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Rockwiz hosts Julia Zemiro and Brian Nankervis

Rockwiz hosts Julia Zemiro and Brian Nankervis

At the weekend I went to see the stage version of a TV show called RocKwiz. As the (irritatingly-spelled) name suggests, it’s a quiz about rock music. As most of you will never have seen it (even my work colleagues looked blank when I mentioned it; I mean, it’s on SBS which is hardly Channel 7 but still…) let me explain.

There are two teams of three – two members of the public, selected from the audience, plus one celebrity in each. The punters guess who the celebs are from clues read by host Julia Zemiro (who I love, mainly because she always wears black and red). The celebs come on, sing individually (backed by the RocKwiz Orchestra), take part in the quiz then duet at the end. For UK readers, it’s a little bit like Never Mind the Buzzcocks but with more live music. And fewer pop stars.

I have usually got no idea who the celebrities on RocKwiz are. I do actually know more about Aussie rock than a lot of immigrants, thanks to the collection of cassettes (yes! cassettes!) my other half brought back to Blighty after his first trip here in the 90s. Paul Kelly and the Hoodoo Gurus are among my favourite artists ever, and I don’t even resent the Gurus for giving me tinnitus when I saw them live a few months ago.

And I was secretly thrilled to discover that one of the celebs at the show was Deborah Conway, the former lead singer of a band called Do Re Mi, whose album I’d bought on a whim when I was 14. I’d only heard one song but Deborah had managed to tame her curly locks into what I thought was the coolest hairstyle EVER (there aren’t many positive role models for teenage curly tops) and she wore the most fabulous red dress in her video – an event which I suspect sparked off my lifelong obsession with finding the perfect red dress.

But as the show progressed, I quickly discovered the limitations to my knowledge of OzRock.  About halfway through one of the contestants, a man in a Mental As Anything T-shirt, was asked to perform a karaoke rendition of Khe Sanh by Cold Chisel.  I have never heard of this song, but judging by the crowd’s reaction I think it must be the Australian national anthem. Better learn it before I apply for citizenship. And I was astounded by the sheer number of questions about AC/DC.

Fortunately I don’t think it will take too long to get to grips with the whole Australian music scene, as it sometimes seems amazingly small for such a large – at least geographically – country. Six degrees of separation? Make that three.

As an example: RocKwiz (the TV version) is filmed in a venue in St Kilda, a fashionable suburb of Melbourne, where Paul Kelly lives. The drummer on the show is Peter ‘Lucky’ Luscombe.

Peter Luscombe on drums behind Paul Kelly at Escape to the Park, Perth, December 2009

Lucky Luscombe on drums behind Paul Kelly at Escape to the Park, Perth, December 2009

Peter plays drums in Paul Kelly’s band. At Sunday’s show, Ash Naylor was a guest member of the RocKwiz Orchestra. Ash has played in Paul Kelly’s band, replacing Dan Luscombe, brother of…you guessed it, Peter Luscombe. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Peter is frequently credited for booking the talent on RocKwiz – which I think means he rings his mates and gets them on.

So I might not have been able to answer all of the questions. I might have had no idea who Henry Wagons, the other celeb, was (even although a Twitter search on Perth before the show turned up a tweet from him saying he was doing RocKwiz that evening, I still had to Google him) but it felt good to be part of a music scene that is not entirely dominated by MTV.

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