The dust is settling, my throat’s croaky and my ears are ringing. My first ‘The Rock 1500’ live show is under my belt. If you were there, you’ll know. If you were listening, you’ll have an idea. If you have never heard of it, let me try and explain.
Every year since 1997, The Rock radio station has run a countdown of the best 1500 rock songs voted for by listeners. Sure, there are loads of countdowns on radio stations across the globe but this one is huge. Like, 1.2 million votes huge. Yes, we got 1.2 million votes this year to determine which rock song is considered the best. And we redo the countdown every year. I think we’re the biggest rock countdown in the world.
The results are then played on The Rock over three weeks, building up a head of steam which was let out at the live, three-hour finale at one of New Zealand’s most iconic live music venues, the Powerstation in Auckland, with 1000 rock fans on a Friday afternoon. You can’t buy the coveted tickets either, you have to win them. These 1000 like-minded individuals from all sectors of society join together in a smoking mass of rock comradery to sing, scream, bang heads, jump, embrace and rejoice in a celebration of rock.
The finale’s also live streamed globally on the ROVA app. Those three sweaty, frantic hours accounted for 4.7 million streaming minutes from 29 countries. Rock fans are hardcore. Nothing gets between them and their music.
We had fans tuned in on Scott Base, Antarctica. There was a Siberian oil pipeline welding crew listening, thanks to their Kiwi boss. The day before the finale, Dunc and I offered up the last double pass on our afternoon drive show. We wondered how far anyone would be willing to travel to come to the finale. Ben called us and said he was currently staring out at Stewart Island from Colac Bay and ‘would hit the road now if you fire them my way.’
We did, and he greeted us 24 hours later as the show went to air. Ben had travelled the length of the country, 1674km, on his own dollar, to dance in front of the radio. The commitment from rock fans is astounding.
All Friday afternoon, while we recorded the show, we joined workshops, shearing sheds, garages, lounges and backyards as people took scheduled annual leave to have The Rock 1500 countdown parties, some in their 22nd year of operation.
Having worked at other radio stations, I’ve witnessed the pull of the countdown. As the noise grows at The Rock, it dulls down everywhere else – the phones stop ringing, the social chatter quietens and you feel like the entire audience has left. This year, as the host of the finale show with Dunc, I got to see why.
Rock is intergenerational and anthemic. Singing together as a group ‘‘helps humans to bond with each other by releasing oxytocin into our systems – the same chemical we experience during sex or breast-feeding,” music and science boffins North and Hargreaves explained to us in 2017. Rock music attracts a fan who is impervious to trends; the pairing of the music and the fan seems to have more of a permanent bond than with other music genres. The bogan look is set in stone and doesn’t change much, decade to decade.
And there is a bit of bogan in all of us. This our tribe. We all toil. We sing as one. The bogan traditionally has a bit of a rough exterior, and is unwavering in what they and generations before them enjoy. Simple, uncomplicated pleasures like rock music. In an age where everyone is in search of the latest whatever, trying to be original in all they do and virtue signalling from high horses, bogans are refreshing. They know exactly who they are and don’t care what anyone else is doing. I can’t wait to see them all again next year.