Students from all over the Nelson/Tasman region gathered at the Theatre Royal on May 5 to showcase their musical talents, competing in the regional heats round, in a bid for one of the top spots, for this year’s SmokefreeRockquest.
Now in its 30th year, the nationwide event has been the platform that has launched many of New Zealands biggest musical success stories, including Anika Moa, Opshop, Ladyhawke, The Black Seeds, Devilskin and Nelson’s very own duo, Broods, to name just a few.
Twelve bands, and two solo/duo entrants were chosen after Saturday’s performance to go on the regional finals which will held on May 18 at the Theatre Royal. Eight Waimea College and Garin College bands secured a spot in the finals, and Brooklyn Scott from Garin College won first place Solo/Duo to go through to the next round.
Acoustic Knot, from Waimea College, secured their place in the final with an outstanding acoustic performance by all three girls, Summah Simmons, Piper Harvey and Jewel Whimp. This is their third year competing. Band member Summah says, “we already have a song lined up for the finals.” Violin-playing Piper was super excited, but confident, to be performing. She says, “our music is a lot different to other bands. We are a lot more acoustic sounding whereas the other bands have a lot more drum and bass.” Normally a four-piece band, their fourth member Mikayla Wright has a pretty good excuse for not being there. She is away competing at the Torpedo7 Hillary Challenge Adventure Race.
Along with Acoustic Knot, other bands that made it through to the finals are Verbatim, Blind Eye, The Unreliables, Shut up Connor, Elysian, Odd Socks, Scarface and the Codfish, The Recliners, Equinox, Solasta and The Peoples Jury.
SmokefreeRockquest founder and director Pete Rainey says, after 30 years of working with young people and schools, he and his partner Glenn Common are more than ever convinced of the role the arts and creativity play in education.
“We’re thrilled to have created a history right across New Zealand with events that let kids show off their love of music – writing original songs and performing them in a band or as solo-duos extends their skills and boosts their confidence,” he said. “For some it has led to national and international success, hundreds more have gone on to teach music, to work in the recording industry, in the media and in many other performance-related careers. Whatever they do, most of our alumni will tell you playing in SmokefreeRockquest remains the standout moment of their high school years.”
Glenn Common says that while SmokefreeRockquest is a competition, the environment at the heats is very supportive and the emphasis is on participation.
At the Nelson final there are awards for the top three bands, the MAINZ musicianship Award, Smokefree Award for Womens Musicianship, Lowdown Best song, the APRA Lyrics Award, the Fatboy Style Award and the Peoples Choice voted by text. The top regional bands and solo/duos submit footage for selection as finalists to play at the Smokefree Tangata Beats national final on September 21 in Auckland, followed by the SmokefreeRockquest national final on the 22nd.

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