Here’s Looking At You, Kids

There's nothing quite like a Phish fall tour. Gone are the chances of showers, lack of a full-on light show, and the soulless sheds of summer. The colder weather has come and, with it, a chance for fans to escape the elements altogether for a more intimate foray into musical escapism. Everyone is here: from the dreadlocked to the collar-popped. Saucer-eyed tour freaks brush shoulders with curious Ed Hardy-clad collegians, as revelers of all ages converge on a selection of arenas for a taste of Vermont's finest. Some have even brought along their children...

At Detroit's legendary Cobo Arena, the tour is about to get underway. An excited fan in his thirties clutches a tall frosty beer in the front row. Nestled in his other arm, defiant of all logic, is a baby girl. The woman one assumes is this über-youngster's mother cohorts with friends nearby as the proud father gears up for a night of dependable fun. In an environment where the bizarre is often typical, this portrait sticks out more than the shirtless gentleman in a jester hat one section over. Even the teenaged hippie girl, sporting fairy wings and blowing bubbles, does a double take. Why on Earth would this baby be at a Phish show?

It's easy to imagine this scene's backstory: the six-month old tot harshing his parents' mellow by demanding to attend the concert. Mom & Dad obviously had the best intentions, with a suitable babysitter lined up or the responsible willingness to stay home. No matter, this kid was ready to rock and would not be denied. Forget what others may think, and don't even suggest the use of earplugs. Babies need to hear Trey's machinegun precision as clearly (and loudly) as the rest of the crowd. She put her tiny foot down and got her way. On with the spectacle of light and sound...

Anyone who has hopped on tour for even a scant few gigs has seen children on a vast amphitheater lawn, or scurrying between cars in a crowded parking lot. Local little ones partake on rare occasions, while the truly lucky squirts get to travel the country along with their nomadic guardians, sometimes even blessed enough to participate in the purveying of various goods. Outdoor shows, with their lower decibels and ample ventilation, might appear to be a "safer" or "more appropriate" place to integrate minors into the concertgoing life-style. But the truly hardcore toddlers know that inside is the place to be.

As the lights drop and the space fills with the applause and weed smoke of more than ten thousand fans, our little tyke feels perfectly at home. The band she so dearly adores emerges from the shadows, and all is right with the world. While her peers nestle blandly in their cribs, drifting off to dream on the wings of sweet lullabies, she cranks it up to 11 and thanks her lucky stars that she has the opportunity to forgo the mundane formative routine of infancy. Any suggestion that things may be grossly amiss here is simple lunacy.

So the next time you encounter a member of the under-five crowd at a raucous rock concert and wonder why - don't be confused, be jealous.