Moms push strollers through throngs of bare-chested, tattooed twenty-somethings. Dads in khakis dole out fruit drinks while guys sporting mohawks and ripped jeans sip beer. And the grade-schoolers cheer as loudly as the hard-core metalheads.
Welcome to the new face of music festivals, where everyone from kids in diapers to retirees come for the same reason: to rock out.
"I was too young for Woodstock. I didn't really start going to concerts until my youngest son was old enough," said Dory Schramm of Alamo, Calif., who attended this year's Lollapalooza festival in Chicago with her husband and their 19- and 16-year-old sons, along with other family members, including 8- and 10-year-old nieces.
When it began 17 years ago, Lollapalooza was a traveling alternative music festival that drew a decidedly young crowd to hear hard rock, punk and hip-hop bands. It has evolved into a three-day destination that features similar music and still draws young adults, but increasingly caters to all ages.
And that's just fine with Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell, former lead singer of the now-defunct 1990s alternative rock band Jane's Addiction.
"I am almost 50 years old, and I certainly don't want to be condemned. I don't want to be looked upon as some kind of used-up dude," said Farrell, a father of three. "We created this scene, we deserve to be there, we belong there."
Farrell says the festival is evolving naturally — many of those who attended the original shows keep coming back, often with their young children in tow or tagging along with their older kids.
And now ... Kidzapalooza
That might explain why there now is an entire area devoted to kids, called Kidzapalooza; this year, it included performances by well-known singers like Farrell, Slash from Guns N' Roses and Jeff Tweedy from Wilco.
"I think it's pretty remarkable that I get to see people that are below 9 showing up at our festival, and then people in their 50s showing up at our festival, and they all seem to appreciate and enjoy the music across the board," Farrell said. "Nobody's going, 'Wow what the hell's going on here?'"
It's the same at other music festivals, organizers say.
The changes at Lollapalooza mirror those that already were happening at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, said Brooke Alexander, marketing manager for C3, which helps produce both festivals.
Austin — this year's festival is in September — caters to an age range of 25-38 with more diverse food and VIP offers that price out many younger people, Alexander said, adding: "We are a company of 25-38 as well, and we know what we were going to want to go do if we were going to pay the money. Turns out, that's who come to our festivals, too."
And then there are the kids. About 5 percent of those attending Lollapalooza, for example, bring their children, Alexander said.
She said the company does not market to a specific age range, "but we always keep in mind that it's getting a little older, and that's very interesting, especially for Lollapalooza."
Making an event as broad as possible
Rick Farman, co-owner of Superfly Productions, which puts on Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival in San Francisco, among others, said music festivals have always tried to draw in as large an audience they can through diverse programming. For example, at the Outside Lands Festival, Tom Petty will draw in an older crowd. The next night, Jack Johnson will bring in younger folks.
Kristi Chuckel, marketing and public relations manager of Summerfest in Milwaukee, said that several years ago organizers began setting up a stage just for classic rock.
"We really wanted to have a whole stage to dedicate to that genre of music to appeal to a little bit of an older audience," she said.
Summerfest, which took place June 26 to July 6 this year, also has a children's playground and a kids' stage.
At Bonnaroo, a four-day music festival in Manchester, Tenn., the older crowd has grown gradually, said Ashley Capp, president of AC Entertainment, which co-produces the event.
"In some cases, there's actually three generations that are out there," he said.
Capp said the wider demographic is caused by a culture shift: Multiple generations of people now listen to the same music.
"When I was growing up in the '60s and '70s, the music I was listening to, my father was not listening to that music," he said. "Now you go forward to 2008, and people are still listening to Jimi Hendrix."