STEAMing Ahead

South Australia is quickly becoming the prime location for those looking for employment in the STEM fields. For those who are uncertain, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. These fields currently offer diverse career opportunities, from medical advancements to the Australian Space Agency. However, there is one a vital component to STEM fields: Arts.

Arts and STEM have been inspiring each other for years, from Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics to the hard-scientific facts which make Andy Weir’s The Martian more realistic. This combination of STEM and the Arts is better known by professionals as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). STEAM has already been making itself known in South Australia, appearing at arts festivals and used to show off new locally developed technology.

In the 2017/2018 budget, the state government invested $250 million into Education to deliver more STEM topics to primary and secondary schools. Flinders University’s Tonsley Campus and its Innovation Hub, alongside the Medical Research and Science Centre (the cheese grater on North Terrace) are some STEM-focused buildings which now make up part of the Adelaide skyline.

It is expected STEM funding will increase with the new budget due in September. In 2018 the Adelaide Fringe generated $16.6 million at the box office and added $29.5 million to the state economy, as set out in their annual report. It is also the highest earning arts festival in Australia, generating a total of 39% of all multi-category ticket sales in the country. These figures show there is money in both STEM and the Arts in South Australia. Combined, they will make a far bigger impact on the local culture and economy than they do separately. Including Arts in STEM education will learning more interactive and fun while STEM in festivals like the Fringe more engaging and interactive.

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Beautiful night for the Fringe!

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Modern technology has been heavily influenced by the arts. Many hardware and software engineers/programmers have long been inspired by technology in science fiction. One example of this is the Adelaide based company Voxon Photonics. Their technology, the Voxon VX1, is a 3D volumetric engine that was inspired by science fiction, more specifically Dejarik in Star Wars: A New Hope. For it to work, they required the aid of the STEM fields, especially engineering and mathematics (key components in hardware and software design). They create games to demonstrate their technology’s power. The VX1 was showcased in the Indie Games Room at AVCon 2018, allowing the public to interact with their exciting new technology. While the VX1 can do other things like medical imaging, art shows its power off in a more engaging way. Voxon Photonics has advertised pushing to get more local games developed for the VX1, showing it off at Game Plus (a co-working digital games space on Pirie Street) in June 2018.

Recent advances in science and technology have influenced the Adelaide arts scene. One example is the University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD). Opened in 2018, MOD on North Terrace is where visitors can engage with science and technology through art (STEAM). Their current displays are a showcase on the future STEAM can bring. One example being the genetic modification of children, if they’re to survive on Earth from choices made today. This allows visitors to witness these changes first hand. For more on MOD, check out our review here.

In terms of festivals, 2017’s OzAsia Festival saw an international example of STEAM. This was Keiichiro Shibuya’s The End, starring Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Unlike a traditional opera, The End is entirely virtual, containing only Miku and showcases the relationship between art and technology. This also is a reflection on the term vocaloid itself, as Miku is actually nothing more than computer software herself. Another example of STEAM is coming to 2018’s OzAsia. Called War Sum Up, it is a 21st-century electronic opera that is summed up in three words “Music. Manga. Machines.” This unique blend will be showcasing technology working alongside Japanese Noh theatre.

The South Australian Government should be pushing STEAM rather than just STEM. It is already happening around Adelaide, and if given that extra boost, can help make Adelaide stand out against other Australian cities. STEAM can help bring more young people to Adelaide and benefit other fields like tourism and education. A STEAM revolution has the potential to completely reinvent Adelaide, making it a younger, more vibrant city.

What are your thoughts? Should South Australia be aiming towards a STEAM future rather than a STEM one? Leave your comments below.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.

Spotlight: The Jade

The Jade has long been a staple of Adelaide’s music scene and nightlife. It’s seen live music aplenty, creative readings, album launches, weddings, birthdays, and plenty of other varied events besides. Recently, Liam McNally sat down with Jade owner Zac Coligan to talk about the Jade’s history, it’s unique style, and even the establishment’s year-long absence as they moved venue.

 

You’ve been here for a while now. How much has the business changed over that time?
A fair bit. When we first moved in, we were expecting the older model of 95% live music and so we’ve set this room up, double insulated the roof. We do get lots of live music still but a lot of it is special occasions. I think some younger bands are a bit intimidated by this room. We get a lot of CD launches and things like that. In saying that, we’ve got a bunch of gigs happening. But what it’s morphed into is a lot more of a café culture here as well.

 

And perhaps more of an events space as well?
Yeah. People start to hear about us – and for us, it’s always word-of-mouth. We get a lot of different theatre shows, and seminars, and Music SA have done a lot of things here with guest speakers. We’ve got much more diverse events here which has been great.
This space is here to be used and it’s really quite a good space for all sorts of things. Especially quieter events.

 

How different is it to the old venue? (The Jade Monkey, on Twin Street).
When we initially started it (the Twin Street venue), we didn’t realise when we got our licence, we could only open from 9pm. We got an extension after a few years. It was a night time thing. And it was all about gigs. Every week there was two or three gigs on.
We’re mixing it up a lot more here because the space is a bit more flexible, whereas the old Jade was about the live music scene fundamentally.

 

Was there a conscious choice in changing the nature of the venue? You call it the Jade now rather than the Jade Monkey.
To be honest, we dropped the ‘monkey’ because my lovely wife Naomi hated that for years.
It was an interesting decision when we set up this place because we wanted to make it bright, and maybe ‘prettier’, if you will. It’s interesting as when you do a place like that, it kind of evokes the style of clientele you have. We get a good range here. Most people feel comfortable. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious shift but at the same time we wanted to entertain everything. And that’s the way it’s rolled, to be honest.
We made a real effort with this space. It’s a great spot for bands and it sounds wonderful in here.

 

Where did the name come from?
Initially it was because it was hidden little space and there’s that whole thing behind finding the jade monkey which is also a Simpsons joke.

 

How did bringing the food van, Phat Buddha Rolls, in change things?
It’s made a huge difference. We do everything ourselves, Naomi and I. There aren’t many places when it’s just two people running a venue, particularly of this size. We did food at first and it was very time consuming and difficult to get the numbers out quick. We did it for a little while and then went, ‘you know what? Let’s just outsource it’. We decided to approach Fork on the Road and get a food truck. It’s been really, really good.
It’s been about bringing people here to sit down and have a coffee, for us. And to bring people to sit down in the afternoon, to have a café culture, you need food.

 

What kind of difference has the location had?

 

Jade exterior
The Jade’s courtyard.

[The proximity to] Rundle Mall didn’t have any advantage to us at all at the old Jade. We were only really open after 9pm as well. I feel that with this place because we’re lucky enough to have a really nice garden, and we’re set back from the road, people are often a bit confused about what’s going on. We’re not fans of putting a big ‘$10 parmi’ sign on the front. Every day we get someone who comes in and says they’ve walked past the place 50 times and now they’ve come in the door. Once we get them in the door we usually get them back.
Having a garden makes a huge difference. People love hanging out here. In summer, it’s just wonderful. A good space to be.

 

There are more separated spaces here than there were at the old place.
And that’s a huge difference for me. When you were part of the old Jade, you were part of the gig. If the gig bombed, you felt that. If the gig went off, you felt that. Now because [the bar is] separate [to the performance space] you still feel it but it’s a different thing.
It’s really good in that respect because you can have the front bar open all the time. People can just drop by for a drink any time they like but also you can have your own space here where everyone’s here to see the band.

 

How did that changeover period between the Twin Street venue and here go?
It took us a year. A lot of the problems were finding a space but also a year before we started looking at this place, a club called Heaven had been started here and terrorised the neighbourhood. They ended up in court and then they did a runner. We still saw some bills coming in that weren’t for us.
The neighbours didn’t want us here. I reckon there were about six months of roundtable discussions with liquor licencing. It was us against the residents, the church, and an architecture firm across the road.
We just persisted and they gave up in the end because we made a good case but they were trying to wait us out to get us to not do what we were doing.
People ask me about that time, did I think it was going to happen again? I had no doubts it was going to happen again. I didn’t know when.

 

The last weekend of the old Jade was a big event.
We did a big final weekend. I just handpicked all the bands I wanted to play. It was good. It was a really fun weekend. My manager here now, Josh, played on the Thursday night with his band, the Funky Scum Rumour. I got some rock bands like BTA and indie bands like Steering by Stars and my band, The Sea Thieves, played on the Sunday. It was a good way to see it out.

 

Considering your neighbours in the St Paul’s Creative Space, does that have an impact in who tends to come here?
We’ve done a lot of good things with those guys. And they’ll come over and say they want to do something and we go yeah. We’ve got a really good relationship with them. It’s funny because lots of people I’ve known for years in the music industry are working next door.
As far as neigbours go, couldn’t be any better.
They take up the lion’s share of the building so we wouldn’t have moved in without something like that next door. You don’t want someone starting a club there. Not that they’d be able to. There’s no way anyone’s going to do that ever again because they’ll end up in court before they start.

 

Did you get to have such a diversity of events at the old place – like spoken word events?

 

We did, but to be honest, the old place was all about the local music scene. So that’s what we had going on. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, we had gigs. We did have some spoken word nights though. We were 100% reliant on the event to make our money for the night. We still are to a certain degree here but we’re already open every Thursday and Friday night regardless of whether we’ve got something on or not. You can take a bit more of a punt as well. Some band gets in touch with us and says they’ve never done a gig before and they want to go a gig. We can go ‘sure, maybe a Thursday night, see how it goes and go from there.’ It’s even better for us here because we don’t have to concern ourselves whether they bring 300 people or ten. It obviously helps but it makes it a bit easier to entertain that.
We definitely had to rethink the nights we gave people at the old place because that’s 100% what we were about [there]. Bands brought people, we made money, they didn’t, we made no money.

We’re separate rent, separate tenancy – everyone thought we’re on some government-funded thing which was quite annoying because we are not at all. It’s all down to us.

 


Words by Liam McNally

Thanks to Zac Coligan.

Pictures: The Jade Facebook page

In Conversation with: The Helpmann Academy

The Helpmann Academy is an important part of Adelaide’s cultural sphere – and it is a name that will surely be familiar to any artists starting their careers in this city. Their offerings of grants and learning opportunities – including masterclasses, seminars, and mentorships – are used by many local artists to get a start in their vocations. For people less actively engaged in the arts scene, they could be an organisation you are unfamiliar with but could well have played a crucial part in the nascent career of a local artist you know.

Stephanie Jaclyn on the set of Freemales
Flinders graduate and Filmmaker Stephanie Jaclyn on the set of her web series ‘Freemales’. Stephanie received a 2017 Helpmann Fellowship to undertake training and development opportunities in London. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Behind all this, is a small and dedicated team of individuals working to help offer opportunities to Adelaide’s artists. To discover more about what goes into reaching the results the Helpmann Academy has achieved, Tulpa recently sat down with Jane MacFarlane, the Academy’s CEO.

Helpmann Academy is one of a number of organisations providing support and opportunities for artists. We began by asking who the Academy is geared towards helping. Jane said that they ‘only support emerging artists’, people who are ‘graduates in the first five years of their career’. One of the things she says is important is that prospective Helpmann grantees know ‘they’re not competing against mid-career artists.’ It’s made very clear that for all the significance of Helpmann – that may make it seem imposing to the less experienced artists – it is just for these artists that the Academy exists. ‘A lot of people don’t apply because they don’t feel they’re established enough or they’re not good enough but everyone who applies through Helpmann is starting out in their careers,’ Jane explains.

Annabel Matheson_Photo by Ian Routledge Foul Play Theatre
Flinders graduate and actor, Annabel Matheson. Photo by Ian Routledge, Foul Play Theatre.

The process of grant-writing is not one many artists relish but it is a fixture of the artist’s life – particularly in their earlier years. On this matter, though, Jane explains that they are engaged in ‘helping artists as much as we can in their grant applications so we offer to read grants, [and] give feedback. Part of it, for us, is not just in [them] receiving the grant but [also] artists learning skills in grant applications that will hopefully help them in the long term.’ So an artist writing a grant application to the Helpmann Academy will likely receive helpful feedback to get them a step closer to their next application being a successful one.

As to what advice she would have for someone considering applying for a Helpmann grant, Jane says a successful grant is often marked by an approach showing both ‘head and heart’ – the writer of the grant must try to ensure the reader gets a ‘sense of the artist, what they’re doing, and why it’s so important to them.’

The Helpmann Academy has sent artists all over the world – from Iceland to Antarctica. That very morning before the interview, Jane had two artists in to the Academy ‘who just came back from Amsterdam and are living in New York.’ The Academy, she tells Tulpa, judges most importantly ‘what the best thing for that artist is, and what’s going to help them in their career’. Whether the proposal is ‘something very practical and Adelaide-based or something that is quite different and [that] we’ve never seen before’ doesn’t matter so much, according to Jane, rather, it ‘really comes down to the artist and what’s going to be the best thing for them.’

Helpmann Academy 2017 Night of Jazz
2017 Helpmann Academy Night of Jazz with Marquis Hill. Photo by Russell Millard.

Considering the broad and significant work the Helpmann Academy does for the careers of young and emerging Adelaide artists, there is one important question. What would be the ultimate goal for the Academy? What would it look like with absolute success? Perhaps as one ought to expect, Jane answers, ‘not to exist.’ She elaborates: ‘we want to see artists truly valued and be successful both financially and in terms of their aspirations’. Those who work at Helpmann ‘want to see artists live their dreams and be able to do what they do without having to juggle four or five jobs on top of their practice’.

Asked why the arts are not often more broadly valued, Jane explained she considered it to be the result of a number of factors. One factor being that socially, we tend most to hold sportspeople up and another being that other social infrastructure such as hospitals take precedence for decision-makers. She notes that, according to studies, ‘artists are the most educated profession in the country – and yet they’re the least paid.’

Looking to the shorter-term goals of the Helpmann Academy, Jane says they are trying to look at ‘two main approaches’. One is to continue to open up their masterclasses and seminars up to as many artists as possible. The other approach is to look at ‘ways we can fund larger scale projects and opportunities for artists as well’. In looking to Helpmann’s future, one can also look to their past, as the past three years have seen quite a bit of growth – Jane says they have doubled the amount of support.

As the conversation turns to the state of the arts in Adelaide, Jane explains one of the city’s arts scene’s strongest points is ‘how connected it is’. ‘Compared to other places,’ she says, ‘it is a lot easier to connect industry and organisations and people’. This element directly benefits Helpmann as they ‘have partnerships with lots of other arts organisations and work together with them very successfully.’ As an example of the Adelaide art scene’s ability to connect, Jane puts forward that Adelaide is now UNESCO’s first City of Music. ‘I think that is the music industry coming together really successfully.’ Adelaide’s artistic sphere has clearly been noticed from the outside and its successes rewarded. Embedded in this connectedness of Adelaide’s arts, is Helpmann, and they are well and truly doing their part to connect people, to upskill the city’s creatives, and to provide learning opportunities.

All in all, Jane MacFarlane paints a picture of a city with a lot going for it in its creative industries. There may be more to be done, hence the Academy’s existence, but Adelaide is a city well on its way to greater successes – aided by organisations such as the Helpmann Academy.

 


Words by Liam McNally

Feature image property of the Helpmann Academy.

Thanks to Jane MacFarlane and the Helpmann Academy

Sunset at the Grace Emily: Chase the Sun by Only Objects

On July 1, local band Only Objects kicked the month off with the launch of their new single Chase the Sun at the Grace Emily. The song marks something of a change in style for Only Objects, a band already marked by its ability to try a variety of styles. Still very identifiably a part of their established “sound”, the song seems to stretch them to achieve new things.

Patrick Lang, writer of the quartet’s new song, acknowledges the band has always been eclectic and relishes new challenges. Of the song’s sound, he states he ‘wanted to write a piano ballad of some description, but I also wanted to allude to that neo-folk kind of feel’.

The song has more of the folk music feel about it which is perhaps unsurprising as Patrick says before he loved the trappings of electronic music, he was, ‘at heart, a folk musician’. The result is a happy marrying of these two genres that would surely appeal to the tastes of lovers of both.

This move away from the ultra-modern in the song is mirrored by the lack of references to modern life. As Patrick explains, ‘some human experiences are universal and transcend time and place’ and that he aimed to make the song sound like it ‘could have been written anytime in the last several hundred years’. He says that, to him, ‘it’s a melody in the folk tradition of something like Wild Mountain Thyme or The Parting Glass.’ He adds, ‘not at all to compare it to those absolutely timeless songs, but there is just a drop, a dram, a tiny part of that feeling in Chase the Sun.

Even the track’s accompanying artwork has something a little unique about it that sets Chase the Sun apart in the Only Objects oeuvre. A ship sailing in a glass bottle – the image (by Jesse Miles) – is simple and evocative. As Patrick says, ‘it’s both entirely unlike us and, in an odd way, entirely us.’

The timeless element of Chase the Sun permeates every element of it. The band embracing older methods, combined with the artwork, and even Patrick’s own statement of his previous leanings towards folk music, all conspire to ensure the track possesses a perfectly appropriate quality. The intention to create something very genuine and honest proves a thoroughly successful one.

And what of the experience of a different style? ‘A lot more stringed instruments than what we are used to, that’s for certain!’ Patrick adds that he ‘really enjoy[s] the recording process in terms of finding little hidden melodies and ideas in songs, and this was certainly no exception.’

Patrick offers particular praise for Matthew Vecchio, who produced the track for Only Objects, who ‘has a really lovely light touch as well’, helping to ensure the track played to its strengths and kept a clear balance. ‘Balance’ is perhaps the word best suited to this track that steers well clear of both the more large and bombastic, and the meeker of sounds – the track remains assuredly and earnestly in a place of balance, succeeding in the band’s effort to evoke a folky, stirring element to the listener.

Asked whether the band aims to try new things or whether new experiences are a by-product of their songs, Patrick told Tulpa: ‘It’s a mix, really! We often become fascinated by structural ideas, particularly from electronic music, and then try to work them into songs.’ The band has tried their collective hand at a wide variety (such as last year’s You Only Kill for Love) which could prove difficult in less sure hands.

Only Objects were preceded by Fleur Green who treated the crowd to a series of original songs, including a debut of a new one, a cover, and even a part of thousand year old Persian poem The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. All in all, a fairly standard Sunday evening in July. Fleur had the audience captivated and gave the audience an excellent performing of her own.

When they took the stage, Only Objects were generous in their own set. They offered a good sampling of their work and added a cover of a Frightened Rabbit song in tribute to the recently passed Scott Hutchison. Chase the Sun had penultimate place in the set list of the night and saw the highlight of a night of highlights as the audience joined together in song.

The night may have been for Chase the Sun – and truly that offered a great moment of the evening – but the night was filled with a celebration of music and generous offering for all who braved the cold of a July evening in Adelaide.

 


Words by Liam McNally.

Thanks to Patrick Lang.

Cover artwork by Jesse Miles.

Howl n Bones launches at the Ed Castle

On June 30, Howl n Bones celebrated the release of their debut album II. Not only was the launch met by the energetic crowd packed into the band room of the Ed Castle but also the support of three bands joining together to help mark the night. First up was The Straight Jacket Tailors, a band sharing some of the same roster of talent as Little Captain (previously reviewed and interviewed in Tulpa) who stormed the stage to set the tone of bold and powerful music. The night of festivities was continued by Victorian band, the self-proclaimed ‘stoner rockers’ Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows. The final set in preparation for the Howl n Bones main event was another South Australian product in Somnium.

The launch felt less like an album making its first tentative steps into the wide world and more like a full blown, confident takeover of the Ed Castle. The atmosphere was almost one of carnival celebration.

Starting at 9pm and going late in a test of the passion and determination of music lovers, the night was an unabashed celebration of music. Surprisingly, the crowd had not thinned much, or indeed at all noticeably by the time the headline act, Howl n Bones took the stage after midnight. It’s got to say something when the crowd can brave Adelaide’s bitter winter nights for hours of music.

Howl n Bones own album, II, is difficult to describe. One can choose the band’s own description of their work as being of the genre ‘scum funk’, a genre of their own creation but whether this goes anywhere in preparing the listener is another question altogether.

The collection of musical offerings were plenty. No-one could have gone home that night saying they had not been offered a generous helping. The event catered best for lovers of some of rock’s more unusual and experimental edges but was sure to offer something to the taste of most people. The relaxed atmosphere that saw the audience ebb and flow (but always come back for more) throughout the night and allowed the audience to mingle with the performers added to that full-to-bursting offering. As the performers of each band joined the audience to support and cheers the other acts, the entire three-plus hours of bold sound had the air of all joining in mutual support, and mutual celebration, of the roaring music scene.

The credit for the assembly of such a cavalcade of sound goes to the work of IMB Presents in whose stable of talent both Howl n Bones and The Straight Jacket Tailors can be found.

The night proved a banquet of many, many courses that could fill even the most music-hungry and allowed the audience to take as much they wanted.

Howl n Bones’s eight-track II has been released and coming in at a little under 40 minutes, is no small offering. After the powerful display of June 30 by all four bands, though, what else could be expected? With tracks such as I Get High and Stoned Horse, the band announced Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows were surely not the only band present with a claim to the ‘stoner rockers’ genre. These two tracks live up to their names and Howl n Bones’ own album cover art with its Lovecraftian horror-beast, certainly makes it clear to any prospective listener that the band is not aiming for some laid-back easy listening but rather something pushing the boundaries and attempting to explore the new and the strange.

II winds back the clock and takes cues from elements of music through the recent decades to form something of their own blended from the rich heritage of musical endeavours that boldly planted its flag on the reaches. After a listen to the album, it becomes clear why the band decided to name their own genre to work within.

 


Thanks to IMB Presents.

Artwork: Album cover.

Adelaide Songs – Director’s Cut

I went to see Adelaide Songs at the 2016 Fringe and hoped then that they would prove to be fixture of our city’s festival scene. It seems my hope has been granted as here they are again for their third straight Fringe and I couldn’t resist checking in to see how things have changed.

Selecting from their bank of songs, the performers gave the audience a generous fourteen songs. Six I’d heard last time, and eight new. The six older songs were welcome returns including a rousing tribute to our state’s ‘best premier’ Don Dunstan in “Politics of Love”, and a song dedicated to the patchy nature of Hindley Street in “Hindley Street Waltz”.

The new songs included the very timely “Battery Powered Premier” and to discuss the changing face of Adelaide, “City of Towers”.

The song list charts South Australia’s long history, through its ups and downs, from arrival of Colonel Light to the present – while still paying due attention to all that went before Light. The performance celebrates South Australia without ignoring the less pleasant elements of our history. It’s not without an understanding of the questionable times in our past.

Adelaide Songs is educational, enjoyable, and a worthwhile show. Any member of the audience is sure to go home having learned something and possessing a greater appreciation for our state’s unique history. The show does not sacrifice entertainment for its educational elements, though, as it maintains a light touch and sense of fun throughout, except for when dealing with the more serious corners of our state’s past.

It is an unrepentant celebration of our city which sits in stark contrast to the popular view of looking down on Adelaide. The performance and the artists invested in it show a willingness to buck the trend of cultural cringe in favour taking time to celebrate the vast range our state’s past, present, and future takes in.

It’s well worth having a show in the Adelaide Fringe that puts Adelaide so much at the centre. Where Adelaide might be the canvas, Adelaide Songs makes our city (the fifth most liveable in the world, apparently!) the artwork itself.

 


Words by Liam McNally

4 stars.

Adelaide Songs – Director’s Cut is playing at The Jade on March 10 at 2pm and 5pm. Tickets available here.

The Velvet Underground presented by Little Captain

On Wednesday night, I went along to the Grace Emily to watch The Velvet Underground presented by Little Captain. With no background in the work of The Velvet Underground, I was perhaps not someone the show was directed towards. There was, however, an audience of people of a variety of ages packed into the band room, so it was not just a show to reflect on days gone by.

The commitment to their craft that Little Captain exhibits cannot be questioned. They provide the audience with quite an extensive selection of songs and still left them chanting for more. It appeared that the audience was in no small part, one of Velvet Underground fans as the confession of a band member that she had not heard much Velvet Underground before they began rehearsing was met with horror. It’s probable that this show is more for those already initiated than it is for those who may be less familiar with the works of The Velvet Underground so it may not be so likely to convert any new fans. Despite that, as far as giving the audience what they wanted, Little Captain succeeded entirely – except for not giving in to the audience demands for more.

At two hours, you get more than a fair share of songs so it’s saying something that the audience wanted to keep going at 10:40 on a Wednesday night. The first set lasted about 45 minutes before a 15-minute break when the band members mingled with the audience at the bar. Mixing with the audience in the unique patchwork of the Grace Emily’s front bar (where else will you see pictures of such a bizarre mix of people as Burt Newton, Mao, and Winston Churchill?) added just a little more personal a note to the event.

During the second set, I retired to the back of the band room, partly to recover from the incredible sound of the first set. Featuring a more diverse blend of songs than the first set, the second allowed Little Captain to show themselves capable of a more varied performance than before the break.

With a price of $10, a two-hour show is a bargain, and if you like Velvet Underground, you’d be foolish to miss out. If you are someone like me (totally uninitiated in The Velvet Underground) but want to try out some new music, this is likely the show for you.

 


Words by Liam McNally.

Four stars.

The Velvet Underground presented by Little Captain is playing at the Grace Emily on March 2. Tickets available here.

In Conversation with: Porch Governor Sharni Honor

Tulpa writer Liam McNally sat down with Porch Governor Sharni Honor in the wonderful surrounds of Glenelg’s Seafaring Fools, to talk music in Adelaide, how Porch Sessions got its start, and the journey from beginning to award and success!

How did Porch Sessions start out? Was it initially your idea or did you have collaborators from the start?

It started out as a tiny idea in my brain. I’ve always been a passionate follower of music and it was a response to an assignment, of all things, while I was studying at Music SA. At the end of the year, they were like ‘put all your skills in one little box and see if you can put on an event and make it happen’. I remember looking back at my big journal and on the second page I’d scribbled ‘porch sessions’. And then I had the first gig in my parent’s front garden and threw it all together. I had no idea what I was doing. There’s no manual on how to put [a gig] on in someone’s house. A lot of it was straight-in-the-deep-end, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. After doing the first one, the response was massive. It was sold out, 150 people. Timberwolf played our first show, who’s now killing it. The headliner was Benjalu, which is now one half of Boo Seeka who are also doing great things interstate. I guess after that first show, it was, ‘this is great, when’s the next one?’ And then it hit me, ‘I can’t just have gigs at my parents’ house for the rest of time, how’s this thing going to grow?’ Then the travelling element came up.

Where was the second gig?

It was actually a punter who came to the first gig. My yoga teacher at the time, straight after the show, she was like ‘I’m having the next one!’ Realistically, now, the house was a little bit of a tricky space to work in. We had two shows back-to-back there and a guy named Stu Larsen who is now one of our favourite artists played two sold out shows there and that kicked things into full motion.

Where did the idea for Porchland come up?

I guess the cool thing about Porch Sessions is that it ultimately started as a travelling backyard music festival is now a brand that represents nice times, amazing experiences, and unique spaces. The idea around Porchland is that as we have so many intimate shows that can be fifty people in a tiny space and [from that] we bring together everyone from these tiny gigs to have a dance and celebrate. We bring it all together in one space.

Have you branched out into pubs and other different things?

We’ve dabbled with curating music in spaces but we’re pretty diligent on the reason for which we exist. We don’t exist in venues, and that’s kind of our point of difference. That said, we do curate music in spaces and help people out in that sense. I guess to take music out of that and create venues where venues don’t exist is our biggest passion.

Do you ever do a gig in the city?

Not really. We have done Tram Sessions. That was a concept that originated in Melbourne. We’re good mates with the guys who run that and we toured it to Adelaide. We pick a tram stop, everyone jumps on and we play like five songs. People get on. People get off. It’s uncomfortable. It’s amazing. That’s the main thing we do in the city.

So, taking music to the audience, rather than the audience coming to the music?

A thousand percent. It’s amazing how much can be said for creating that atmosphere and setting the tone before the music even starts. When you design the architecture of a space, it can dictate how the night goes. When venues get in that stale space and become sometimes more about the bar and making money and surviving, which is what they have to do, the music becomes secondary to them surviving, ultimately.

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Porchland Festival pic by Harley Vincent.

On the subject of surviving, how do you find surviving in the Adelaide arts scene?

It’s hard. Very, very hard. The thing about Porch Sessions is that we pride ourselves on having super high quality across the board. High quality music, first and foremost. And we pay for it. We have some of the highest artist fees across South Australia for the music we book. For some reason a lot of people assume, ‘that’s a nice thing, it must be like a volunteer thing’. No way. We pay our artists really quite well, and all of our staff and photographers, and videographers. All the content that comes out of our shows is really valued and we’re pretty diligent about that. It takes a long time to balance all of that while trying to stay afloat and put bread on the table. It’s really tricky.

It is concentrated for a lot of people into one month. I know a lot of us who do this as a full-time job are very quick to wipe our hands clean of March and just step away from it because we slog our guts out for the rest of the year. It’s easy to be disheartened by it.

I suppose it’s a bit of a case of people building up all year for Fringe season and they just own that one month.

It’s exciting and people are pumped but we’ve got to look after the people who maintain our arts scene year-round. I guess, for people like us who live and breathe the industry, it never stops. It’s quite hard to get on the level of those who do dip in and out. It’s quite hard to be in those shoes sometimes but that’s reality. It’s really hard to keep on top of when things are happening. It’s work for people to go to shows and to find out about things. We have to remember that as curators.

Is that why you have Porchland, as your big event, about as far away from March as you possibly can?

For sure. It’s taken time. I guess the beautiful thing about Porch is that by moving really slowly, we’ve developed a really strong following and a lot of our shows do sell out. When we do have shows 45 minutes from Adelaide, to pull 180 people to a space is really quite cool. That takes a really long time to build and generate.

Is the advertising you do, like the coasters and posters here [Seafaring Fools], really just for Porchland, rather than the Sessions?

We’ve been pretty underground with our marketing for Porch Sessions. Social media is huge for us; mailing lists, word of mouth, the artists themselves. That sells the shows without us having to put up posters. Also, with such a turnaround of shows – we probably run over thirty events in a given year – if we were to put out marketing for every show, it’d be work that wouldn’t need to exist. I guess that’s the cool thing about Porchland, we can get people who’ve never heard of what we do to this one big event.

The Sessions themselves just build by word-of-mouth, then? I don’t think I’ve ever seen any advertising for a Porch Session.

I guess it’s that there is a kind of ‘beautiful secret’ element to it, and being in residential houses, we just publicise the suburb [rather than address] and put out the line-up. There isn’t much of a need for it. The next three shows, in the summer series, are all sold out, which is super cool. There isn’t much of a need for marketing. It’s an amazing privilege to have in Adelaide.

You’ve built to the point where you have a major social media following and you won the award Best Music Event/Festival at the SA Music Awards, beating out even Womad.

It was so unexpected. Everything at that festival [Womad], I go to, and admire, and get inspired by. That was mindblowing. Unbelievable.

As wonderful as Womad is, it must have been something to see someone other than them win anyway.

We were at the back, drinking beers and we were like ‘that’s not Womad – oh my God, this is not a drill!’ It was bizarre. To be considered on the same level is cool in itself but to actually take that [award] out, is very cool.

How’s that affected things? Is it just in the industry or externally as well?

I think actually across the board. It’s amazing how many people have heard about it. It lifts us into a new bracket. It attaches a new professionalism to what we do and nationally it’s been really well recognised.

How many sessions do you have ready in advance at any given time?

We’re always forward-programming. We’re still pulling into place the rest of this season that runs up until the start of May. We have another three shows we’re going to release over the next couple of weeks and that’ll be the season done. Then we start on the winter shows. We also have Porch Session on Tour where we pack up five caravans and travel between Queensland and South Australia. It’s full-on and fast-paced but it’s the best. We’re already starting to plan for that next year.


Tulpa Magazine thanks Sharni Honor for her time, Jack Fenby for the Porch Sessions feature photo, and Harley Vincent for the photo from Porchland.