Paddy Sanders of winning band Oh Blok at the Smokefreerockquest final on Friday night. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Garin wins Rockquest again


Oh yes, Oh Blok have done it again.

The Garin College band with a Nelson College drummer has taken first place in the Nelson Smokefreerockquest final for the second year in a row, now they’re hoping to secure a spot in the national final.

Oh Blok, which is made up of five members; Kieran O’Connor, Louie Persico, Paddy Sanders, Robbie Day and Sam Butler, were the last of 12 acts to take the stage, and according to judge Ryan Beehre of Minuit, they were a “real cut above”.

Ryan says the quality of their all-round performance was what handed Oh Blok their second win in as many years. “After last week I thought Oh Blok were the favourites and their songs were really good, really catchy. There was some really great talent here but I think they just had that little bit extra that said ‘yep, they’re an easy choice’,” he says.

Keyboardist Paddy says the win “felt so good” and was a “big relief”.

“We came into this competition with a huge advantage, having the mindset of just wanting to have fun. When we came up on stage we just wanted to play the music we enjoy playing.”

Vocalist Kieran says Smokefreerockquest is always the biggest gig of the year, so the band just wanted to make the most of performing in front of a sold-out crowd.

The task now was to qualify for the national final in Auckland in September, a feat Oh Blok failed to do last year.

The top two acts from each regional final can submit a video in the hope of being selected in the final six, which means runner-up Fire Without Permit (Nelson College and Waimea College) is also in with a chance. For reaching the top two in Nelson, both bands won music gear from the Rockshop.

The same goes for the top two acts in the solo/duo category where Garin College continued its dominance, with 14 year old Gabriella Atkinson edging Nelson College for Girls’ Zi Shaw to take the title.

Gabriella says she grew up with music all around her and has always wanted to be a musician.  “My dad Kevin was a full time musician on the road for 25 years and he’s been a huge influence on me – I look up to him so much,” she says. “When I’m writing songs, I try to write lyrics I can relate to, so I can connect with the song and believe what I’m singing, so it can relate to other people as well.”

Zi didn’t go home empty handed though, being named as the People’s Choice Winner, which was voted by text.

Founded by Nelsonians Glenn Common and Pete Rainey 26 years ago, Smokefreerockquest continues to provide a platform for the country’s top young musicians, and as a judge, Ryan says the quality across the board lifts every year.