When the police showed up at Dan Harper's Central Gardens home in April to investigate complaints about a noisy party, they didn't discover a bunch of college kids having a kegger. They found a bunch of pre-schoolers swarming the backyard, high on popsicles and juice boxes and the live music of hip Midtown music acts Noise Choir and Amy LaVere.
It was the first Memphis Rock-n-Romp, a semi-regular live-music party for kids and their parents. The Memphis Romp -- inspired by a sister organization in Washington, D.C. -- was started by Stacey Greenberg, a 34-year-old mother of two boys, ages 2 and 4.
Greenberg, in addition to holding down a full-time job, writes about eating out with her kids on the blog Dining With Monkeys (www.DiningWithMonkeys.Blogspot.com) and is a regular contributor to the Flyer's dining section ("I'm like a super multitasker, I guess"). She first heard about the Washington Rock-n-Romp a couple of years ago from a friend who went to one in Baltimore.
"I thought I'd like to do something like that in Memphis and wondered what it would take to make it happen," she remembers. Greenberg e-mailed Washington Rock-n-Romp founder Debbie Lee, eventually getting her blessing to use the name.
Greenberg talked up the idea with like-minded friends who had kids and formed an eight-person planning committee. The group includes Harper as well as a couple of music-scene-connected parents, musician Robby Grant (Vending Machine, Big Ass Truck) and booking agent Mike Smith.
"I ran into Robby Grant at the Children's Museum, and he was excited," Greenberg says. "That's when I thought it could happen, because he was in a band and if he was interested in doing it, other people would be to."
Greenberg and her friends planned three events for their "trial year" and will conclude the first season of the Memphis Rock-n-Romp this weekend.
"It's a kid-friendly show in a backyard," Greenberg says, summing up Rock-n-Romp's simple concept. "It's not kids' music; it's adult music, but at a kid-friendly volume and in a kid-friendly space."
For their first event in April, each member of the planning committee was asked to invite 10 other parents, which resulted in more than 100 people being invited. From there, Greenberg says, they've sought to expand the event beyond their circle of friends.
"The only rule is you have to have a kid with you," Greenberg says. "We haven't had any weirdos [show up]. Just typical Midtown parents and their kids."
The attendance at September's Romp, which featured music from Jeffrey James & the Haul, Two Way Radio, and Cory Branan, was mostly toddlers and pre-schoolers (and their parents).
"It's been more of a new-parent experience," Greenberg acknowledges. "The cut-off [for kids] is 10 years old. But we're pretty open if someone has a little bit older kid [they want to bring]. We just don't want people to think of it as an all-ages show."
Greenberg sees the Romp as benefiting everyone involved. "I'm hardly ever awake at midnight, so even if a band is playing that I want to see, I would be asleep or would need a babysitter," Greenberg says. "It's a way for parents to see music and also expose kids to music. When I first had kids, it was like my CD collection was all kids' music. My kids love the Ramones. Now my kids know Vending Machine and Two Way Radio."
As far as the bands, the benefit, according to Greenberg, is in getting "to play to a crowd that doesn't usually get to come out and see them. And a lot of musicians have kids and want a chance to play where their family and friends and kids can all come."
The musicians also seem to have a lot of fun. At the first Romp, LaVere did a song about a cow with her kiddie audience providing mooing accompaniment. At the September romp, Branan set up a microphone for kids to add their own vocals to his songs.
This weekend's Rock-n-Romp will have a Halloween theme, with kids (and parents) encouraged to come in costume and with pumpkins on hand for kids to paint. Parents interested in attending can go to MemphisRocknRomp.Blogspot.com to request an invitation.