In early June, 19-year-old Tiffany Meehan and her friends piled into a car and drove an hour from Leesburg to see the Lloyd Dobler Effect at a club in Rosslyn. The doorman wouldn't let them in, even when the band's leader, a friend of Meehan's, vouched for them. The club serves alcohol and has a strict 21-and-older admittance policy.
Such policies have prevented Meehan and her friends from seeing favorite acts time and again. Sure, there are places such as the 9:30 club in Washington with no age requirements. (The club's Web site says: "We request that our patrons be born. That's about it. All ages, all the time.") But the shows can run late, causing many teens, especially those from the suburbs, to miss curfew.
So Meehan, a music buff who graduated from Loudoun County High School in June, organized a concert series with no minimum-age requirement in Leesburg this summer.
"I thought, 'I should just put on my own shows,' " said Meehan, who plans to major in business at George Washington University. "All my friends trust my instinct with music."
Meehan said she also wanted to give back to the community in a fun way. "Some people volunteer at hospitals and libraries -- I wanted to do this."
She booked a couple groups she says are "bound to become really big in the next year," teamed up with the Loudoun Youth Initiative and labeled her effort Teal Heart Productions.
Her effort taps two themes that have coursed across the county the past 18 months: musical entertainment and, tangentially, teenage entertainment.
A year ago, a poll of county teenagers suggested that there was "nowhere to go, nothing to do," said Tim Chestnutt, director of the Loudoun Youth Initiative, a county agency that seeks to engage young people in the community. There are signs that things have improved since.
In March, a teen center debuted in Purcellville -- a Friday night party for middle and high schoolers at a roller skating rink, offering skating, video games, foosball, air hockey and bus transportation. Eastern Loudoun Regional Library also began a Friday night teen center, showing movies and offering such workshops as yo-yo spinning and body-painting.
But developments on Loudoun's music scene may have the most heft. Meehan's Teal Heart Productions are the most recent on a growing roster of summer musical performances in the county. In addition to the longstanding Bluemont Concert Series and Loudoun Symphonic Winds outdoor concerts, the Round Hill Arts Center hosts monthly bluegrass jams and the town of Leesburg offers Acoustic on the Green, free Saturday evening concerts.
Last summer, the Loudoun Foundation, a charity spearheaded by Ashburn residents Tracey and Keith Parent, launched the Loudoun Summer Music Fest, a series of 10 Sunday evening concerts at Belmont Country Club. The performance roster has included Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, KC & the Sunshine Band and, recently, Little Feat, which broke attendance records by pulling in more than 6,000 concert-goers.
"Our average concert does two or three thousand people," Tracey Parent said. "Little Feat just blew us away."
Parent also has had a hand in revitalizing the "Battle of the Bands" -- sponsored by the Loudoun Foundation, the Loudoun Youth Initiative and Loudoun public schools -- which she described as a " 'School of Rock' meets 'American Idol' " competition in which bands compete with their peers and receive feedback from a panel of professionals.
Though the competition has been around for years, it used to be more of a "punk scene," Meehan said. Now, she said, "I think people are starting to take more of an interest in music in general. The music scene has changed a lot. . . . When we were freshman, everybody listened to Britney Spears."
Now they're listening more to "real musicians," she said, such as Gavin DeGraw and John Mayer. If all goes as hoped, they'll soon be listening to Derek James, a Beatles-esque crooner who is headlining Meehan's Aug. 19 concert at the Raspberry Plain mansion in Leesburg.
The series' debut concert Friday featured the New York-based Travis Rocco Band and drew about 50 people, mostly high schoolers. It wasn't the turnout Meehan had hoped for -- Raspberry Plain can accommodate 250 people -- but it was "pretty respectable for the first show we've really done," she said.
With the help of the Loudoun Youth Initiative, Meehan has enlisted local businesses to sponsor the shows. Raspberry Plain donated the space, and businesses chipped in about $4,000 to help cover expenses. Meehan, who says she has a knack for finding music that "ends up getting put on the radio a few months down the road," selected and booked the acts. Any profit from the shows will be donated to Loudoun Youth Inc., the charity branch of the Loudoun Youth Initiative.
"I'm really happy that they've started doing more for the youth, and if I can be a part of that, then that's great," she said, noting that when she was a freshman, Friday nights consisted mainly of going to the movies or the mall.
Meehan set advance ticket prices at $10 ($15 at the door), reasoning that "movie tickets out here are $9.50, and kids go see movies even if they don't really want to see them, just because there's nothing else to do. So if you're spending that much to see a movie, you'd spend $10 to see a whole night of live music."
She also banned alcohol from the shows, eliminating the need for any age identification procedures.
"I just didn't want to have any around, just to make it completely safe," Meehan said. "You can go one night without drinking."