Silver Spring families Rock-n-Romp on Veterans Plaza
Fenton Street Market hosts concert, arts festival for children and adults
The first rules of the Kids Fest Rock-n-Romp in Silver Spring are no Barney and no sing-alongs. The goal: to please children and parents with adult music that is also appropriate for younger ages.
The kid-friendly concert and festival was held for the second time in conjunction with Silver Spring's Fenton Street Market on Saturday.
The festival, which ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, was a combination artisan market and concert series. The event hosted several bands that played at lower volumes and censored any inappropriate language, as well as around six artisan vendors who sold children's products like homemade rompers and stuffed animals.
The Rock-n-Romp music festival has been going on for almost 10 years and began as a get-together in founder Debbie Lee's backyard in 2002.
Recently, Rock-n-Romp teamed up with the Fenton Street Market and became the Kids Fest Rock-n-Romp, which was held for the first time last year at the market's former location in the Fenton Street Village. This year, it took place for the first time on Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring.
Heidi Glenn of Washington, D.C., attended the concert Saturday with about a half-dozen other families despite rain and stormy weather. Her 2-year-old son ran around the plaza in his raincoat while the bands played. Glenn wanted to expose her son to music early in his life because it has always been an important part of hers.
"Given the circumstances, this is the perfect place and the perfect chance for him to be outside and listen to music," Glenn said.
Combining music and time with family is why Lee started Rock-n-Romp after she and her husband moved from Washington, D.C., to Silver Spring and had a child, she said. The two used to frequent music concerts and played in bands while they lived in the District, Lee said. They wanted to still be able to listen to the bands they loved and hang out with their kids.
In her backyard concerts, Lee would bring in two or three bands that would play for free. She and her husband built a stage, set up chairs and bought a keg of beer. They invited their neighbors, friends and children to come over and listen to music that both parents and their families would enjoy.
"People don't generally take babies to shows, so we thought, we can bring music to us," Lee said.
The festival showcases bands parents want to see, Lee said, not the sing-song fare of your average kids' band.
"That's the key to it," Glenn said of toning down the volume and offensive language. "It's not Barney. And it's not dumbed-down adult music."
For the first concert, Lee said, barely 20 people showed up. Soon, word spread and the tiny backyard get-togethers turned into full-fledged concerts with around 250 people.
Lee said she never spent any money on advertising, but word of mouth spread on message boards and in the parent community. Usually, Lee said, she would collect donations from attendees that were just enough to cover the keg. Now the events are keg-free and free of charge.
"When you are a new parent, it's one of those things where you crave that interaction with other adults," Lee said. "It's kind of fun because the premise has always been, we play music you would see if you didn't have kids. That's what made it really exciting for people I think. You don't have to get a babysitter to see these bands."
The event got so popular that Lee was hosting Rock-n-Romp once a month throughout the summer culminating in an October Halloween festival complete with costumes.
The kid-friendly festival eventually got too big for Lee's backyard and she moved them to McGinty's Public House pub on Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring where they held it until joining with the Fenton Street Market, which Lee also works for.
"What excited me about teaming up with Rock-n-Romp is that long before I even thought about starting the Fenton Street Market, I knew Debbie's projects," said Hannah McCann, founder of the Fenton Street Market. "It felt like she was bringing things to this neighborhood that I was excited to see in my own community and I knew there were other young families that wanted to see something a little more hip in our community."
Rock-n-Romp has even spread throughout the country as Lee passed the idea on to friends who started Rock-n-Romps in cities like Austin, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Anna White of Silver Spring brought her 3-year-old son for the concert because he loves watching live music. He sat transfixed by the band, chewing a chocolate croissant Saturday.
"I think what makes this great is that Veterans Plaza is such a great place to gather for the community and listen to music," White said.
The bands Ugly Purple Sweater and The Torches played Saturday. The festival was a preliminary event to the Fenton Street Market's opening weekend April 30.