Herne Bay Rocks was the brainchild of David Shepherd, a musician and sound technician who moved to Herne Bay in 2005, as a way of getting involved in the Herne Bay Festival and checking out the local music scene at the same time. He found plenty of bands, venues and willingness to create a coherent music scene in the town but nobody had ever actually pulled it together and everyone was working independently often unaware of what everyone else were doing creatively in the same town.
David approached the venues that hosted regular live music and asked if they’d be interested in being one of the hosts of a larger event, and having already joined the Herne Bay Festival voluntary committee had managed to secure a slot on the main stage for the winning band along with a couple of days in a recording studio as a prize. Herne Bay Rocks was born and started with only 5 venues hosting 1 heat each and no final, just the highest scoring act as the winner.
In the first year nobody knew if it would succeed or even if it would work, but David’s experience in event management and dealing with musicians (not an easy task) managed to pull together a great music event which by the end of it had the whole town buzzing. All of a sudden all the bands had heard of each other, all the venues had a new wave of unknown talent to tap into, and audiences were treated to some real quality music in their local pub for free. It was deemed one of the most popular events by Canterbury City Council’s own evaluation of the Herne Bay Festival and David has been asked to organise Herne Bay Rocks every year since by the council, last year’s festival facilitators Same Sky, and this year’s festival facilitator’s Continental Drifts.
The Competition has evolved somewhat for many reasons; more bands wanting to enter, more venues wanting to be involved, and also an element of learning how to improve the event from previous year’s feedback (we are always open to suggestions). The main difference in the last 2 years is having a final; the 3 highest scoring acts battling out at the magnificent Kings Hall which has seen the likes of Ocean Colour Scene, Ash, The Brand New Heavies, and The Happy Mondays to name just a few perform there in the last couple of years.
Of course, with expansion comes more work and last year David decided that it just was not possible to continue alone not just with the organisation, but with supplying and running the sound equipment, and hosting/compering the gigs. He drafted in Herne Bay Music, an organisation set up after being inspired by the competition in previous years, and they helped with sponsorship and some of the logistics. David also hired in a sound company for the first time so he could concentrate more on the bands and let someone else do all the lugging about of equipment and dealing with guitarists that do not understand the concept of sometimes having to turn themselves down in order to hear the rest of the band.
This year, the competition very nearly didn’t happen as David and his Fiancé are expecting a child a month or so after the event and he did not have the time required to dedicate to Herne Bay Rocks. He felt that he wouldn’t be able to do it justice and as it had built up such a good reputation, he didn’t want to disappoint people by doing half a job. When news broke that it may not happen David was astounded by the support he got from people offering to help out and we now have a fantastic team of experts dedicating their time for free to make it happen better than ever before, this year really does promise to be the best yet, with the added prizes of a professional location photo shoot, and a global release on 250 global download sites including the big names such as iTunes. There is also a slot on the main stage of the festival and a recording session for the highest scoring acoustic act for the first time this year.
But don’t take our word for it, come along and experience it for yourself!