When I was growing up all ages gigs were happening every weekend and more often than not that's where we could be found on a Friday or Saturday night. Local halls would be appropriated and bands from all over the country would play, ranging from 15 year olds just starting their first band to established bands with big followings. It seemed pretty normal to have bands playing for us in these venues, so it came as something of a shock to hear from a friend that they never experienced all ages gigs growing up, because the venues weren't there and no one was interested in organising them.
I have so many great memories from those shows. There was always a positive atmosphere (even at those shows where everyone was drinking illicit beers, stolen from parents fridges or bought by older brothers), everyone was there to enjoy the music, no matter who was playing. Skill didn't matter so much, as long as the band gave it everything the crowd would reciprocate. There were no ego's, no expectations and no rules.
I'd like to think that those early shows instilled in me a love for live music. They definitely showed me that bands could organise their own shows, and that if they chose to play outside the usual venues people would show up. Often the venues were fuller than the bars the bands would play in later.
It makes a lot of sense for bands to play all ages gigs - there's a huge number of fans (and potential fans) who miss out on live music and everything that the experience entails because they are too young to get into the venues where bands traditionally play. Younger music fans tend to go to all ages gigs because they want to hear music; people have more choice between bars and are often looking for somewhere to drink or hang out and the music is secondary.
I'd love to see all ages gigs make a resurgence, and spring up in the places that never had them. It'd be great if more bands started playing an all ages gig earlier in the evening when touring, or even just arranged an all ages gig every now and then between their usual shows. Bands should be playing to as many people as possible and looking at other avenues to promote their music and make connections with their audiences.
Did you ever go to all ages shows? How do you remember them? Do you think they made a difference to how you participate in live music now? If you're in a band, do you play all ages shows? Do you think bands should, or are your energies better focussed on playing traditional venues?
Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.