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Save to List: Connor Jervis-Hay’s Adelaide
A world’s worth of recommended spots from our global community
words – connor jervis-hay
location – adelaide, australia
At boom saloon, we’re incredibly privileged to collaborate with a community of hundreds of talented creatives all around the world, stretching from Ecuador to Egypt, China to Canada, Austria to Angola. Our strong relations have afforded us a wealth of insider insights into the best places to visit, eat and stay, all around the world. Now, we want to share this information with you as we work with our community to map the world and share their best recommendations of how to enjoy destinations both near and far. Our version of a city guide, delivered interactively and in real time – curated for all to enjoy and presented as a savable Google Map for our members to save and bookmark a wealth of future adventures.
Sitting on the edge of the world, Adelaide is the capital of South Australia – a garden city with a UNESCO City of Music designation that also enjoys the title of Australia’s Festival State.
With amazing beaches to the west and unrivalled wineries in the hills to the east, the city is a melting pot of cultures and activity, of bars and food, and of festivals both large and small. Adelaide boasts three universities and a history shaped by European settlers who were some of the most progressive of their time – and who brought with them their wine, beer and art. They were, arguably, an entrepreneurial lot whose ideas would go on to influence the world.
Adelaide came out of the COVID-19 lockdowns hard and fast with an explosion of music and arts across the city. Amidst concern that cultural momentum would be irreparably thwarted, a determined youth who had been trapped in their houses, seemingly practising with an unwavering focus, had a completely different idea. All at once, they emerged with force to consume the city with awesome, possessed and unexpected talent and drive. They took over Adelaide’s plethora of small live music venues, eager to play and to meet other artists.
From the conservatorium jazz kids to the backyard indie jammers and heavy punk pirates, talent permeated its way through the city culminating in an unmatched quantity and quality of live performing acts that hadn’t been seen for decades.
In response to – and in an attempt to capture and feed – this momentum, a strong and healthy performance scene has emerged across new venues, driving forward a movement hell bent on breaking out and taking on the world. Here, I bring together a selection of the finest for you to enjoy.
Musical performances take place all over the city, but sometimes you need to go exploring to find some of the more hidden and unique experiences. Through a nondescript doorway between a Chinese restaurant and a Korean grocery store, up a graffiti covered staircase, you will find the Broadcast Bar. One of the coolest new music venues I’ve been to, this intimate space has a front bar constructed entirely out of old VHS cases [featuring classic movie covers reminiscent of a Tarantino dream] and a backroom gig space. Broadcast is home to the punks; it gives a space to anyone to perform and, in doing so, has rapidly become known as the place where bands can get their first gigs. It is at this very space that most of the new up and coming Adelaide acts currently making waves have cut their teeth.
02_Arthur Art Bar
In a similar vein, the city is home to a number of unique arts venues and collectives which help fuel Adelaide’s musical spirit. Multiple small pop-up bars, performance spaces and arts collectives exist, often born out of the Adelaide Fringe Festival’s unquenchable demand for new work and unconventional performances spaces. A converted, formerly abandoned furniture store, Arthur Art Bar sits in the old showroom turned theatre and music venue. Part gallery, part dive bar, part black box theatre, this rugged and chaotic venue puts on everything from jazz and theatre to metal shows and art exhibitions. The gallery spaces upstairs [former small offices] hold some amazing exhibits including, currently, a giant spherical, wooden nest made out of olive branches you can climb into and hang out in.
03_The East End
Although running slightly afoul of gentrification and increased high rise housing in the city, Adelaide’s East End golden triangle of university pubs is a hotbed of music culture, with many of the most favoured hangout spots of the area being classic music venues. An old school pub in the heart of town, the Crown and Anchor Hotel [the Cranka] has quality live local music six nights a week in a dirty dive where you feel the community and soul of the place oozing up from the floors – turning even a quiet Wednesday night into a wild party.
04_A Massive Festival/ “Mad March”
For the last fifty years, the Adelaide Fringe Festival has ripped the mask of respectability from the city, revealing the wild heart of South Australia’s capital. It is second only to the behemoth that is the Edinburgh Fringe. During the month-long event that competes with the Adelaide Festival, WOMADelaide, and – until recently – a V8 motor race, Adelaide Fringe still manages to sell a million tickets over the month. Not bad for a city with just 1.2 million residents, situated in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of the world.
The whole city gets consumed by the festival; nowhere is safe from the artists that flood into the state. For a whole month there is a frenzy of performance, comedy theatre and music. Performers from across the globe take over, local pubs and street corners all become spaces to put on a show, the parks become carnivals, empty back rooms become stages and merriment can be found around every corner as the sheer amount of people that come to watch and take part fill the streets.
05_The Uni Town/ North Terrace
Universities and university students are a big part of Adelaide’s music scene – aside from the obvious audience crossover, Adelaide University is home to the country’s oldest tertiary conservatorium of music. Jazz in Adelaide is hard to keep track of at the best of times; the Elder Conservatorium of Music’s jazz and classical departments pump out what seems to be an endless supply of amazingly talented musicians. Despite the many regular jazz nights and clubs in Adelaide, chances are that in any random punk show or indie rock gig a number of these stupidly talented jazz students will star – inserting a flair that can surprise and raising the quality of what would otherwise have been a run of the mill gig experience. Adelaide University is special, sitting perhaps a literal stone’s throw away from all of the State’s cultural institutions: its art gallery, library, museum and festival centre. Its own UniBar was, for a long time, a mecca of live music in Adelaide; though left to stagnate, it’s now in new hands who are committed to returning it to its former live music glory.
06_A Huge Small Festival
Adelaide, as the capital of South Australia, is also known as the “festival state.” Apart from the Adelaide Fringe Festival, there are a plethora of other festivals throughout the year that ensure this mantle won’t be slipping anytime soon. The Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Guitar Festival, OzAsia, Adelaide Film Festival, Feast Festival, Illuminate, Adelaide Jazz Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, History Festival and DreamBIG Festival all feature music as a critical part of their programmes. Outside of the “festival season,” these events continue to barrage us with art around the year, throughout the city.
One of the biggest supporters of the city’s vibrant music scene, who was instrumental in helping shape it, is a record store: Clarity Records. Appearing to be just a regular vinyl and music store, the team is also responsible for the Day of Clarity festival. This giant of a micro music event has taken many forms – expanding from bands playing in store to taking over the entire East End of the city to give many of the best local acts a chance to perform with some of the best Australian bands of the time. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a Day of Clarity festival since COVID-19, but everyone is praying it comes back soon.
One thing I love about Adelaide is that local community radio still plays an important role in showcasing the city’s multiple genres, scenes and interests. Not beholden to commercial media gods, community radio gets to reflect its people and program as it sees fit. ThreeD Radio is one such station in Adelaide and is as much an anarchist collective of music lovers as a radio station – it always surprises you with its knowledge, depth and connection to community.
Adelaide’s resurgence as a cultural and artistic hub is testament to the resilience of its creative community and the indomitable spirit of its youth. The city’s diverse music scene, fueled by a rich tapestry of venues, festivals and community organisations, has reclaimed its position on the global cultural map. As it continues to evolve and adapt, Adelaide stands as a shining example of how music can thrive even in the most challenging of circumstances, reaffirming its status as the Festival State and a CIty of Music at the edge of the world.
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