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Music for the kids

When I was in high school, the No. 1 phrase that I would utter was, "I can't wait until I'm 21."

It was never an alcohol thing. I rarely drank in high school (and my geeky self was never invited to the cool-kid parties). It was purely for music.

Tacoma had (and, according to my ravens from Kings Landing, continues to have) a great heavy metal and punk music scene. For a young rock 'n' roller, Tacoma was a musical paradise. While Seattle wasn't totally inaccessible to my friends and me (and less so when we started driving), we never really needed to go there for a good punk or metal show.

Sure, they got 99.9 percent of the national acts, but we had a great local scene in the South Sound. We could see those local bands at the various art and music festivals around the city, but there were many venues open to minors, such as The Viaduct, Club Impact and (for early shows and national acts) Hell's Kitchen.

After I moved to Ashland for college, live music became a unicorn for me. If any all-ages shows did exist during my in between time, I wasn't made aware of it. I uttered "I can't wait until I'm 21" more than ever.

Now that I'm 23 and can go to bar shows, I still find myself longing for more all-ages shows here in the valley.

I'm not knocking bar shows. You can go see some amazing bands and have a great time. What I am saying is that there's a different vibe at those types of shows, and my preference leans toward the all-ages vibe.

The weekend before last, I was able to see that division between those two kinds of shows much more clearly when I attended both types in Ashland.

On Friday, June 13, I went to Paddy Brannan's to see The Restless Sons, a punk-influenced rock band from California, play an acoustic set. It was great. They were tight players, had great original material and played some fun covers (including a wonderful rendition of "Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms).

The problem was, of the 10 people in the bar, I seemed to be the only one who cared.

When you've got a bar show, especially one where there is no cover charge, the majority of the people in the audience are there only to drink and socialize. They don't care that there's a band and, suddenly, a live performance can become background music.

Jump forward to Saturday, June 14, where local bands The Jawbone Club and The Tentacles were opening for Tacoma's KRAMER at Club 66.

There were about as many people there as were at Paddy Brannan's, maybe one or two fewer, but they were all attentive to what was happening up on the stage. Once KRAMER finished their set, these kids flooded the merch table to support this band who entertained them for the last 45 minutes.

As a music fan, that's the show I'd rather go to, and it's the show the bands would rather play.

When I interviewed J.B. Nelson, host of local music podcast "Low 'O' Radio," about his new all-ages concert series at the Imperial Event Center, he told me about an interaction he had with Ol' Mount'n Due after they played one of the Club 66 all-ages shows.

"Steve, the bass player, came down off the stage and said, 'Man, I want to quit playing the bars. That's what I want to play for,' " Nelson related.

Now, I'm not saying that all 21-and-older shows are like this — Seattle funk rockers Down North had everyone in Lounge South up off of the comfy couches and dancing. I'm also not saying that the passive audience is wrong. Who am I to tell you how to interact with live music? I've just found a way for my whack-job ideas to be printed in a reputable paper, possibly throwing the validity of everything written in Tempo into question.

What I'm saying is that when kids go to all-ages shows, they don't have any ulterior motives. They aren't there to drink because the bartender won't let them near the bar. They socialize, but they do so in between bands.

Club 66 seems to be attempting to be that venue that is all-ages accessible.

What started out as one or two Saturdays a month open to those who are underage, now has expanded a bit. Mike Ulizzi (aka Uzi) has increased those shows to nearly once a week.

When I was underage, "Hey, want to go to a punk show at Hell's Kitchen?" was never met with, "Will there be any cute girls there?" The follow-up question was always, "Who's playing?" That's what my friends and I cared about when going out for live music, and that's what I think should be cared about if you're going out to a place where live music is being played (which ends up being most places on a Friday or Saturday night in Ashland).

Specifically looking at Ashland, it surprises me that there isn't another all-ages music venue because you have so many high school and college students in the area that I believe would love a club setting for music.

That's other reason I love all-ages shows is because I get to see the next generation pick up the torch for the music.

I recently watched a video where a dad took his 6-year-old son to see his first punk show, and it warmed my heart. He had so much excitement on his face when he got to see Iron Chic live, and when I see these kids rocking out at the all-ages shows, it makes me excited for the future of the genres that I love so much.

People keep saying that punk is dead, but it never will be as long as the kids have a place to truly be fans of the music.

Ian Hand is a punk, a metalhead and, as always, an enormous geek. Follow him on Twitter @IanHand_MT.