One of the capital city’s most eclectic – and most fun – festivals is returning to Main Street for a fifth year this Sunday, and you won’t want to miss out on all it has to offer.
The Rock On Foundation’s fifth annual Rock On Fest will take over downtown for one day only this year, bringing live music, basketball, activities and all-around family fun to the masses. And, very importantly, the whole thing is free, and everyone is invited.
The festival is the brainchild of Concord native Luke Bonner, who runs the Rock On Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves to increase community artistic and athletic opportunities in the community. The nature of the festival ties into two of Bonner’s biggest passions – music and basketball.
Bonner played college ball at West Virginia and UMass, then went on to play professionally in Europe before joining the NBA’s G-League (then known as the D-League). That’s pretty impressive, but Luke Bonner isn’t even the most decorated baller in his own family – that title goes to Matt Bonner, the 12-year NBA veteran who won two championships with the San Antonio Spurs. Both Bonners are heavily involved in this festival, and at about 7 feet tall apiece, you won’t be able to miss them.
“It’s special for me to come back to my hometown where all my friends and family are,” said Matt, a sandwich enthusiast who now works on TV as a Spurs analyst.
“We’re in the fifth year, and hoping people come out, trust it,” Luke said. “Experience all the bands, whether you’ve heard of them or not. Just know it’s gonna be an awesome time. Super unique setting – right on Main Street by the clock tower.”
The festival has undergone incremental changes over the years. It used to be held at White Park, but it was moved to Main Street – literally right in the middle of the street – a few years ago to put downtown in the spotlight more and bring some more foot traffic to the downtown merchants. It also has changed from a one-day thing to a weekend-long thing back to a one-day thing this year.
“We condensed it to one day, Sunday Funday style,” Luke said. “Made it a little easier to get everyone to come out for one day instead of two.”
While the festival is now just one day, there will still be as much action as ever, maybe even more. As usual, there will be lots of live music – eight acts in all – and many basketball games played on an NBA-donated outdoor court. There will also be an outdoor movie hosted by Red River Theatres, a yoga session hosted by 43 Degrees North Athletic Club, a (stationary) cycling session with Strive Indoor Cycling and demonstrations by Granite State Roller Derby. And, again, everything is completely free and open to everyone.
On the music side, there are some New Hampshire acts you might recognize, such as Steven Chagnon, who regularly plays all over Concord and beyond. Other Granite State-based acts to perform this year include Homeschool Prom Queen and Something // Something. There are also acts from the Boston area and Brooklyn, N.Y.
One set you certainly won’t want to miss is the DJ Red Mamba set. That’s right, Matt Bonner, the Red Mamba himself, will be taking a full DJ set at this festival, and word on the street is that he’s really taking it seriously this year.
“I DJ’d a couple Rock On Fests in the past, but that was kind of rudimentary DJing as opposed to what I’ve prepared for this year,” he said. “I guess things got elevated for me last year when the city of San Antonio invited me to DJ their citywide New Year’s Eve celebration, with 40,000 people.”
In the months since then, the Red Mamba has been working with professional DJs to learn software and techniques to make sure his spinning game is in top form for the festival he helps throw in his hometown.
“I learned some details about what the gig entails,” he said. “I took some DJ lessons from some of the Spurs DJs, figured out which software I needed to download, bought some digital turntables and actually really learned how to DJ. It’s kind of actually become my main hobby, outside my family and basketball, over the last eight or nine months, and so I’m excited so show what I’m working on.”
How often do you get to see a 6-foot-10 redhead with a cape and mask (yes, he will be in full costume, by popular demand) spinning records in the middle of the street in New Hampshire’s capital city? Well, once a year, actually, and this is it.
Having grown up in the generation of Napster, LimeWire and Bear Share, Matt had unlimited access to unlimited music at a young age, and that kind of planted the musical seed in him that has turned into a legitimate hobby for him as an adult. His set is not one to be missed.
As for the festival as a whole, the day will be jam-packed with activities. The schedules are as follows:
11:30 a.m.: Steven Chagnon (New Hampshire)
12:30 p.m.: Homeschool Prom Queen (N.H.)
1:30 p.m.: Something // Something (N.H.)
2:30 p.m.: Lord Felix (Brockton, Mass.)
3:30 p.m.: DJ Red Mamba (Parts Unknown)
4:45 p.m.: Photocomfort (Boston)
6 p.m.: Cliffe Notez (Boston)
7:30 p.m.: Baby FuzZ (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
11:30 a.m.: Concord Police vs.Concord Fire Hoops Challenge
12:30 p.m.: Concord High School vs. Merrimack Valley High School Unified Basketball
1:30 p.m.: Midsummer Hoops Classic hosted by the Frank Monahan Foundation, featuring boys and girls basketball teams from Concord High School, Merrimack Valley High School, Pembroke Academy and Bishop Brady
8 a.m.: Outdoor Spinning Class hosted by Strive Indoor Cycling
9 a.m.: Outdoor Yoga hosted by 43 Degrees North Athletic Club
1 p.m.: Roller Derby Demonstrations hosted by Granite State Roller Derby
8:45 p.m.: Outdoor movie hosted by Red River Theatres featuring Labyrinth
Dartmouth-Hitchcock is the presenting sponsor this year, and they will set up some activities as well, so there will be no shortage of things to do.
This event means a lot to both Bonner brothers, who grew up here and have since moved on but have not forgotten where they came from or how they got to where they are now.
“The two main ties I still have to my hometown are the basketball camp and the Rock On Fest,” Matt said, referring to the Bonner Basketball Camp he runs in Concord every summer. “Once I made it to the NBA, like most NBA players, they want to start doing stuff for their community, so I wanted to do something with music.”
For more information, go to facebook.com/RockOnFoundation or rockonfoundation.org.