We’re heading into mid-August now, which can only mean one thing – Rock On Fest is on its way.
For the fourth year in a row, the Rock On Foundation will hold its big music-and-basketball festival in Concord. For the second straight year, the bulk of the festivities will take place right in the heart of downtown Concord – in the middle of North Main Street, in fact.
The festival is the creation of the Bonner brothers, Luke and Matt. You might know Matt for being an NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs. Luke was a fine player himself, having played professionally overseas, but he now serves as executive director of the Rock On Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves to increase community artistic and athletic opportunities. The Bonners are both Concord natives (and celebrities), so it’s really a perfect Concord summer event that’s fun for everyone.
If you haven’t checked out any of the previous festivals and don’t know what they’re about, you’ve been missing out on a lot.
The two-day festival, which will take place this Friday and Saturday, will feature a dozen musicians performing live over two stages as well as basketball games and tournaments running all throughout the festival and a free outdoor movie.
North Main Street will be the Rock On Fest’s primary spot, with a real NBA basketball court, donated by the NBA, set up in the street for both days. The main performance stage, known as the Merrimack County Savings Bank Stage, will be behind the courts in the middle of the street, which will be shut down to traffic. Last year the main stage was on the State House lawn, but Luke Bonner felt that area was a bit hidden and thought being out in the street would attract more people.
The other big area will be Eagle Square. There won’t be any basketball played down there, but the tunes will be pumping out of there all weekend long.
While the music is sort of the driving force behind the festival, there will be all kinds of hoops being played, too.
“We’ll have eight teams, with a boys’ tournament first at noon,” Luke said of the first basketball to be played at the festival. “We play FIBA 3-on-3 rules.”
These 3-on-3 tournaments are becoming all the rage around the basketball world – Bonner said 3 on 3 will even be an event at the next Olympics. Maybe we can thank Ice Cube and his Big 3 league for starting the trend. (Come to think of it, Matt would probably be great in the Big 3 league – we could see him dominating the likes of Brian Scalabrine and Jermaine O’Neal.)
For the 3-on-3 tournaments, teams can have up to four players, meaning one substitute, and games are either 10 minutes long or the first to 21. Tournaments will be double elimination. Bonner said it’s rare for either team to ever get to 21, so it’s usually the 10-minute marker that signals the end of the game.
“It’s a really fast-paced style of basketball,” Bonner said. “It’s kind of like a newer, emerging style that’s growing in popularity, so we’re trying to bring it to New Hampshire.”
There will be three divisions in the 3-on-3 tournaments: youth boys (ages 11 to 14), youth girls (11 to 14) and adults (18 and up). Sorry, 15- to 17-year-olds.
You may still be able to sign up by the time you read this, but of course the longer you wait the less likely you are to be able to secure a spot. If you get this soon enough, you can go to bit.ly/rockon18 to sign up. Registration fees are $20 per team for the youth divisions and $30 per adult team.
After the 3-on-3 on Friday, there will be a game with a lot of pride and bragging rights on the line – Concord Police vs. Concord Fire. That game will be a 4-on-4, full-court affair. “Fire came back and won late in a barn-burner last year,” Bonner said, so you know the Boys in Blue will be looking for revenge this year – all in fun and good nature, of course.
After that will be a unified game featuring Concord High School vs. Merrimack Valley High school. That will be a full-court, 5-on-5 game, playing under unified rules.
“Unified is basically a combination of boys and girls, and there’s Special Olympic athletes with varsity basketball players all on the same team,” Bonner said. “It’s just a really positive experience. For that one, our goal is to have the biggest crowd possible for those kids to give them an awesome experience and memories. It’s a really emotional experience. It’s pretty powerful.”
After the unified game, Red River Theatres will host an outdoor movie in Eagle Square at 8 p.m., showing the animated family film Coco. That movie, by the way, is about an aspiring musician journeying into unfamiliar territory in search of his grandfather, a legendary singer, so the movie even has a musical vibe to it in line with the Rock On Fest.
On Saturday, the schedule (which you can see in its entirety on page 14, by the way) is really packed. This is the day that will see a dozen different musical acts parade through downtown, either right on Main Street or in the acoustically pleasing Eagle Square. This day will also feature the adult 3-on-3 hoops tourney as well as the Midsummer High School Hoops Classic, which will see varsity and summer league players from Concord High, Merrimack Valley, Pembroke and Bishop Brady square off in a full-court, single-elimination tournament. The Frank Monahan Foundation runs this tournament.
The adult 3-on-3 tournament is the one that tends to draw teams from all over. Last year, for example, there was a team from Toronto that came down for the festival. The assumption was that these folks must have been old-school Matt Bonner fans, who played for the Toronto Raptors from 2004 to 2006. Turns out this Toronto team had no idea Matt Bonner was even part of the festival – they just heard of a 3-on-3 tournament and wanted in.
“We were surprised we had a team from Toronto come down,” Luke Bonner said. “It’s kind of growing in popularity. Frankly, it’s kind of like the basketball version of doing a Black Ice tournament,” he said, referring to the ever-popular pond hockey tournament hosted at White Park each winter.
As for the music, Bonner can’t wait to hear the acts start rockin’ out.
“We’re pretty excited about the lineup,” he said. “I think people are gonna love it. We’re really excited about Overcoats coming in from New York. A couple bands are New York- or L.A.-based, but have New Hampshire ties. Elle Belle is from Auburn, New Hampshire, originally.”
There will also be some stuff going on that doesn’t have anything to do with basketball or playing music, such as the Yoga Jam on Saturday at 9 a.m.
“Folks at 43 Degrees North are going to be running that, so they’re going to set up free outdoor yoga session and they’re going to have DJ Sunshine playing music to go along with it,” Bonner said. This all-ages, free event will take place on the State House lawn.
There’s also Family Fun – Concord Family YMCA will set up some little games and activities for kids. This will be an hour or two kind of thing, Bonner said, with no signup necessary.
There’s also going to be a Rock On Roast coffee, made by Flight Coffee Co. in Bedford. They’ll have their cold brew on site and will sell bags of the Rock On Roast.
There are couple other elements, such as a special beer and a pancake breakfast, and you can read more about those on the next two pages, 14 and 15.
Finally, there will be some swanky swag for you to snag, including a limited number of special Rock On Fest game balls featuring the festival logo. Other merchandise, such as T-shirts, will be available at a Rock On merch and info tent right by Eagle Square entry.