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Persistence Pays Off For Mike Rocket

By Gary Wien

originally published: 07/21/2016

Persistence Pays Off For Mike Rocket

Indie musicians often work hard to get heard, but few have the drive and persistence of Mike Rocket.  His persistence paid off in June when he performed at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware.  Officially it was his first time playing the festival, but unofficially thousands have seen him perform outside the festival since it first began in 2012.

Performing outside of big events has been a strategy of his for some time. Mike grew up outside of Philadelphia and began performing in the mid 1990s. Growing up, he bore a rather uncanny resemblance to Bruce Springsteen.  In a way, this helped him break into the Jersey Shore music scene and led to a following from performances outside of the stadiums before Springsteen shows.  Unfortunately, while the resemblance helped people remember who he was, it distracted from his original songs.  But he kept plugging away with club dates mixed with live sets outside of concerts and in busy city areas like Times Square.  His friend, Nick Clemons, gave him the idea to try morning television shows, which have been successful.  And he began performing outside the gates of festivals.

He expected this year at the Firefly Festival to be like the last five, but something unexpected happened.  A fan wrote a letter to the festival in support of Mike.  The letter told about Mike’s dedication to play for hours each day, performing under the hot sun and during the rain - to a crowd that doesn’t know him as the festival opens to ones that know his songs by the close of Firefly.  It was written by someone who was there the very first time Mike performed at Firefly in 2012.

“People have no idea who I am on Thursday or Friday,” Mike said in the piece, “but by Sunday people are cheering me on. It’s kind of a Rocky thing.”

The people behind the festival were so touched by the letter that they posted the letter online at a page dedicated to Mike Rocket.  The festival wrote, “There are thousands of stories that happen at Firefly, not all of them inside the festival. The following is an inspirational story submitted by one of our fans about a remarkable individual that you may have walked right by and not even realized it; a fan that embodies the very spirit we all want to possess when we come to a festival like Firefly.”



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And they invited him to perform on stage during the festival for the first time.

“It felt like a towering accomplishment and victory especially to some of those small bar managers who said I wasn’t good enough for them,” said Mike.  “It was a dream come true! I really believe that if you stick with something — it could take years -- you’ll eventually take it to where you’re trying to go.”

Whether he’s on stage or outside the gates, Mike says he treats every performance as ‘the one great concert that can change the world’ (inspired by Dewey Finn as Ned Schneebly in School of Rock).  He doesn’t expect to make many tips, but will have his guitar case open in case people want to throw him a buck or two.  His CDs are also for sale when he plays.

You might expect Mike’s story to include a constant battle between festival security and his guitar, but he says he has rarely encountered any difficulties.  The first time he performed at Firefly they asked him not to play by the entrance.  He complied, but instead of leaving completely, he simply moved away from the entrance — close enough to the festival that the festival attendees still passed him on their way in.

“It’s about trying a different approach, kinda like golf or a maze,” explained Mike. “In one of the songs on my upcoming album I say, ‘The fame labyrinth is not easy; hold on with tenacity.’”

Long-time fans of Mike Rocket may wonder when that next album will actually come out.  He says he is finally finishing up a project that he’s been working on for several years.  The goal is to complete it by the end of the summer. He’s got a GoFundMe campaign going to help fund the album and raise money for the ASPCA to help stop animal abuse.

Mike is an elementary school teacher in North Jersey, but still dreams of playing music full-time.  He gets inspired when he hears stories about artists like Rachel Platten who he recently saw on the Today Show.  She talked about playing in front of 20 people at bars, just hoping to get one song to hit big.  Mike believes he might have that song with “I’m Dreaming Of A Better World” which should be on his next album.

“I was especially inspired in 2013 when I met Clive Davis during a Q & A for his book,” recalled Mike. “I gave him my music; he then introduced me and asked me about how I got the name Mike Rocket. Right after another artist asked what it takes to make it. Clive responded to the artist, ‘As Mike Rocket points it out, hard work, tenacity, belief, and you just keep doing it.’”

That’s all he’s ever done and he’s got no reason to stop now.  As the Firefly page said, for “one brief but gratifying moment, Mike Rocket, the man who in five years has been happy playing outside the gates, will be the biggest star of the weekend.” 

And that he was. 

Persistence Pays Off For Mike Rocket





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Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.
New Jersey Youth Symphony Chamber Music Concert In Chatham On November 18
(CHATHAM, NJ) -- The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) Chamber Music Program presents their final concert on Sunday, November 18 at 7:00pm at Chatham United Methodist Church located at 460 Main Street in Chatham. The concert is free and open to the public. Students will perform trios and quartets by Shostakovich, Dancla, Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart. The concert will conclude with the NJYS Octet performing Allegro moderato ma con fuoco from Mendelssohn Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20.
Backstreet Boys To Perform In Newark
(NEWARK, NJ) -- Backstreet Boys will release their new album, DNA, in January and head off in May on their biggest tour in 18 years.  The tour will take the band throughout Europe and North America with a stop at the Prudential Center in Newark on Sunday, September 15 at 8:00pm.
UCPAC Presents Father Alphonse Stephenson and Orchestra of St Peter by the Sea
(RAHWAY, NJ) -- On Saturday, December 1st at 8:00pm, the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea, led by accomplished conductor, Father Alphonse Stephenson, will be bringing holiday spirit and cheer once again to the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC) in Rahway. This performance will be early on in the Orchestra’s December tour of New Jersey, and it has become a yearly must-see show for dedicated fans at the center.
John Eddie To Perform A Free Concert At Hard Rock Casino & Hotel On Thanksgiving Eve
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- The Biggest Party Night of the Year is happening in Sound Waves at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 21 at 8:30pm featuring a FREE Concert with John Eddie.


Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
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"Magical!" Poco LIVE! at SOPAC
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Event calendar
Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018


MUSIC

PUDDLES PITY PARTY @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:30pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


LITERATURE

An Evening with Award-Winning Author Jimmy Santiago Baca @ Summit Free Public Library, Summit - 7:00pm


MISC

Linda Shields, The Jersey Shore Medium @ iPlay America, Freehold - 5:00pm






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