The Music SA: Frusic Cover Story

Published in The Music (SA) and on, Feb 2016

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A valuable organisation to local music and the scene all year round, it’s no surprise that Music SA has come at Adelaide Fringe with all guns blazing. The aptly titled Frusic program sees them collaborate with some of the best music venues in the state to bring punters a smorgasbord of music-related entertainment during the Fringe, 12 Feb — 14 Mar. Daniel Cribb gets the lowdown from some of those involved.

“It’s our chance to shout loudly about the importance of music and venues during Fringe,” Music SA general manager Lisa Bishop says of Frusic. “Music is the second biggest genre with over 220 shows on offer. We think that deserves a dedicated brand and marketing campaign.”

Local musician Max Savage, who is set to release new record True Believers with his band The False Idols in April, finds himself in the thick of Frusic, billed for two tribute shows at Jive, where he’ll embody Bruce Springsteen one night forBorn To Run before setting his sights on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks the following. “As soon as you walk out onto the stage the music just sweeps over you,” Savage tells.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of albums and how they act as a collective statement. Good ones are an entity in and of themselves with each individual song forming a part of a greater whole… Astral Weeks was something that I started learning as a challenge to myself and it swiftly grew into a complete obsession with the album and its nuances, which took over my life for a good six months. I think it’s a record which has been an important landmark in a lot of people’s lives.

Born To Run is an incredibly evocative record. It’s constructed differently to Astral Weeks with a structure and polish that you rarely notice unless you really delve into the music. It’s a record which seems incredibly simple on the surface but reveals itself to be incredibly nuanced with time.”

It’s during past Fringe events that Savage had noticed the entire scene transforming into a completely different beast. “Adelaide Fringe is one of the few times in the year when the broader public venture from their homes with a willingness to spend money on live entertainment,” he says.

“People go to shows. People listen, look and learn; people are surprised, outraged and amazed; people are shocked and made to be uncomfortable. From grandparents to grandchildren, everyone has a go at being a critic, a participant and an artist.”

It’s a sentiment that Bishop is quick to reinforce. “It breeds new artists and is a safe ground for testing and presenting new work…and gives South Australians a sense of pride and community because nearly everyone in SA is touched by the Fringe is some way.”

But it’s not just Fringe where Adelaide excels. With a wealth of other events consuming the city throughout the year, it’s been labelled the festival state. “It’s probably because some smart person popped it as the tagline on our number plates all those years ago,” The Gov publicist Ryan Winter laughs. “But quite seriously, we have a well-developed audience for festivals and some pretty serious professionals here who can deliver outstanding events.

“The breadth of local community involvement is pretty incredible. The larger shows aren’t terribly different to other events, and naturally people travel here to perform but at no other time of year is there such a showcase of Adelaide-based talent on show. A lot of amateurs take the plunge to jump on stage for the first time and it’s something to see.”

One act to travel at length to perform at The Gov for Fringe is the incredible Damushi Ensemble. They’re making their way over from Ghana to showcase a very interesting style of traditional music called Juju & Highlife.

The Bluebee Room is another venue on the Frusic map, which has an exciting and diverse schedule. Owner-operator Linda Hamley couldn’t be more excited about it as she reminisces about past years.

“We’ve loved all our music shows at Fringe — being a full-time live music venue outside of Fringe — as there are the extra people out and about who might not normally catch much live music and they always seem to enjoy it,” Hamley says.

“These people would come up to us and say how much they liked the space and that they didn’t know it existed before Fringe. Some of them have since attended other gigs here.”

The long-term benefits that programs like Frusic yield is something that Fringe artist Mikey Green (formerly of The Audreys) has also noticed. “The streets are abuzz,” he comments. “It gets people checking out venues they’ve never been to before, catching up with neglected friends and breaking free from their reality TV routines for a while. And hopefully that translates to a year round thing for some folks? Maybe they’ll get the bug to go see all the other amazing bands that our players are in. Because they really are pretty special and could certainly do with a good looking bunch of music fans turning up for a cuddle in the cold winter months.”

Green is part of SA super group Doctor DeSoto, who will be transforming The Wheatsheaf Hotel into a cabaret style venue complete with tropical ferns and an overload of ’70s sailing outfits for The Marina — A Smooth Cruisin’ Yacht Rock Experience. “This nine-piece band will fill you full of smooth music until it feels like you’ve overdosed on Thousand Island salad dressing. There’ll be good hair, great hair and nicely pressed slacks. It’s a show dripping with more ’70s-style innuendo than you can point a cocktail frankfurt at.”

When he’s not in nautical overload, there are a few other Frusic events on his list to check out. “SA icons Brillig will doSpeakeasy, a 1920s themed gin-soaked gig. We’ll probably step off our yacht and head inland for that one. Not sure our Hawaiian shirts will be appropriate though,” he jokes.

“We’re also keen to do the Frusic Walking Trail. There’s a downloadable app which talks you through the rock history of Adelaide and gets you exploring. This sounds like a good recovery exercise the morning after a gig night. Maybe a bloody Mary breakfast and then hit the streets? Who’s keen?”

Savage’s plan is a little looser. “The Fringe is always a mixed bag; it’s an unpredictable and eclectic assortment. I think it’s best enjoyed as something done without serious planning; a balmy evening walk through the East End and tickets to whichever show is on. Once in a blue moon, you’ll come across something that will change your life.”

There’s not denying that Adelaide has a rich festival scene that sees hospitality and numerous creative sectors thrive around big events. As Green tells, programs like Frusic assist in giving the local scene attention that will more than likely carry on all year round. Live music is a big thing in Adelaide, and really steps up a notch over the Fringe period,” he reinforces. “It’s great to see the Frusic program giving punters a happy reminder. Their night need not be over after they’ve eaten an exotic dish in the Gardens and watched a fire juggler for a few minutes. The guys in the office aren’t gonna be impressed with that story anyway. Break open the Frusic guide and choose an adventure. Go on!”