For a teenager, there could be nothing worse than going to a concert with your parents, or most public places for that matter. But Robert Campbell III, in protective earmuffs decorated with Angry Birds stickers and a black Mumblr band shirt that hangs below his knees, isn’t a teenager. He’s only six. When most kids are just learning to ride a bike without training wheels, Robert hangs with his parents when he earns tickets for good behavior or grades. About once a month, he gets to see some of his favorite punk acts, including The Orwells, FIDLAR, Twin Peaks and Mumblr.
His interest in music started when he overheard his father listening to The Orwells at home. After Robert investigated the band further on YouTube, he asked his dad if he could see them perform live. The music has been so inspiring for him, particularly the drums, that he’s now practicing the instrument at home with his father’s support.
Eventually the family – Robert III, his father Robert Jr. and mother Tarinee – attended an Orwells show in the basement at First Unitarian Church. His father wasn’t sure what to expect so they stayed in the back. As Robert III sat holding his new vinyl Orwells album, the band passed him on their way outside, noticed the young fan and gave him a fistbump. According to his father, he was hooked after that.
“I’ve been going to shows since I was a kid,” said Robert Jr., as the family waited for Mumblr to perform at the DIY space Lavender House. “We used to take the train up to see The Dead Milkmen at house shows like this.”
Now a quality control technician at a petroleum plant, Robert Jr. grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, and rebelled against his own father’s strict rules, often sneaking out of the house when his father worked night shifts. This upbringing made him realize that his parents condemning the use of drugs and alcohol not only didn’t prevent him from experimenting, but probably made it worse. Sober now for the last 20 years, he doesn’t want his son making those same mistakes and hopes exposure could diminish the allure.
What actually worried him most about bringing his son to adult shows were the bands’ reactions.
“At first, we thought the bands would be offended that we brought a kid,” he said. “They’re actually flattered you brought your kid there and they know their music.”
At 6 years old, Robert III has at least 10 years until he can drive himself to shows. A lot can change in that time and maybe he won’t want to be seen with his parents at shows anymore. It’s hard to imagine his mom and dad waiting outside, but many generous parents do just that. The following are photographs of those parents waiting for their kids in or around venues in Philly.
–Appeared in Ol' Heads, Young Bols Issue, Jump Magazine 2015