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KIDS ROCK
PARENTS HAVE COOL NEW COMPANIONS TO TAKE TO CONCERTS THESE DAYS -- THEIR CHILDREN

The history of rock music is littered with references to the conflict between generations: "The men don't know but the little girls understand"; "Hope I die before I get old"; "I know your Mama, she don't like me, cuz I play in a rock 'n' roll band/And I know your Daddy, he don't dig me, but he never did understand"; "Come Mothers and Fathers throughout the land/and don't criticize what you can't understand/Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command/Your old road is rapidly aging/So get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand."

In its early days, the genre -- angry, irreverent and full of thinly veiled sexual imagery -- hit teenagers where they lived and further drove the wedge between them and their parents, particularly in the buttoned-down atmosphere of the mid-'50s, when the form was born.

Things are a-changing, though. As rock musicians begin to play well into their 50s and even 60s, rock 'n' roll's trademark arrested adolescence appeals to both current kids and the people who were kids back in the day -- people who are now parents.

Now rock is something that spans the generations. Music -- and, more specifically, going to concerts -- is now a family-friendly activity.

"When I grew up, I wouldn't have been caught dead listening to my parents' music, let alone going to shows with them," says Nanette Tramont of Buffalo, a mother of two teenage boys. "When we went any place in the car, there was always a battle for the radio station.

"Not so today with me and my kids. Our tastes pretty much run the gamut. Sometimes I've gotten them interested in a band they wouldn't think they would want to be interested in, during driving trips, when it's my turn to pick a CD. This worked with the Beach Boys, who I grew up with and the kids never wanted to hear, because they never had. I put 'Pet Sounds' in the player and that was it. Now we've all got copies of it and 'Smile!' I know I'm not the only parent who shares musical tastes with my children. I see plenty of us at concerts."

Perhaps the fact that rock music has always been based on rebellion is part of the reason that kids and their parents have never really "hung" together at concerts or bonded over music.

"I say, yes, that's probably the case," says Jonathan Coe of Amherst, whose 7-year-old has been attending shows with his parents for a few years.

"Although that wasn't the case in my house, when I was growing up. It was my dad who brought home the Dylan records, and my mom was a huge fan of the Beach Boys."

We should all be so lucky. With parents who grew up during the era of rock steeped in social and political themes and marked by serious musicianship, kids today have it good. Parents have become musical ambassadors and educators to their progeny.

"The Beatles blew my son away, from very early on," says Coe. "And then the Beach Boys, Springsteen, Tom Petty -- especially the song 'Free Falling,' which my son absolutely loves. U2 is another favorite at our house."

Coe displays the pride many feel when their kids listen to "parent-endorsed" music. "It's good stuff," he says. "It is miles and miles beyond what he hears on the radio. And he knows it."

Not that kids don't have a genre that's all theirs. Hip-hop is the choice of rebellion for many kids, much to their parents' disdain.

"My kid likes (hip-hop), but he also likes rock 'n' roll," says Coe. "I don't necessarily see it as a rejection of one form of music over another, but rather, simply a case of them expanding their musical horizons."

When it comes to choosing concerts to take kids to, parents have to consider safety and age-appropriateness. What kind of artist provides the best "family experience"?

That varies, but it usually centers around the artists the parents want to see.

"I took my son to see Bob Dylan in 2002," says Coe. "He was 5 and he loved it. He's also seen Roger McGuinn at Buffalo State in 2003, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at Thursday at the Square last year. He's seen Springsteen and U2, though he won't be seeing them this time around, since the tickets are so pricey."

"We've been to see Springsteen at Darien Lake, the Wallflowers, Blue Rodeo, and a few others," says Tramont. "We'll see the Dave Matthews Band and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Darien Lake this summer. And definitely U2 at HSBC Arena in December."

Tramont believes all of this is a new phenomenon, based on the idea that more modern musicians are getting in touch with the history of the music and perhaps entering into the continuum.

"Much of today's music seems so much more sophisticated -- thematically, musically and lyrically -- and I think that type of music speaks to people of all ages, so it can touch parents as much as it touches their children," she says. "And the kids today are so much more sophisticated, too. The older music we both listen to is as sophisticated and is similar, thematically.

"I also think that parents today have a greater positive influence on their kids. Today's parents can be more attuned to good music and have much greater access to it now, what with satellite radio, car CD players, downloads, etc. So we parents are much more open to new music than, say, my parents were.

"It's really great to hear your kids playing good, new music. As a parent, it's very gratifying."

e-mail: jmiers@buffnews.com

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