Young rockers battling for title

By Benjamin Matthews

Range of styles and influences reflect what music trends youth follow through popular internet sites.

Smokefree Rockquest indie band Sunday Best blends U2 guitars with the aesthetic of a Christmas light background.
Smokefree Rockquest indie band Sunday Best blends U2 guitars with the aesthetic of a Christmas light background.

Six high school bands and two solo acts will battle it out in this weekend's 2013 Smokefree Rockquest final - and organisers say it is the most diverse line up in the competition's 25-year history.

Glen Common, who co-founded Rockquest with Pete Rainey, both of whom still run the event, says the wide-ranging mix of acts reflects the different music young people have access to through internet sites such as YouTube and Spotify.

"It's great to have such a range of styles and influences represented on one stage and I think this trend, which we started to notice around 2010, will continue," says Common.

The final includes a range of genres, from the alternative folk of AashaWillandCullen, to the hard hitting heavy rock of Aftershock and keyboard-driven indie pop of A Bit Nigel.

The final is on Saturday at the Raye Freedman Arts Centre in Epsom with guest acts rowdy rockers the Drab Doo-Riffs and up-and-coming pop star Massad.

The final eight were selected from more than 650 bands, soloists and duos who entered the competition from around the country this year.

Smokefree Rockquest band All Of A Kind.
Smokefree Rockquest band All Of A Kind.

For the first time duos and soloists have been judged separately, and Cambridge singer and guitarist Harry Parsons goes up against Manukau hip-hop influenced soul singer Khona Va'aga-Gray for a separate prize.

"It makes more sense comparing soloists and duos as opposed to comparing them with the bands because there's a different skill set involved," says Common.

He also believes there are some subtle differences that make this year's finalists' line-up unique, from the energetic guitar riffs of Parsons' acoustic guitar to the three-part harmonies several of the bands are using.

Common says their main goal is to keep the competition running, with Rockquest's main objective to give kids the experience of performing in front of their peers. He's proud of what past contestants - who include the likes of singer songwriters Bic Runga and Anika Moa, pop acts Kimbra, Ladyhawke, and Kids of 88, and band the Naked and Famous and Evermore, among many others - have gone on to achieve.

"Every month or so you find there's another ex-Smokefree Rockquest contestant who has gone on to achieve something significant."

Smokefree Rockquest contestant Khona Va'aga-Gray.
Smokefree Rockquest contestant Khona Va'aga-Gray.

- NZ Herald

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