Teenagers turn up heat at Rockquest

00:00, May 17 2014
Gabriella Atkinson
MADE HIM PROUD: Gabriella Atkinson, of Garin College, gave a performance that made her dad, Kent, go ‘‘googly-eyed’’.

From taking selfies on stage to headbanging to heavy bass or singing ballads of heartbreak, there was no shortage of enthusiastic teenage musicians at the Nelson Smokefreerockquest heats last night.

The sellout show at the Theatre Royal featured a wide variety of sounds as teenagers battled for a spot in the Nelson regional Rockquest final next Friday.

Peers, parents, whanau and teachers listened to the range of acts, from metal, to alt-country, to pop rock, to love ballads. There were 19 bands and a further 10 solo or duo acts last night.

Ryan Beehre from Nelson band Minuit was judging the event for the fifth year. The national event is in its 26th year.

Smokefreerockquest is New Zealand's only national, live, original music, youth event. It was founded in 1989 by music teachers Glenn Common and Pete Rainey, who now run Rockquest Promotions fulltime out of Nelson.

Beehre said he was a big supporter of the event and what performing in it could lead to. Many of New Zealand's successful musicians started out in the Rockquest, including one of his band mates.


"It's just fantastic. It's an amazing opportunity for kids to get together and play. I love being involved with it; I'll keep doing it as long as I can," he said.

He said the talent seemed to get better each year, as there were more students entering. Beehre had to whittle the 29 acts who took to the stage last night, down to 12 who will perform next Friday in the regional competition. The winner from the regional competition could go on to the national competition.

Singer Liam FitzSimon Cooper, 16, from Waimea College, was competing as a solo act, despite being hit by a car earlier yesterday.

He said he did not want that to stop him from getting on stage. He played despite having a dislocated knee, bandaged hands and a bruised and grazed body, after he was knocked off his bike.

He performed a song he wrote for a friend "about loving someone who doesn't love you back". He also took the opportunity to take a selfie on stage, with the cheering audience in it as well.

Singer Gabriella Atkinson, 14, from Garin College, sang of lost love. She made it through to the regional competition. Gabriella was no stranger to performing - she was in the semi-finals of the New Zealand's Got Talent television series last year.

She said being in the Rockquest "is an amazing experience".

She had been playing guitar for three years and singing as long as she could remember. Her father, musician Kevin Atkinson, was there to support her.

"She scares me, she sings so well, it's all her. I was sitting there with googly eyes," he said.

Motueka High School band Rictorscale also got through to the finals. Made up of three year 10 students, the heavy rock, Metallica T-shirt-wearing band received a standing ovation from some of their peers at the end of their song.

Westbrook, made of students from Nayland, Waimea and Garin College were the heaviest, loudest and fastest band of the night.

Nelson College music teacher Jared Altments was at the heats to support the bands from his school. He had helped coach them to perform in the competition.

A few bands from the school had just formed this year. "It's so good to see them get into it, its good to see them give it a go. It puts them out of their comfort zone, which isn't something available to most people."

Common said he was pleased with the night, and the varied music. He said all bands performed well, and the audience were supportive.

The acts that made it through the heats, to perform at the Nelson Smokefreerockquest next Friday are: Toxic Vain (Waimea College), Paper Scissors (Motueka High School), Oh Blok (Garin College, Nelson College), Slim Conviction (Garin, Nayland, Waimea Colleges), Zi Shaw (Nelson College for Girls), Gabriella Atkinson (Garin College), Rictorscale (Motueka High School), Fire Without Permit (Nelson College, Waimea College), Celestia (Garin College), Aeon Venture (Garin College), Velocity (Nelson College) and Westbrook (Nelson, Garin and Nayland Colleges).

The Nelson Mail