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Catching up with Mike Rocket

August 18, 2016 AT 9:34 am

Before Firefly this year, we told you about Mike Rocket, a performer who, every year, would perform outside the gates for anyone passing by. He would play every day of every year of the festival in any kind of weather, dedicated to his music and his dream of getting heard by as many people as possible. We were so inspired by his dedication that we gave him a place inside the gates at his very own Treehouse set this year. We reached out to Mike to see how his experience went.


“The days leading up to Firefly went by so fast. The very week I found out I was going to get to play at Firefly, I was also invited to open for Bret Michaels on the Shannon in the Morning Summer Blast Off on WCBS-FM, New York. After years of asking them, I finally performed my Jersey shore anthem, “Gotta Get To The Jersey Shore” on the same week as getting my Firefly invite–two huge things for me. This definitely felt like an improvement over playing at Times Square near the Naked Cowboy or outside of a festival!”


“Some people were even calling me up to see if they could join the band once they knew I got it. There wasn’t a lot of time so I kept it simple; I felt it worked out well. I don’t always get to do full band shows, but with less than a couple weeks to go, I got confirmation to bring along my band. We had Caroline Garlick, a violinist who I met at Firefly 2014, and who even accompanied me outside the gates in 2015. We also had other talented musicians who had joined me before at BB King Blues Club in New York. Nick Clemons sang backups, played harmonica, and added tambourine. He’s the son of Clarence Clemons, the icon sax player of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Lisa Bianco, who also tours with Hunter Valentine, was on guitar. Timmy Douglas was on bass and Eric Gonzalez was on drums.”


“At the festival I stayed at a nearby hotel, but most of the band members had to leave at like 5am from northern Jersey and New York to make sound check.  It was surreal being in the artist compound. That was the best part of the whole experience. We had an air-conditioned tent with my name on it! You would crisscross the village of tents and there were the artist tents labeled Fetty Wap, Deathcab for Cutie, Catfish and the Bottlemen, and MIKE ROCKET! Getting treated like royalty was just the best part of it. Everyone there treated us like stars with vans and assistants to carry our equipment to and from the stage and the artist compound.”


“As surreal as it is, when you get an opportunity like this, it’s not like you’ve become an instant star. You still have to constantly work at it. I took on role as manager, agent, promoter, working out the logistics, passes, and detours etc. This was something I never had to do on that great of a scale before. Fortunately, we had amazing assistance from Lori, our artist liaison, as well as from Corey, our stage manager, at the festival. Both made sure everything went as smoothly as possible.”


“A big backstage highlight was meeting Catfish and the Bottlemen. We got cool pictures with them. I didn’t know them very well before that, but they were so nice to us, despite the fact that I met them under strange circumstances.  Several minutes after we first met and took pictures with them, I was standing in a luxury restroom trailer at a urinal. Van McCann, the lead singer, was two stalls to my left. He began speaking to me in his proper British accent. Though it was hard to listen and go at the same time, I believe he was complimenting us and telling me how lovely our violinist was. I was really excited that he said such approving things but kind of wished it was a conversation we could have held elsewhere.”


“My day job is teaching 6th graders, which can be a great challenge at times. They love Fetty Wap and when we had free time, they would play his music (the clean versions) at school. So when I told them the first week of June I was playing at the same festival as he was, they didn’t believe me. The Saturday that Fetty arrived, I told him my students listen to him all the time and that I taught right by his hometown in New Jersey. I managed to get a picture with him, and my students put it in the sixth grade graduation slide show which made me pretty popular among the students by the end of the school year.”


“As a couple months have passed, I feel really fortunate to have been part of such an amazing experience. I still feel momentum from it. I just got an invitation from Jessie at Radio 104.5 in Philly to perform on the “Live at 5” on Friday, September 16th. Part of the gig is that I have to do a cover, so I’m going to do Catfish and the Bottlemen’s “Kathleen” in honor of our restroom trailer conversation.”


“Firefly was a huge confidence booster and it has given me a lot of credibility. People are listening to me who probably would not have listened before. It has opened doors, put me on the map, and, at least, given me a real chance of making it.”


“Several people ask me why I do it? Why would I just show up at these things? But I think sometimes I’m the only one who thought that the hard work would pay off.  If you do, you truly can succeed no matter what people say or think of you. How can I tell my students that and not believe it myself?”


“Something like Firefly makes a difference. You go from 0 to 100 in two minutes. Initially, people look at you like you’re just a crazy guy with a guitar. But, once you’re on the schedule with some of the most major acts in music, you’re suddenly impressive.  If enough people hear you and like what you do, then maybe they won’t think of you as that crazy street guitar busker anymore.  Like anything, success can really be had by sticking to what you really love!  Even if I don’t ever become exactly the star of my dreams, I can go to sleep at the end of the day confident that I’ve done everything in my power to make them come true.”