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September 21, 2023

Half Strange Festival hits the road

After taking one year off, beloved Adelaide music festival Half Strange is packing a truck and taking the show to regional Australia.

  • Words: David Simmons
  • Photo: Broken Hill Hotel by Jordanne Chant.

Country towns generally overlooked by major touring festivals are in for a treat when Half Strange rolls into towns across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales with an eclectic lineup of acts.


Half Strange
Various locations
From 23 September – 14 October
Tickets, lineup, and more info here

Ranging from Simona Castricum’s syrupy synth-pop to all-female Indigenous rock group Ripple Effect Band, the Half Strange bill is one of the more left-field to come across CityMag’s inbox; but easily one of the most exciting.

Founded by Adelaide artist Harriet Fraser-Barbour in 2016, Half Strange has traditionally been hosted at CBD venues, but motels, pubs and bowling clubs in Jamestown, Melrose and Broken Hill will welcome acts from the 20-strong lineup over the next three weeks.

Each venue will host at least four artists from the total bill, beginning with a house show at Norton Summit in the Adelaide Hills where Victorian acts Snowy, Danika, Nathalie Pavlovic and purr will be joined by locals Keeskea, Jess Johns Band and Fraser-Barbour’s band Workhorse.

They’ll then head to Jamestown, Melrose, Hawker, White Cliffs, Broken Hill and Silverton in that order. The likes of bodies, Elmo Aoyama, Emma Russack, False Colours, Scraps and more will grace those outback stages, before finishing at an inner Melbourne bowls club in Thornbury.

It’s a big tour for what’s been, until now, a little festival.

The last Half Strange was in 2021, and was meant to be followed by a Christmas event that year which was cancelled due to the COVID outbreak over summer.

Half Strange founder Harriet Fraser-Barbour aka Workhorse.

Fraser-Barbour told CityMag that it was exciting for her to be working with Melbourne-based record label Dinosaur City Records on bringing the festival back in a very big way.

“I was beginning to feel a bit burnt out by the music scene here in Adelaide and expanding the festival to instead focus on regional and remote destinations felt like a really nice way of reimagining and giving new life to the event,” she says.

“Half Strange is all about exploring and fusing the great variety of different subcultures that exist within our broader music community, and expanding Half Strange to regional and rural outposts around Australia felt like a sensical next step in building on this existing ethos.

“There is so much more to so-called-Australia than what our major metropolitan cities show us. Different ways of living, different ways of connecting – and I think this tour offers a good dialogue, an opportunity for contributing artists, attendees, tourists, travellers or locals alike to connect and share with one another. It’s as much about learning from the lands on which we travel and pass through as it is sharing or showcasing.”

The novel experience will be as vital for the artists undertaking the trip as it promises to be for regional audiences; a one-week artist residency at Oratunga Station in Blinman is on the cards for those on the lineup.

During that week, participating artists will engage in an Aboriginal owned and led cultural tour of Adnyamathanha country where they’ll gain a deeper understanding of the local landscapes and cultural significance, according to the Half Strange founder.

“The residency on Oratunga Station was designed as a way of trialling a slower kind of music touring where participants are given an opportunity to rest, reflect and respond to the landscapes and places on which we travel as artists,” Harriet says.

“I was very conscious of the kind of tours that I have previously seen and been a part of which can feel like you are churning through landscapes and regional towns, never spending more than a night in one place.

“We wanted to encourage a more conscientious and meaningful approach, so part of the residency will include a cultural tour by Wadna, teaching participants local Adnyamathanha history.”

Emma Russack is playing at Melrose, Hawker and Silverton.

The tour will pick up again after the residency, taking the artists (and hopefully some dedicated groupies) through South Australia’s outback.

Half Strange encourages punters to follow the tour across the eight dates and dance under the stars to Simona Castricum, witness “fabulous” performances from bodies and Scraps on the iconic cabaret stage at Broken Hill’s Palace Hotel, and kick back to Emma Russack and Danika in Silverton.

The final date – an all-ages event at Thornbury Bowls – Victoria, doubles as a launch show for bodies’ debut album all the songs i know about fire.

bodies will launch their debut album on the last stop of Half Strange. This photo by Jack Mannix.

Harriet said it was rare for some of the towns on the tour to have out-of-town performers grace their stages, as it is even for metropolitan Adelaide.

“Even Adelaide as a smaller major metropolitan capital misses out on a lot of touring activities, so you can imagine that a little town like Silverton with a population of just 50 might not be seeing many live bands come to town,” she says.

“However this doesn’t mean that these little towns are void of arts or musical activities. Broken Hill has a thriving music and arts community, while White Cliff plays host to an eclectic array of local artists and jewellers.

“I’m very excited to explore the Flinders Ranges with this incredible group of musicians – to see it in spring in all its wildflower glory. I’m also very excited to see Broken Hill and White Cliffs in New South Wales for the first time ever.

“Apparently, there’s a white witch in White Cliffs who you can make appointments to meet, so of course that’s on the itinerary.”

Half Strange begins this weekend in the Adelaide Hills before hitting the road. Tickets, linuep details and more can be found here.

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