Burning Up Years: Wellington exhibition showcases movers and shakers of Kiwi rock

A new exhibition in Wellington hopes to give New Zealanders a history lesson on the movers and shakers of Kiwi rock music.

Burning Up Years is on for New Zealand Music Month, but its organiser says the music should be heard all year round.

"I still think they're relevant to this day, all these '60s and '70s bands," says Wellington Museum's programme developer Benjamin James.

Names like The Avengers or The Quincy Conserve may be unfamiliar to some Kiwi music fans, but James says in their time they were as big as The Beatles.

"They were getting massive dancehalls full of people screaming, just like you'd see with Beatles-fever. It was just like that, here in New Zealand. There were girls screaming at these bands as they rolled into town."

Videos, vinyl, posters and even instruments take visitors back to between 1960 and 1978 - whether they lived it the first time around or not.

"There's people that want to re-connect with their youth," says James. "The gear-heads that love this gear, some of this stuff they'll have never seen before. But also it's totally about the random people that may even know this is on and are walking in to know a bit about Wellington's history."

The exhibition is on for New Zealand Music Month - a time James says often focuses on what's new or popular at the expense of the past.

"The best thing people can take away from them is a bit of education, learning about what is really great music. And I endorse people to just go out and listen to the music, see if you like it or not."

He says the bands profiled were cutting-edge innovators whose influence is still felt today.

"They'd never really played with lots of studio effects before. New Zealand doesn't really have its own culture so they're trying to make up their own identity, so I think in that respect it's quite experimental and interesting. You're getting quite unique sounds from lots of artists back then."

James says his past job as a record store owner gave him unique access to the music and inspired him to bring it to more people's attention.

"These records would slowly come through the record store and I'd always put them on like, "Oh, New Zealand, what's this sound like? Oh, this sounds mean!' And then I just started getting a real passion for early New Zealand music because I just realised that it's real frickin' good!"

It didn't take much to convince some of the bands to get involved, and loan their old gear and memorabilia.

"They're stoked, they're frickin' stoked. They were just happy to be contacted and recognised, because it's probably been 45 years since they have been recognised," James says.

There are even a few gigs planned, including Billy TK's Powerhouse, who disbanded in 1977 and have 12 members.

"I reckon we'll put the drummer and bass on the stage, and the rest can just spill everywhere," says James.

It's a chance for fans to get very up close and personal with history.