Phono Del Sol
Phono del Sol

So you moved to San Francisco, met that special someone, made a baby or two, and moved to Oakland or Marin or The Sunset, never to see a decent band in person again in your life, right? Wrong! The Bay Area offers a wealth of opportunities to share the joy of live music with kids of all ages, and maybe you can even enjoy an adult beverage or two while you’re at it. Here’s a basic guide about where to have some family bonding over live music that doesn’t suck.

Traditional music for kids

Ashkenaz, photo by Jeremy Brooks
Ashkenaz, photo by Jeremy Brooks

Asheknaz in Berkeley features bands playing music written especially for kids almost every Sunday, offering a great opportunity for the really little ones to dance themselves silly in a safe environment. There will often be some pretty cheeky performers, but the kids will love it, and you can still enjoy a beer. This Saturday, they have Walter Martin of The Walkmen performing music from his recent kid-friendly LP, We’re All Young Together. Check out their full upcoming schedule here.

Music for the kids, by the kids

Youth Open Mic
Photo: Youth Open Mic at Starry Plough

Perhaps your kids would like to be inspired by budding rock stars closer to their own age? There are several great organizations in the area that offer classes teaching kids to make rock music, such as Bandworks, Three O’Clock Rock, and San Francisco Rock Project, and they often have showcases around the area at venues ranging from the Telegraph Street Fair in Berkeley to Bottom of the Hill and Thee Parkside. Bandworks also hosts a Youth Open Mic every third Sunday at the Starry Plough in Berkeley.

Country for Kids (and grown-ups)

Hotel Utah
Hotel Utah

Maybe you want to introduce your kids to dive bars in a safe and fun way? There are a surprising number of Country & Western all-ages options available, all on Sunday afternoons in the City.

Thee Parkside hosts “Twang Sundays”, featuring local and occasional touring acts, such as the Lonesome Shack show we told you about last week. Before you go, make sure you check out the band, as it can get pretty loud if they turn it up. “The Original” Twang Sundays at Tupelo in North Beach, organized by the former booker for Twang Sundays at Thee Parkside, also offers a variety of country sounds every Sunday afternoon.

My personal favorite Sunday afternoon all-ages country show in the area is at Hotel Utah‘s “Bluegrass Brunch”. Not really bluegrass, it has previously been hosted by Misisipi Mike and his band with different guest appearances at every show. Get the chicken and waffles and a bloody Mary and take the kids to the balcony for one of the most unique stage views around. The next installment of Bluegrass Brunch is June 22.

The Festivals

The Phono del Sol playground

Stern Grove Festival and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass will offer huge crowds but you can find a place to chill if you’d like. Bring a bottle of wine and snacks and relax to mixtures of old and new artists.

In my biased opinion, however, the best festival to bring kids to is none other than our very own Phono del Sol (get your tickets now). With a playground at the top of the natural amphitheater, you can lay out on a blanket and keep one eye on the kids and one eye on the bands. As if that wasn’t enough, kids under 6 are free, and we’ll offer one of the best lineups you’ll find at any festival this size.

Make your own show!

Yes, you read that right: don’t let the dive bars and city parks have all the fun. Host your own show! I recently attended a house show hosted by our very own MBL, and it was a wonderful experience for his kids, his dog, and all his guests. I think the bands had a good time, too. Follow your favorite artists on Facebook or check out Undertow tickets to find opportunities to host shows from touring acts.

Simon Joyner MBL
Simon Joyner at MBL’s

Or perhaps you’ve seen a band on the Bay Bridged you think your kids would like? Email a band and invite them to play at your house! They are really nice folks that would be happy to hear from you and likely figure out a way to make a show in your back yard happen. Passing the hat among your wealthy Rockridge or Noe Valley friends will probably put more money in the pockets of our hard-working local artists than the dive bars we still love, and it can open up the lucrative dad-rock market for album sales. Plus, your kids will be the coolest on the block. Make it happen!

Have a family-friendly music event we missed? Email us or leave a comment!