The night Hamish and Andy, Bret McKenzie and 300 fans took over Pirongia

Pirongia is a tiny Waikato town south of Hamilton, home to about 1500 people and some very well-tended rose gardens. 

Hamish and Andy are an Aussie radio duo with a daily drive show on Hit FM in Australia, with millions of listeners. They also star in hit television shows like True Story with Hamish and Andy, and the highly successful Gap Year specials. They've won logies, featured on the Graham Norton Show and joined a gang with Bob Saget (long story).

This tiny town and Aussie radio juggernaut seem like they should be two very separate entities. But on one, very humid night in the Waikato, they came together. 

Hamish Blake and Andy Lee recently announced they will be finishing on radio after 10 years on air, and, along with producer Jack Post, they were going to undertake an Aussie-wide tour with their 'band', Cool Boys and the Frontman. When they asked listeners to compete for a performance at an international event, New Zealand Young Farmers Association member Regan McCorquindale stepped in. 

He wrote in pitching the Young Farmers' annual Christmas function at the Five Stags Pub in Pirongia. 

"Two-hundred-and-fifty people plus, pub will be full, vibe will be high," he wrote. 

It was the pitch that was needed, and on Tuesday night, for one night, one show and one song only, Hamish and Andy, along with surprise frontman Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie, converged on the Waikato.  

In Australia, events with Hamish and Andy draw thousands. Tickets to this event outside of Hamilton were $10 each, raising money for the Pirongia Rural Volunteer Fire Service.

"Tell all your friends" Regan pleaded on the Facebook page made for the event. The tickets sold out in a matter of hours, and as the event got closer, more fans became desperate in their quest for tickets to the big night.

The night Hamish and Andy, Bret McKenzie and 300 fans took over Pirongia
The night Hamish and Andy, Bret McKenzie and 300 fans took over Pirongia
The night Hamish and Andy, Bret McKenzie and 300 fans took over Pirongia
The night Hamish and Andy, Bret McKenzie and 300 fans took over Pirongia

On Tuesday night, about 350 people packed into the pub, which usually had a capacity of around 300. Two of those excited, sweaty faces were myself and my co-worker and camera genius Max. 

Some fans had travelled seven hours to see the group perform one song. One family had brought their son for his 18th birthday present - driving up from Wellington, listening to podcasts all the way. 

A family that drove seven hours to see Hamish and Andy perform.
A family that drove seven hours to see Hamish and Andy perform. Photo credit: Newshub.

"I drove four hours for a four-minute song," said another flushed fan, wearing a homemade T-shirt with a message to the boys. "It's totally worth it." 

Others, there to celebrate with their fellow farming folk, did not understand what the was happening. 

"I live down the road," one confused farmer said, shaking his mulleted head. "This is not what usually happens."

"Is this the biggest event even Pirongia has ever seen?" I asked him.

"Oh not compared to the Boxing Day races," I was assured. "The Boxing Day Races is the highlight of the year."

The uniform of much of the crowd.
The uniform of much of the crowd. Photo credit: Newshub.

A mix of Waikato dairy farmers danced to 'April Sun in Cuba' with Auckland 20-somethings in heels, as the warm-up act, the ominously named Done Deal, wrapped up their last song. 

"Pub will be full, vibe will be high" was no lie. The crowd was amped. It got more crowded and sweatier. I was sipping Ned rose out of a Speight's branded plastic cup and was just there really to hold Max's beer as he frantically filmed the crowd. 

Finally, to a chant of "Regan, Regan, Regan", the man behind the night got on stage. 

"They've come all the way from Australia, they landed in Hamilton and they're here now in Priongia," Regan McCorquindale, previous Young Farmer, now local legend, announced to the crowd. 

To screams and Snapchats and tears from one girl near us, Cool Boys and the Frontman, aka Hamish, Andy, Jack and Bret took the stage. 

Andy Lee jamming onstage.
Andy Lee jamming onstage. Photo credit: Hamish & Andy.

"Hello Hamilton…and the greater rural area," Andy greeted to the crowd. "Sorry we're late; the cows were milking well good." 

As you can imagine, that gag went down an absolute treat. 

It was almost like Bret McKenzie had performed to big crowds before, as he asked the sweaty pack; "New Zealand are you ready to rock for approximately two minutes?" 

The answer was a resounding yes. The band launched into Queen's 'We Are The Champions,' and the crowd roared along. I sang along with them, punching the air with the guy next to me still wearing a high-vis vest from the day's work site. Max didn't. He was a bit distracted by trying to do his job. 

And it was over as quickly as it had begun. The boys high-fived the crowd and each other, biffed their novelty costumes into reaching hands, and were hustled offstage by their unexpectedly burly security. Optimistic fans lingered around the "backstage" (the back of the pub), hoping for a picture. 

And Max and I started our two-hour trip back to Auckland, still slightly confused as to what had just happened. 

We got a ticket because my car was unregistered. But the rest of it was pretty epic. 

True Story with Hamish & Andy airs Thursday's at 8pm on Three.



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