NEW JERSEY – A daunting sea of body-piercings, tattoos and florescent-hued hair bounces to the music. But a closer look at the crowd assembled for the Warped Tour punk rock festival reveals plenty of baby fat and braces lurking beneath the body art.
It's a scene that would make anyone over 25 wonder worriedly, "where are these kids' parents?"
The answer might surprise you. The Warped Tour, an all-day concert featuring such hard core bands as Blink 182, Rancid, the Rollins Band, and Pennywise, draws a crowd so young that many fans are showing up, not only with their peers, but with mom and dad too.
The parents might not be as hip as their adorned offspring, but as the tour charts its way through fairgrounds and outdoor venues across the country this sweltering summer, the parents are definitely the cooler generation, chilling out, quite literally, in special air-conditioned tents the tour has tagged Reverse Day Care.
Sponsored by Target, the Reverse Day Care tents at the Warped Tour represent not just the retailer's family-friendly image, but a growing trend. Whether it's Warped, Britney Spears or 'N Sync, it's hard for fans, many of whom are too young to drive, to show up without the folks in tow — especially when its mom or dad literally doing the towing.
"We're not the kind of parents who drop off," said Eleanor Barone, who, along with husband George, were among about 30 parents occupying the Reverse Day Care tent at the Asbury Park, N.J., show. The Barones allowed their 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter to each bring a friend with them. "The audience is getting younger and younger and the parents have to drive them," she said.
It's a phenomenon not lost on the music industry, which relies on young fans for much of its record sales.
At the 'N Sync concert at Houston's Reliant Park July 6, promoters provided a secure drop-off area for parents driving kids to the show. For folks who wanted to hang out and wait, the lobby of Reliant Hall was made available. Similar accommodations have been provided for parents at Britney Spears dates across the country. And the Warped Tour offered free admission to parents who accompanied at least one kid with a ticket.
The Reverse Day Care tent, festooned with signs reading: "If you're not mom and dad, this ain't your pad" and "No Kids Allowed," offered parents little more than a patch of air-conditioned shade and some coolers of Powerade.
Hardly luxe digs, it was nonetheless a welcome surprise for the Barones, who bought their tickets before they heard about the tent. The couple said they'd grown accustomed to some of the music from their kids playing it in the car and were periodically braving the heat and the crowds to check out bands they liked.
"I'm really enjoying some of the music," George said.
Laurie Brown, a youthful mom, said the gap between today's teens and their parents isn't as big as it was for other generations.
"I don't think kids today mind their parents being around," she said. Brown accompanied her son, a 12-year-old friend and two 15-year-olds to the show and was looking forward to catching a favorite reggae band.
"I was coming anyway, but the parent tent was a great incentive," Brown said.
The tent, however, was the deciding factor for Marie Blachford from upstate New York, who agreed to drive her 16-year-old son and his girlfriend to the show only after he told her about Reverse Day Care. Blachford didn't purport to know or like the music. While heads banged and bodies moshed a few feet away, Blachford worked on her knitting.
"My son told me about the tent so I would drive them," said Blanchford, who had made a three-hour trip to the show and would have had to find another way to occupy herself for the duration of the eight-hour concert.
If the notion of a teenage boy convincing his mother to accompany him to a rock concert seems unfathomable, consider the plight of 14-year-old David. He said he didn't mind his parents being there "as long as they don't follow me around." However David's right to check in on mom and dad was another story.
Sweating, frazzled and flashing mouths full of metal, David and his young female friend were not the only kids trying to break the No Kids Allowed rule. In fact, judging from the constant crush of kids queuing outside the tent, you'd think mom and dad were one of the hottest acts in town.