If you’ve never attended a Rock-n-Romp music event with your kiddos, you’ve got one last chance. Their final show takes place Saturday, October 31, at 2 p.m. at Overton Park’s Greensward.
While not original to founder Stacey Greenberg — she’d heard about Rock-n-Romp in Washington, D.C. back in 2005 — it was an idea she shared in her ‘zine a decade ago in hopes that someone locally would run with it. The notion was simple: feature local bands that were family-friendly, serve some tasty adult beverages, and let the fun begin.
The catch? You had to bring a kid along with your $5 admission.
(photos by Chip Chockley)
When no one stepped forward, Greenberg rallied a group of friends and Rock-n-Romp was born. The inaugural show, hosted in Dan and Ashley Harper’s backyard, took place on April Fool’s Day, 2006.
“We had 10 board members and we each invited 10 friends,” says Greenberg. Her own two boys, Satchel and Jiro (then just 4 and 2), played with other kids, while parents visited. Performing for a crowd of 100 or so were Amy LaVere, Noise Choir, and DJ Colin Butler. Their modest budget of $250 paid for the bands, “because we never wanted musicians to play for free,” says Greenberg.
Emboldened by their success, the shows continued, steadily building an avid following. The board members were all parents themselves who didn’t want having children to keep them from losing touch with the local music scene. Even now, half are current or former musicians, including Marvin Stockwell, Jeff Hulett, Kate and Corey Crowder, and Caleb Sweazy.
Two years later, Rock-n-Romp staged their first show in a public venue, the Metal Museum. Museum administrator Charles Ferryman lived on the property with his wife and two kids and invited them to perform “in his backyard.” I attended that show myself and marveled at how this once modest affair had mushroomed.
“You have to remember, this was 10 years ago,” says Greenberg. “Now people have caught onto this model and there’s more things for parents to do with kids. Back then, there was Peanut Butter and Jam but the Shell hadn’t reopened yet, so there wasn’t much else going on.”
With growth came the demand for bigger venues. Luckily, Central BBQ joined as a sponsor, donating their tasty food for the shows. And Charlie Lawing of Memphis Sound Lab (father of original board member Wendy Trentham), began mixing sound, providing a more polished performance.
The culmination of those events helped to push Rock-n-Romp to the next level.
“It got to where it was running itself and we had a system down,” says Greenberg. The system required marshaling volunteers to oversee everything from food and beverage service to the safety of play zones for kids and a budget of $2,000 per show. While folks would come and go (Chip Chockley and Greenberg are the only original board members today), their aim remained the same: good music, good fun.
“In general, people love us. There’s nowhere else where you can get Central BBQ, beer, and hear three bands for $5. It was the best deal in town,” notes Greenberg. Their success — they grew to fill popular venues like Mud Island and the Corn Maze with more than 1,000 fans — ultimately meant more work for too few hands. “It was getting harder for us to enjoy the shows,” says Greenberg.
That said, the board isn’t dissolving but they also aren't sure what the future holds. "We feel it's a good time to end," says Greenberg. "The shows aren't financially viable at this level and there are other comparable events for people to enjoy. We're going out on top." Ultimately, Rock-n-Romp has introduced thousands of young families to a whole host of good vibrations. And that, we think, is a very good thing.