Before Sunday, the biggest crowd Tauranga’s Michael van Lieshout performed in front of was at his intermediate school’s prizegiving to about 1500 people.
But on Sunday, the 14-year-old walked out on to the stage in front of the 20,000 sets of eyes joining headliners L.A.B at the annual One Love Festival.
“It’s once in a lifetime,” the teen told the Bay of Plenty Times the day after his performance.
The Tauranga Boys’ College student shook the crowds with his electric guitar performance alongside the band’s song Ain’t No Use.
It all started about eight years ago when he “hounded” his father to learn how to play the guitar. Aged only 6, Michael began lessons with now L.A.B frontman Joel Shadbolt.
Shadbolt had been posting videos on his Facebook page of the talented boy and in mid-January, Michael got a message from Brad Kora asking if he was free on February 7.
After saying yes, Kora asked if he would like to jump up on stage at One Love.
Leading up to the performance, nerves began to set in despite the work he put in, firstly during the soundcheck, and then after catching glimpses of the size of the crowds from backstage.
“During the day, when I saw the size of the crowd, I was thinking – man, this is going to be big, and I definitely was getting nervous.”
However, being with the band who embraced him as if he were “part of the family” helped him keep his cool.
“When I walked out, with all the stage lights and everything, it was just like an ocean of people. It was just phenomenal, you couldn’t make anyone out,” he said.
“The crowd and the band chilled my nerves … it was epic.”
While he could not see the crowds, he could hear them, and his guitar, which was loud in the sound-check was “almost drowned out”, he said.
“It was just so natural playing with them … Hearing the crowd cheer, I just felt like I belonged there.”
He said he was “so thankful and grateful” to the band for the opportunity.
“I can’t really believe it happened … it’s once in a lifetime.”
He has been under the wing of Shadbolt for eight years and the relationship was now more than student-teacher, Shadbolt said.
“He’s been to a few L.A.B concerts now,and he knows the boys; it’s a relationship that’s blossomed over the last three or four years,” Shadbolt said.
“As much as he’s been on his journey musically, we’ve been on ours as L.A.B, and it’s one of those stars-align kinds of things … like now’s the time to get him up and play with us.”
About 30 per cent of the young man’s mastery was from natural talent, and the rest was a testament to the passion, sheer determination and hard work he put into the craft, he said.
“When he came to me as a 6-year-old, there was clearly something there … he puts in the work,” he said.
“It’s a really rare thing when a kid that young has that kind of patience.”
And being up on stage after years of watching him putting in the hard work was “magic”.
“As a band, being able to usher up young talent like that, is such a unique and special thing in itself.
“I’ve been teaching for over 20 years, and I could name on one hand how many students come through like that, it’s pretty rare.
“It’s such a rare opportunity for someone that young to be able to do something like that.”
Michael is in two school bands at Tauranga Boys’ College as well as one with his mates – Joccos Grove.
He has a vague plan to study music when he finished school and would just see where it took him from there.
He mainly played electric guitar and grew up listening to and playing blues and was now beginning to delve more into jazz.
The performance helped top off the two-day festival which organiser Pato Alvarez, of Pato Entertainment, said was “truly one for the history books”.
“Being the only country in the world that is able to deliver a festival like One Love is very special.”
The mostly-Kiwi line up was “a true testament to the homegrown music talent” in Aotearoa, he said, joined by festival-favourite Fiji (who is from Fiji), who spent two weeks in managed isolation.
“The crowd sang their hearts out from the moment the doors opened to closing.”
More than 200,000 tuned in across the weekend to the free online livestream available to the world, with a high number of views from an overseas audience.
The festival went off without a hitch, with police confirming they were not needed for any incidents of note.
“The vibes, the music, the crowd was all just incredible,” Alvarez said.
Planning for the 2022 festival was already under way with more announcements to come later in the year.
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