Ata and Ngarimu were the big winners at the regional heats of Smokefreerockquest.
The duo of Te Ata Hapara Rerekura (Whanganui Girls' College) and Ngarimu Te Utupoto Teki Rawiri (Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tupoho) took out the solo-duo category and the Smokefree Tangata Beats Award at the Royal Whanganui Opera House.
Competition founder Glenn Common said he was usually "retired from the road" but had dusted off his event management skills for the Thursday night event.
"There was a great audience in that room last night.
"Getting students on stage in front of a real, live, in-your-face audience is about as good as you can get.
"Those are the memories you don't forget, and those are things that will spark you to carry on and move to another level."
Protagonist (Māori Scythe) from Whanganui High School came second in the solo/duo category and collected the Rockshop Best Use of Electronic Assistance award.
Thirteen bands also hit the stage.
First and second-placed solo-duo acts and the top 12 bands go through to the next stage of the competition - the regional final - which involves submitting a video performance of a second song.
The first song was captured during the regional heats on Thursday.
All bands from Whanganui went through to the regional final.
Covid-19 made it tough for musicians leading up to the event, Common said.
Some acts were forced to drop out while others called in last-minute replacements to fill gaps.
"This year has actually been one of the hardest because of the effect that isolations and stand-down periods had on bands and soloists.
"I feel for those kids. They've been doing the best they can to get prepped and ready to go."
Overall, the night was a great success, Common said.
"I think there were only seven empty seats in the bottom half (of the Opera House) and we almost opened the top level at one stage. That's a great turnout.
"Normally in the heats people come and go but virtually everybody stayed right through until the end. It's a three hour session as well, definitely not a short-haul.
"Students were coming off stage with a real buzz."
The bands who will submit a second song for the regional finals are:
Canadian Tuxedo from Whanganui High School
The Zams from Whanganui High School
Copper Rose from Whanganui High School
The AMPS from Whanganui High School
Neon Deluxe from Whanganui High School
Just Peachy from Whanganui High School
The Picnic List from Whanganui High School
Monkfish from Whanganui High School
That Weird Orange from Ruapehu College
NYX from Ruapehu College
Out Of Order from Ruapehu College
VETO from Cullinane College
Strïthe from Whanganui City College