IN the ``quiet room'' of the Capital Centre arena, British rock star Robert Plant's heavy metal musical assault is reduced to distant thunder. This kind of calm cocoon on the edge of the arena is an increasingly popular marketing tool for the rock-and-roll concert business, which aims to sell $20-plus tickets to suburban children who can't drive, have no access to public transit, and must rely on parents for transportation to concerts.
Arenas nationwide have made it their business to make sure parents can stay close enough to their kids and far enough from the music for comfort.
Quiet rooms are parents' alternative to a long night in the car in the parking lot, air-conditioner revved in summer and heater going in winter, says Al Van Ocker, the security official in charge of the Capital Centre quiet room. The Capital Centre was one of the first arenas in the country to create a free, comfortable, refreshment-stocked waiting room for parents of concertgoers. That was in 1986.
Now many of the larger, more progressive arenas are offering quiet rooms as ``a way to help ticket sales ... and to keep kids and parents from going in separate directions when it comes to music,'' says Darrell Day, communications manager for the 3,500-member International Association of Auditorium Managers.
``It does boost business. ... The parents we've talked to say they'd never have allowed a child to come unsupervised or in someone else's car,'' says Matt Amodeo, director of media relations for the Capital Centre.
A recent Capital Centre concert by New Kids on the Block - a hugely popular group that fills stadiums with kids who aren't old enough to drive ... or read - drew 1,500 parents to wait in the quiet room, says Mr. Amodeo. At the Robert Plant concert last month a group of about 30 parents were draped in various poses of relaxation while their teenagers were inside the pulsating stadium having their ears reamed by the mean guitars.
One father, John Eng, was rubbing his ears as his 17-year-old son, Tom, escorted him to the quiet room after gamely trying - and failing - to sit through the concert. Luis Grau, an engineer who had been to a Grateful Dead concert with his two teen-age sons the week before and swore off any more concerts for himself, set up his laptop computer in the quiet room to get some work done.