This year's Smokefreerockquest started with more than 700 acts: on Saturday it's down to six who will battle it out at the national final of the secondary schools band competition at the Powerstation.

And in fine tradition, the band names are a mix of the bizarre and the ingenious, with quirky indie pop rock act Hudson and the Rocketships (from Botany Downs Secondary College, Auckland) and Mt Maunganui College rock four-piece A Few Words From Dave, vying for top name honours.

But the music is what it's all about and once again there is a wide range of genres and line-ups, also including six-piece rock band The Seed (with members from various Hamilton schools); singer-songwriters and past finalists Jayme Fitzgerald (from Taupo's Tauhara College) and Jesse Sheehan (from Wellington College) and lastly These Dancing Wolves, from Timaru Boys' High School, who describe themselves as an ambient dance three-piece. The latter trio might well fancy their chances as they made the finals last year.

Previous Rockquest winners include Carriage H (now Die!Die!Die!) in 2001 and Evermore in 2000. The 1990 winners De Funk Express had members who went on to be in Opshop, and acts such as the Datsuns, Bic Runga, Nesian Mystik, Midnight Youth and many more, got their start in the competition.

This year's winner receives equipment from NZ Rockshops to the value of $10,000, funding to record a song at York Street Studio, a video, and guaranteed airplay on The Edge radio station.

The final will be hosted by C4's Drew Neemia and Elemeno P singer Dave Gibson, and as well as performances by the finalists, previous participants Kingston and Bang! Bang! Eche!, the rowdy and angular dance rockers from Christchurch, will play.

C4 will screen a one-hour special from the final at 6pm on September 26.

The final is an all-ages event with tickets $20 from Ticketmaster or on the door.