Story and photo by Silvia Rodriguez
Originally published in The Miami Herald
Also in the South Florida News Service
MIAMI – When brothers Anthony Maestu, 17, and Dean Maestu, 15, noticed that their band, Soundglass, was not playing to the type of audience they wanted to, they knew there was a problem.
“We would be playing at venues for adults who didn’t get it and were just minding their business, instead of to kids, who are more into the music,” Anthony said.
This problem inspired the band’s manager, Vanessa Spatz, 41, to create a community of young, up and coming rock bands from South Florida and provide them with the opportunity to play at venues where their peers could come and see them.
Rock Religion, taking its name from the basis that “music is our religion,” was founded five months ago after Spatz reached out to Simon Malls at Sunset Place and pitched the idea for the Rock Religion summer series.
“The rock lovers in South Florida have lived with the idea that there’s no place to go watch a decent band,” Spatz said. “Right now we are trying to revive the rock scene, at least in South Florida.”
Rock Religion music series put on four shows this summer and hosted a few jamming sessions with several bands. The grand finale for the summer series will take place Saturday, August 10, at Sunset Place.
The event, the first ever Rock Religion Battle of the Bands, will have 12 bands competing for a chance to win a professional music video and photo shoot, among other prizes. The only requirement is that all band members must be no older than 25.
Michael Martinez, 25, and Patrick Lopez, 25, of Turnaround Sunshine, will be performing during the Battle of the Bands after a year break from the stage.
“The Rock Religion community is basically trying to get all the bands in Miami to work as a team, supporting each other,” Martinez said.
The Battle of the Bands has garnered a following solely based on their Facebook page and with the support of the participating bands.
“For the first show we had about 150 people show up. And they came just through Facebook. We have never done marketing, we have never had a sponsor. All of what we have done is through us and social media,” Spatz said.
Following the summer series, Rock Religion will have a show at the Covenant House of Rock, which will have tickets available for a small fee in order to raise funds for sound systems to be used by the performing bands. So far, the bands have been using sound systems borrowed from different musicians and the venues where they play.
“After the summer series ends, we need to keep going. We are also going be doing a Christmas show, also in Sunset Place,” Spatz said. The dates for the Christmas show are still pending.
But the big goal is to create the Rock Religion Music Festival by 2014, which Spatz says will be the “first, real rock event in South Florida.”
The free festival will bring unsigned bands that have original music to share the stage with signed bands from different parts of the country. As the Rock Religion community grows, Spatz hopes the festival will bring bands not just from Miami, but from all over the state.
Garrett Fogg, 15, lead vocalist for The Inverted, has already made the two hour drive from his home in Stuart, Fla. with fellow band members and his dad, twice in order to participate in Rock Religion events.
“The more coverage we have, the more fans we get,” Garrett said. “We want to get as many die-hard fans as possible.”
According to Spatz, building a following for each individual band is the ultimate goal of bringing the young rock scene together.
“For a band to be considered successful, you measure it by the people that come and watch them play, but they need to start somewhere. That is what Rock Religion is, giving them the opportunity for that first, initial push,” Spatz said.
What: Rock Religion Battle of the Bands: Presented by Sunset Place and Teen Vogue
When: Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 1 p.m. – rain or shine
Where: The Shops at Sunset Place