The vibrant electricity from Smokefreerockquest 2016 was enough to last until the end of the next day, but it will quite possibly be one of the experiences that will be etched into memory for the rest of my life.

The crowd had people of all ages gathered in their support and love of music. While Chris Mac (not Christopher) cracked out his best dad jokes of the night, the room fizzled in anticipation of seeing favourite acts.

Guest band Joe’s Van rocked in halfway through the competition, with their alluring bass and infectious energy, turning even the most reluctant audience member into a head-bobber! Trip Pony were totally tripping indeed. Their fusion of different genres into their songs gave us something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

The sheer talent of each and every single act attested to the hours of practice put in; a certain je ne sais quoi shimmered from each performer like an aura. However, there had to be some winners in the end. Here are the winners of SFRQ 2016.

People’s Choice Award: Retrospect

It was only right that the night started off with Retrospect, after the nation outright demanded for them to play. Their incredible stage presence and fun vibes bounced right back off the audience. All members were perfectly in sync with each other, lost in a world known only to themselves.

Sonatane Kaufusi by Max Sharp

Sonatane Kaufusi by Max Sharp

2nd Place Solo/Duo category: Sonatane Kaufusi

Sonatane started out with a soulful number that soothed the tension in the room, then he packed it to the brim and then some. His clever use of the loop station made you think, ‘What band?!’ He was truly rocking a one-man show and deserved his place.

Iris G by Max Sharp

Iris G by Max Sharp

1st Place Solo/Duo category: Iris G

The “shy girl” from Auckland completely transformed into a rocker chick on stage, Cinderella-style. Unlike Cinderella, this damsel don’t need no fairy godmother and had no bedtime set. Her passion for her music and for life emblazoned the entire venue. Psychedelic effects ensued through her guitar with her liquid vocals.

In between excited giggles and smiles, the young sensation managed to get out, “It still doesn’t feel real, it just feels like I’m sleeping and Rockquest hasn’t even happened yet. I never want to wake up.”

3rd Place Band Category: AhJeez

They’re funky, they’re spunky, bluesy and will leave you woozy. “So much adrenaline right now!” Elijah exclaimed about two minutes after the band completed their amazing set.

Last year’s solo winner Ben Mollison (a.k.a. young Clapton) pulled off impressive guitar solos and riffs that would have left you swooning for sure. Elijah Taula rightfully earned the Best Vocals award of the night. I could not place a single fault with these guys.

2nd Place Band Category and Best Song award: Daffodils

These kool kids brought back the ’80s – the playful, chilled vibes akin to The Cure, The Smiths and Siouxsie and the Banshees – while leaving out the neon leotards, ridiculous shoulder puffs and copious amounts of hairspray. Music flowing in their veins and carrying them through, Daffodils emerged victorious in their fourth year of competing in SFRQ.

“This year has been particularly good in terms of us getting to know ourselves… and each other as musicians,” Theo mused. The summery atmospheric sounds hypnotised us, an explanation for the many daffodils worn by the audience in support.

Alien Weaponry by Shaunagh Halies-Paku

Alien Weaponry by Shaunagh Halies-Paku

1st Place Band Category: Alien Weaponry

Alien Weaponry won not only the band section of Smokefreerockquest, but its sister event, Smokefree Pacifica Beats! On Saturday night, their raw enigma, confidence and youthful experience shone through. From the very first long, wrenching guitar note, to the demanding beat set by the rhythms and every guttural growl, Alien Weaponry was energy personified.

“When you’re on stage, you have to turn the adrenaline into a mental asylum,” drummer Henry de Jong stated just after the band finished their astounding set. These guys are going places!

Still to be commended are Cam Dawson, O-Boy and Half Eaten Pie for making it to the nationals. SFRQ 2016 was a night littered with budding stars. If this is the future of New Zealand, what a bright one it is!

Winners list

1st place band: Alien Weaponry, Bream Bay College and Otamatea High School
2nd place band: Daffodils, Western Springs College and Kristin School
3rd place band: AhJeez, Bethlehem College and Tauranga Boys College
1st place solo/duo: Iris G, Avondale College
2nd place solo/duo: Sonatane Kaufusi, Manurewa High School
People’s Choice: Retrospect
MAINZ Scholarship for Outstanding Musicianship: Ella McLennan, Hauraki Plains College, Waikato, bassist from The Flock.
APRA Lyric Award: Byre and Ethan Aish, from Hamilton Boys and Girls High Schools
The Lowdown Best Song Award: Daffodils
Smokefree Vocals Award: Elijah Tuala from Ah Jeez
Dominate Style Award: Half Eaten Pie, Te Awamutu College

Check out our Facebook page for more photos from the finals!