create them. I don’t know of any other sort of family-friendly events that cater to people like myself. Granted, when you have a kid you find yourself willing to do things that you never thought you would do, go to things you never thought you’d go to, just because your kid enjoys it so much. But frequently we’ll find that we go some place or to some event and we feel like, “Hi, we’re the freak family.”
I really felt that way when we lived in Northern Virginia. Being at home with Mina, I wanted to meet up with mothers and do things with our kids, but it was practically impossible to meet other parents. Which I think is another great thing about doing this is that not only do you get to expose kids to good music and the parents get to go see bands play, but you’re attracting a certain kind of parents that will hopefully meet through this.
CP: And I imagine social activities for preschool kids are pretty nonexistent.
TG-P: I think it is good for that. But also, it’s 50 percent for the kids and 50 percent for the adults because, really, that’s something that Debbie and I talked about and wanted to stress. This isn’t not like people going to see Raffi. This isn’t “kids” music. This is not, “Let’s all cup hands.”
CP: As a nonbreeder I avoid kids’ music—not just because I think it’s dumb and stupid, but it all feels so stuffed with mass-market messages built into Barney or whatever, this whole corporate product of what kids should listen to. I mean, what’s wrong with growing up to Motown?
TG-P: I know Kim [Coletta] and Bill [Barbot] who run DeSoto Records, and they were saying from birth they’ve tried to expose their son to good music, to stuff they like, and yet despite all their efforts he is—and I think children are, in general—drawn to very singsongy-type music. Which makes sense—it’s simplistic and easy for them to replicate or sing. But then again, with Mina, from birth I’ve played her everything. Everything that we listen to she hears, and she loves the Shins. When she was a baby, it was during the period when “Hey Ya,” the OutKast song, was big, and she loved it. And I thought, God, does anyone not like this song? It’s like it was genetically programmed, they made it in a lab, to get everyone to like. Everyone in the world will love this song.
CP: What else is big with the 2-and-half-year-olds these days?
TG-P: She loves a lot of the music we listen to, and we don’t play her “children’s music.” The closest we got to that was They Might Be Giants had a children’s album and we bought that, but she wasn’t really into it. She likes Elliott Smith a lot. She likes the Shins a lot. So there is music that you can have your kids listen to that’s not going to take over their brain and make them little saccharine monsters. I don’t see why people have to play music for kids. Just play them good music.
CP: Has Rock N Romp been a hard sell? Play in the afternoon for free to a group of parents and their young kids?
TG-P: No, not at all. Well, I think it’s hard to book bands in general. For the most part I don’t know if it’s people in bands or the people around bands, but bands are difficult to pin down. But everyone that I’ve talked to has responded, “That’s a really cool idea.” And then there’s some people who not only commit but ask, “How can I help you?” Like the people in Secret Crush Society, they’ve been awesome. From day one they were, “Yes, we’ll play,” and then asked, “Do you want us to bake cookies?”
CP: In the dream fantasy world where you could get whoever you wanted, is there anybody you’d love to see play Rock N Romp?
TG-P: All the bands I love I would, of course, love to see play, but there are so many Baltimore-area musicians I’d love to see. I’d like to get Dan Higgs to play. But if I could get any band, I’d get the Shins. Or—it’s funny, but I’ve always had my haterade on for Green Day. And then American Idiot came out, and I really think it’s kind of amazing. And Mina loves, loves, loves that album. And they’re going to be on tour over the summer, and there’s a Rock N Romp date when they’re going to be around this area. So I was seriously thinking about trying to figure out a way to contact them and say, “Hey, you guys are like punk rock and DIY, right? You have kids, don’t you? Want to come play?” Because that would be awesome—Green Day in my backyard.
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