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Rockin

Category: Arts + Events Articles

 

Rockin’ and rollin’ Seattle parents demonstrate that even in midlife, the beat goes on
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The group of parents enjoying an afternoon with their kids at Ballard’s Webster Park looked like any other you might find clustered at the fringes of play structures in Seattle. There was the usual talk of schools, peppered with the doling out of snacks. And when the unmistakable jingle of the ice cream truck filled the air, one father reached into his wallet and sent a bunch of kids to Popsicle heaven. But just a couple of months before, Dad had used that same hand to play complicated Jimi Hendrix riffs in front of an adoring crowd. In fact, virtually every adult at this gathering was either in a band, married to someone in a band or had recently attended a concert in which a fellow parent had performed.

 

Nationwide, more and more parents in their 40s and 50s are playing in bands during their limited spare time—a trend The New York Times recently deemed a new outlet for the classic midlife crisis.
 “When we were 18, buying a guitar was out of reach,” says Penny Webb, a 44-year-old mother of two. “Now we can do it—and our kids get to use our equipment for their own musical experimentation.” In 2004, Webb, who had never before played an instrument, cofounded the Ballard-based band The Kegels in the spirit of carpe diem after her husband, Dean, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The all-female band, whose members consist of three mothers on either side of 40, has a sweet-and-sour sound Webb describes as “punk-inspired pop rock.” The name, she says, was “the most mother-specific thing” that popped into her head.
 
The Kegels quickly developed a local following among parents of young children, who enjoy their clever songs about the frustrations of parenthood (including “Minivan Mom”). Webb, who plays bass, also plays guitar in the band Mid-Wife Crisis, formed after Dean’s death, when she was “in between”—no longer a wife but open to the possibility of being one again.
 
Seizing the day seems to be the driving force behind a number of local midlife bands. “We decided it was now or never,” says 44-year-old parent and ESL teacher Tim Healy. His punk band, The Slags, consists of three high school buddies originally from Buffalo, New York, who decided to take their weekly jam sessions one step further after settling down and starting families. The Slags, whose original songs incorporate politically charged lyrics, are a mainstay at West Seattle’s Poggie Tavern and other local pubs, such as Ballard’s Old Pequliar and the Highliner Pub, all of which have proven welcoming to midlife bands.
 
Like younger musicians, virtually all these bands promote themselves through Web sites and MySpace pages. But the music/family convergence has created a new category of desirable gig: the community-oriented venue. In the Ballard area, local schools hold “Parents Rock” fundraisers and parent bands headline school auctions.
 
When Ballard’s Loyal Heights Elementary School needed a house band for its ’80s-themed auction, dentist and pa