Buskers brave cold at Gold Guitars

Auckland siblings Kaitlyn Watene (12) and Jordan Watene (13), who perform as Just Kidding. Photo...
Auckland siblings Kaitlyn Watene (12) and Jordan Watene (13), who perform as Just Kidding. Photo by Glenn Conway.
They came, they sang and they froze their bits off . . . almost.

You know it is New Zealand Gold Guitars time in Gore when you hear music before you see the performers.

Dozens of buskers, some armed with little more than a microphone and others who brought a mass of instruments with them, lined the town's main shopping area at lunchtime yesterday.

The annual "Freeze Ya Bits Off" busking competition lived up to its name in more ways than one.

Clear skies at noon gave way to bone-chilling wind and light showers, but it seemed to do little to deter the enthusiasm of performers or their captive audience.

For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past 35 years, the Gold Guitars are New Zealand's premier country music awards.

The eastern Southland capital of Gore has hosted them since 1974, when a then-unknown singer by the name of Patsy Riggir won the overall title.

While those early shows were nothing more than glorified country music concerts, the Gold Guitars have taken on a life of their own and an entire week of events is now organised around Queen's Birthday weekend.

But that was well over the head of at least one performer who was rugged up and happily playing his cello for all to hear.

Seven-year-old Nathanae Pohl, of Kaiwera, has been playing the instrument for nearly 18 months.

It is virtually bigger than the diminutive performer, but that was not stopping him from belting out some numbers.

It was his first time busking and he said he had no problems performing for a live audience.

And they certainly liked what they heard, with the youngster pocketing more than $70 on Thursday, and he hoped to repeat that kind of business yesterday.

"I'm having heaps of fun," he said.

And with a smile and a comment to please Finance Minister Bill English, the Eastern Southlander said all his earnings were going straight into the bank.

The busking competition winners will be announced later today.

Auditions in all classes continue this afternoon followed by tonight's junior and intermediate finals.

The senior finals and the crowning of the 2009 Gold Guitar winner will be staged tomorrow night.


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