Mt Barker Christmas Pageant 2007

When the Visigoths attacked Rome they caused less consternation than the Warriors’ invasion of Mt Barker.

It was the first official day of summer Downunder and yours truly had flown in from a chilly Big Apple to cover the first Adelaide International Guitar Festival.

But the Reverend Reuben decided to play hookey from his day job, skip Chicks with Guitars down at the Festival Centre and see what his Warrior mates had been getting up to since he was last in town.

Reminding himself to stay on the right (that is, the left) side of the road, Rollin’ Reuben piloted the hire car up the freeway and out into the boondocks.

Just before the old agrophobia started to kick in, the turn-off to Mt Barker appeared, leading weary and thirsty travellers into that pretty little outpost of civilisation. Reuben is still wondering where the mountain is.

Sneaking the hire car into the last parking space for miles around (behind the pub), Reuben pushed his way through the crowds as the last strains of “Jingle Bells”, played in march
time, faded away down Main Street behind Santa.

The good folk of Mt Barker had turned out in droves to watch the jolly old gentleman do his thing and were now in the mood to party.

As the Caledonian pipe and drum band receded into the distance, Warriors from the big, bad city took to the stage.

Reuben uses the term ‘stage’ in its broadest sense. Today, it was a couple of parking bays up the quiet end of Main Street, under a couple of nifty new marquees and a nice shady tree
(editor’s note: he means Gawler Street).

The floor was the bitumen road surface with the stage marked out by safety cones and plastic road works fencing. The road camber was so steep, the back line looked like the Leaning
Tower of Pisa. Sometimes even the drummers looked puzzled.

But the road crew had done a good job of setting up, and it worked (and sounded) better than some million-dollar stage sets Reuben has seen. The crowd seemed to like being able
to get up close in front, at the sides and even round the back. It was a real friendly sort of show.

Alternating throughout the afternoon between his vantage points in the pub and the nearby coffee shop, and pretending to be fascinated by Mt Barker’s retail emporiums in between,
old Reuben managed to stay incognito behind his shades while keeping an eye (and an ear) on the shenanigans on and around the Warrior stage.

It was the first time yours truly had seen a group of Warriors in daylight. It took him a little while to recover.

First up was SideFX. Reuben hears these guys are getting quite a bit of their own work nowadays, and it’s easy to see why.

Good choice of songs, tight performance and a nice stage presence. The soaring vocals of the two female singers, Jen and Jan (or was it Jan and Jen), carried down the street and, like the Sirens’ song, lured people into their magic circle.

And who was that lone dancer? The magic stayed with him throughout the whole afternoon, as he performed his mystical, arrhythmic moves to every song from every band.

Midnight Addiction took over the baton on main stage while Rewind started up further down the street by the pub, right next to one of Reuben’s hideouts.

Reuben was torn – like a dog in a forest, not knowing which leg to cock first.

Rewind went through a workman-like set – solid and dependable, covering many of the song-book standards.

Great work guys, especially considering the challenges you faced, from a sound system that sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own to over-enthusiastic and over-friendly pub patrons.

What a great way to pay your dues and learn your chops – putting on a professional performance in less than perfect circumstances. Remember, if it doesn’t kill us it makes us stronger.

Meanwhile, up the end of Main Street, Midnight Addiction were doing their thing. Heads in the crowd were bobbing, feet were tapping and the Lone Dancer still grooved to a beat that only he could hear.

Now these guys are getting to be a tight little outfit – very interesting too when they sometimes get a twin lead guitars thing going. Most of these guys can sing too, and that puts vast repertoires at their disposal.

And they certainly picked stuff from all over and acquitted themselves well. Reuben just wonders if the choice of a couple of the slower, moody ballads was a good idea for that particular
show? Brilliantly executed, but perhaps for that crowd, maybe their up-tempo numbers were better suited.

As one Warrior said, when he first arrived at the venue outside an iconic Mt Barker shop and read its name emblazoned in large letters across the front, “Hey, look! We’re playing in front of Hillbilly’s!”

But the appreciative crowd gave the band a warm round of applause as they finished and left the stage.

All, that is, except for the guy with the white stratocaster who didn’t seem to want to go.

The reason soon became clear, he was also the lead guitarist for the next band Wisen Up (editor’s note: it’s Wis’n Up).

Yours truly last (and first) saw these guys playing at a Rock and Roll show during a previous flying visit to Australia. Now they did a more mixed set of covers.

Reuben heard the drummer say that the lead guitar was a stand-in for their regular guy and only had about five minutes practice with the band.

If that’s so, then it was a darn fine effort on everyone’s part to get it together that well – a classic, all guy line-up doing the classic covers.

Straight-up and authentic sounding, relaxed and enjoying themselves, entertaining the small but appreciative late afternoon audience, as well as the cool old couple who had been sitting in deck-chairs just in front of the stage all afternoon, and of course the enigmatic shadow dancer of Mt Barker.

A great way to wind up a Saturday afternoon in the Hills.

At least it would have been, if Mr Grumpy, the inspector dude, had been having a better day.

Reuben was amazed to see him go up to the stage in the middle of the third song and start grumping at the band.

He couldn’t hear what Mr Grumpy said, but from the look on the guys’ faces, they were pretty amazed too.

As he found out later, this guy was telling the band to start wrapping it up ‘cos everything had to be closed and cleared by 4 o’clock. That was 45 minutes away. Rules is rules, and them’s the rules.

So, like true professionals, the band cut their set by half and rearranged the running order on the fly to finish up their short but tight set in time to save Mr G. from apoplexy.

Within minutes the street was deserted and the shops were shutting.

It seemed the good people of Mt Barker were settling down to a bit of Saturday night tea and telly before an early night to be up in good time for church next day.

From his look-out back in the pub, Reuben watched the Warriors pack up their gear ready for the long haul back down the hill into the big, bad town.

Soon the street was empty again, just another high street in another small town with no sign of the magic that happened there earlier.

Even the enchanted dancer had melted away like mist in sunlight.

And as the twilight began to fall, and a lone cat skulked away into the shadows, the tumbleweed began to drift down empty Main Street.

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