Event: Rocknight 2014

Rather than talking about one group of musicians, I would like to talk about an event in which many of my talented friends come together. In 2012, I started learning guitar at the Rockschool in Dronten (NL). The ‘school’ is run by André Hanekamp, who himself played drums in the rockband Ignorance Beyond during the ‘90s. His band experience is very evident in the way of teaching as multiple instruments (or singing and playing) and participating in live events in stimulated. Indeed, many have become singer-songwriters or play in bands e.g. Innocent Bystanders (Rock) and Until We Fall (Post-hardcore/Screamo). Although a range of genres is usually featured during the live events, there is one particular night reserved for all rock-related genres. Annually, around November/December, the Rockschool organizes the Rocknight in which all students interested in the genre, get a chance to play on stage. The edition that I particularly would like to talk about, is Rocknight 2014.

The event took place at local, (rock)venue Nirwana. Nirwana has existed since the ‘80s and has always been popular around the youth. In 2014, the venue moved to a new location. The choose of Nirwana was beneficial to both parties, as it provided the Rockschool with a legitimate stage and, at the same time, helped to promote the new location of Nirwana. Especially as Nirwana build somewhat of a sketchy, underground reputation, they could use an event to rebuild their name. The new location has a maximum capacity of 450 people. During the Rocknight 250 tickets were sold. The venue is relatively spacious, including a backstage area. The bar and technical department are run by volunteers. The sound quality during the Rocknight was not perfect, especially the volume of some instruments compared to others were not always rightly balanced. However, the location did get the edgy feel across that one would expect from a rock-themed evening.

Although the barriers of playing at the Rocknight are relatively low, students need to be advanced enough to learn several songs within a short amount of time as well as be able to play together with other musicians. Rather than set bands, participants form several bands with each other based on the song. Even though the participants vary from having played for several years to a couple of months, the level of expertise is balanced throughout the evening. However, the more advanced musicians appear more often on stage as they participate in several different songs. Also, as the positions of bass players, singers and drums are less filled, there is a circulation of the same people. This throws the balance a bit off.

Two months before the event, the different groups came together to rehearse in a studio. The night before the event, all songs were played through at Nirwana (see video). This was a good way of getting to know each other and fine-tune the songs. It also prepared somewhat for playing in front of others. Backstage, Nirwana provided space and drinks for the musicians. It was also easy for the musicians to join to the audience and be able to watch each other’s performances. The biggest flaw was the long setlist, which caused the evening to be lengthy. The setlist was based around the four drummers, as the drums take longest to re-arrange (left- and right handed drummers). The switching between the different band formations was still somewhat chaotic, as it broke the flow after each song. In the future, the build-up of the setlist needs some attention to establish a nice flow and easy transitions.

The Rocknight is a special memory as I have gained much more confidence from playing on stage. I started playing guitar with the intention to be confident enough to play with and in front of others. It was the first step in being able to do so. It is a big learning experience to play in front of 200+ people in a legitimate venue and has increased my motivation to keep doing so. I have also become much closer with the people I have played with, including some really talented musicians. I am grateful to keep playing with them and learning from them up until today.

Michelle N.