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Schools of rock ready to roll


The region’s budding secondary school rock stars are tuning their instruments and warming up their vocal chords in the countdown to the Smokefree Rockquest regional finals tomorrow reports Jessica Morris and Gianina Schwanecke.

This year, 14 acts from seven schools in Wairarapa will battle it out at the Carterton Events Centre hoping to wow the judges and win a chance to advance on to the national final.

That’s nearly double last year’s eight entries, with a mix of seasoned performers and newcomers involved.

Progressing to the national finals won’t be easy, however, with the top two bands, top two solo acts or duos, and the people’s choice winner tomorrow winning the chance to submit an audition tape to be one of nine acts to perform in Auckland on September 22.


Wairarapa College has four groups ready to take the stage – Signs of Life, She, Facade and Mr. Menace.

It’s the second time She’s Caitlyn O’Neale, 17, and Isaac Davies, 16, will face the Rockquest crowd, having won the regional finals last year with their band Red Walls.

Now they’re back with new bandmate, Jackson Burling, 16, and Isaac says they’d love to get their hands on another cash prize.

“Last year was fun — we got $500 to spend on equipment. It’d be good to do that again”.

Signs of Life.

The boys of Signs of Life are also seasoned Rockquest veterans, having competed in the competition last year. Drummer Cully Lockyer, 15, says the band is roaring and ready to go.

“We’re just looking forward to coming back and doing it again.

“Now we know what it’s like, we can put on a better performance.”


Kuranui College’s Absolutely Knott also competed last year and vocalist and bass guitarist Corban Van Manen, 16, says he’s more than ready to return to the competition.

“There’s something about being on stage that just lets you let loose. I feel a lot more confident on stage.”

Bandmate Caleb Webb, 16, says the competition is a source of confidence for burgeoning musicians.

Two-thirds of Wairarapa College band, She – Isaac Davies and Caitlyn O’Neale. The third member of the band, vocalist Jackson Burling, features in the photograph between the pair.

“It’s not only performing for our peers but performing for ourselves, showing that we can do this.”

This year marks the first Rockquest performance for the Year 9 and 10 boys of Snokel, and while the nerves are creeping in, they’re ready to strut their stuff.

For 13-year-old vocalist and back-up guitarist Alex Hardley, the enjoyment comes from doing what he loves with his friends.

“Just playing together, it’s like we’re all in synchronisation, it’s a lot of fun.”

Kuranui’s Simplicithree will also be on stage.


For Rathkeale’s Brown Sugar, Rockquest is the reason for being.

They began playing last year when driving force and lead guitarist, 16-year-old Thomas Spencer, pulled the boys together.

“To be fair, we’d never have gotten together if not for Rockquest.

Absolutely Knott.

“And then even if we did get together, we’d just be doing covers the whole time.”

The band, who describe their sound as “organic, wholesome and chill”, will be performing original songs ‘Stranded’ and ‘Astroturf’.

Rathkeale’s other entry, The Joneses, are more seasoned performers.

Brother and sister duo, Kian [14] and Lily [17] Jones performed at Rockquest last year, and also won the APRA [Australasia Performing Right Association] lyric award.

Tomorrow, they’ll also be performing original songs, ‘Lost Boys’ and ‘Somehow’.

They were excited to play again and weren’t feeling too nervous.

“I’m more nervous about playing in assembly,” Kian said.


Mia Aitchison.

Mia Aitchinson, 15, is going it alone for St Matthew’s, playing solo in her first Rockquest performance.

“I’m excited, I’ve performed before but never one of my own songs.

“It all happened quite quickly.”

Mia was hesitant to sign up, putting in her application the day that entries closed after her guitar teacher encouraged her to apply.

Completing the line-up of entrants tomorrow are Fresh Noiz from Makoura College, All But One from Chanel College, and Concrete Acoustics from Solway College.

Closing the night will be a performance from Auckland band, Daffodils, who were second in the national finals in 2016 and 2017.

Tickets to the regional final can be purchased from Eventfinda or at the door on the night, with tickets priced at $10 for school pupils and $20 for adults.

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