Three successful elements are needed to hold a successful pub trivia competition. A good host is required to move the questions along at a brisk pace, whilst adding a few jokes in order to keep the mood light. The questions must be hard, but not too difficult as to keep the audience interested. Above all, despite the seriousness of the competition the experience must be fun.
RocKwiz takes all these qualities and magnifies them to the extreme. Since the music quiz show premiered on Australian television network SBS in 2005, it has remained a fixture on Saturday nights for people like me: music nerds who don’t get out much on weekends. Hosted by comedienne Julia Zemrio and judged by the show’s chief creator Brian Nankervis, RockWiz is the ultimate pub trivia night shared from the comfort of your lounge room.
The quiz comprises four rounds, and one preliminary round called Ready Steady RocKwiz which happens off air to select two contestants for the show from the crowd. Who Can it Be Now? is the opening round and introduces the show's two musical guests for the evening. Clues are read out in a 'Who Am I' style, and a team buzzes in when they know the answer. Ten points are awarded, and then the guest arrives and performs a song. The first guest announced will join the team that correctly guessed them, then the next guest joins the other team (after also performing a song). Local and/or General is the next round and as the title suggests, this is a general knowledge music quiz section. Million Dollar Riff follows where The RocKwiz Orkestr’a plays a series of notable riffs and a team buzzes in when they recognise it. Master Blaster is the third round which requires the musical guests to answer a number of questions, usually around five, to answer, on a specialist subject they have nominated. Finally, Furious Five is a round involves five or so minutes of fast and furious questions to both teams. Usually, the Furious Five does not quite reach the five minute mark.
As I consider myself to be a musical trivia nut my father and I watch the program every week and often take part in a friendly rivalry to see who emerges victorious. So, when it was announced that RocKwiz would embark on a national tour and stop by Nambour, my parents, friend Krista, and I jumped at the chance to see the spectacle live at the Civic Centre last night.
The first thing to know about the live tour experience is that it was just like the show on TV, including all of the rounds that would normally take place during filming, save for Master Blaster, which was replaced by a round called So You Want To Be A Rockstar? a sort of karaoke round.
A show like this lives or dies by the quality of the performers, and all were in top flight throughout. In particular Brian Nankervis was the standout. Unlike all the others he was on stage the entire time and acted as the perfect compare, garnishing his material with local jokes, playing up to the crowd and making everyone laugh continuously. The questions during Ready Steady RocKwiz were presented at a lightning pace after the contestants were unfortunately chosen at random based on seating assignments, thwarting my ambition to be a contestant. The only brief interruption during this period was where contestants were asked to name the lead singer of Little Birdy at which point Krista (a seriously devoted fan) stands up in front of the crowd of 1000 and screams out ‘KATY STEELE!!!!!!’ I think that just about made Krista’s night.
After the contestants were chosen and a far too long intermission, it was time to get down to some not so serious business. During Who Can It Be Now? the first musical guest to be revealed was the lead singer of Magic Dirt Adalita Srsen who then proceeded to play her band’s only substantial hit Dirty Jeans to a somewhat lukewarm reception, particularly given her overtly bland performance. However this was not the case with the second guest John Paul Young. When he emerged the crowd was divided. All the females over 40 acted like they were on the set of Countdown once more and proceeded to stand up, scream, and wave their arms in ecstasy. The younger ones mostly had quizzical expressions until the opening bars of Love Is In The Air rang through the Nambour Civic Centre. Some still even had to turn to their parents and ask their parents ‘Who is this guy?’ Such is the multigenerational appeal that is the heart of RockWiz.
The rest of the night played out in true RockWiz style. Julia was at her spontaneous best playing off the amateur contestants like they were her high school buddies. The RocKwiz Orkestr’a which comprises ‘Jumpin’ James Black on keys and lead guitar, ‘Mighty’ Mark Ferrie on bass and Peter ‘Lucky’ Luscombe on drums proved to be stellar backup support as always.
Fittingly after the quiz a few songs concluded the show. The trademark duet at the end of proceedings between the two musical guests left Adalita and John to perform the Easybeats 1969 hit St. Louis; which was immediately followed by an encore of Slade’s song Come On Feel The Noise. In an odd choice after several minutes of applause the Orkestr’a returned to perform Tom Waits’s song Come On Up To The House as a second encore accompanied by both Brian and Julia on vocals to put a strangely somber conclusion to proceedings.
RockWiz Live set out to bring the experience of the weekly show normally broadcast at St Kilda’s Espy to a larger audience, particularly throughout rural and regional Australia. The magic of RockWiz was effectively captured in Nambour bringing with it a touch of the Melbourne rock scene to the historical heart of the Sunshine Coast.