People who love music love music trivia. This was something writer, producer and comedian Brian Nankervis knew from the outset. In fact, this mainstay of the comedy industry (originally known for his character Raymond J Bartholomeuz, an eccentric Beat poet) was using this as a clever way to warm up with Hessie’s Shed and on Jimeoin’s live show.
Rockwiz is one of the featured events at Bluesfest this year, and not only does it offer punters a chance to see their favourite ‘mystery’ musicians on the hot seat, it also offers them a chance to be part of the show, which by the way will be filmed for live TV broadcast.
It’s so simple, it’s genius… and this is how Rockwiz came into being.
‘I was approached by a couple of producers from Renegade films,’ says Nankervis ‘They decided the time was right for a music quiz show and they said would I like to be involved. We shot the pilot, but got no thankyou; but we re-submitted to SBS and got the go ahead.’
In the original format of Rockwiz Nankervis was the host. SBS however had very different ideas.
‘SBS said we have this charter to be the ethnic broadcaster, and we feel the host should have an ethnic background. It was personally disappointing. But I was realistic. I thought I can either be outraged and huffy and the show won’t get made or I can swallow my pride and we can find someone who the network will approve of and we did.’
Enter Julia Zemiro.
‘Having Julia up front was a brilliant stroke – her improvising skills are great; in fact she comes from a background of improvising.’
Rockwiz has always had more of a cult, rather than a mainstream following.
‘Our ratings have never been huge compared to the commercial networks or the ABC but they have been very solid. I think SBS like that and people love that – we have had a good run from the press, and it’s a show that everyone can watch. It’s got a touch of cool factor given that we get lots of the latest hip young artists and then at the same time we feature veteran performers.’
There have been some real surprises along the way. Obviously not all musicians are comfortable with being part of a panel that may show up their lack of musical knowledge.
‘There are certain performers who basically have said I am just not comfortable on the panel and I think that means they don’t want to be seen not answering any questions and I can understand it, seeing as though they have these natters on either side who are music freaks. And they have to do a song with a band they have never met and a sing a song they have never sung with an artist they have never met…
One such artist who took some luring was Adalita from Magic Dirt.
‘Adalita knocked us back for three years, and then finally someone overheard a conversation with her in a dressing room that she wanted to be on Rockwiz She would only go on to be with Gareth from the Drones so we organised it. Whether she knew that she’d been eavesdropped I don’t know, but she was incredible. we then took her on tour; she did a Christmas show!’
So what is the real highlight of Rockwiz for Nankervis?
‘I just love the natters. I think along with Julia and the band and the duets I think they are a crucial factor in why the show has lasted this long. I think people love seeing ordinary people become heroes they are – I often say they are on their favourite show!’
So what should we expect for Rockwiz at Bluesfest this year?
‘This is our third appearance. We also did shows in 2010 and 2011. This year we are doing three shows – 2pm shows – all different shows. There will be some similar bits of linking but different guests and different ordering. We are bringing some guests who aren’t appearing at the festival… but guests are top secret – we will also be picking up international artists while they are there – it’s not easy though, I have to be brutally honest, it’s very difficult to get people to perform in a show they don’t know about and it’s hard to make the schedules all work.’
Rockwiz at Bluesfest, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Jambalaya at 2pm. Be there to be part of the fun – expect, I guess, the unexpected!