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Finding The Heart of Australia @ Savannah In the Round

Report by Leigh Hanna. All photos © Copyright 2023 Nicole Nighthawk – Nighthawk Creative

Leigh Hanna and Nicole Nighthawk checked out Savannah in the Round October 6-8, 2023, the unique music weekend in the Cairns Hinterland. Here’s their Day Three report for Australian Musician

Sunday has that morning-after-a-party feeling. The campground is looking scant before lunchtime as travellers get a head start on the journey back home for school and work tomorrow.

Both the people and bars are off to a slower start. The arena gates have closed to begin the momentous task of dismantling the Main Stage. All acts are in the Big Top for the final day of SITR.

Sweet, chilled country vibes are drifting from Racheal Whitchurch on stage. We settle into chairs as Racheal closes her set. We’re expecting a cruisy afternoon. We were wrong.

Next, on stage appears five, barefoot blokes in faded ‘wife beater’ singlets, blue denim jeans, and worn-to-death cowboy hats. The Pigs have arrived.

The Pigs

With names like T Bone, Stretch, Cousin Shamus, Cousin Bert, and Cousin Montz, we didn’t hold high hopes for musical ability from this bunch.

We were wrong. Again.

With frightfully clever lyrics, interpretive dance (I use this term loosely), and incredible talent, the awe-filled crowd is roaring with laughter within seconds..

Perfect baritone vocals rumble through the mic from Cousin Bert on the double bass. Cousin Shamus, when he’s not jumping off stage to cartwheel (again, I use this term loosely) across the dancefloor is a sensation on the drums. The talented T Bone and Stretch on guitar and vocals have us hanging on their every word. Cousin Montz on the Banjo is a delight. They know how to work a crowd. 

A ripper of a medley sees The Pigs brilliantly squeeze almost every Elton John hit into one six-minute song. This band sits somewhere between local larrikins having a laugh, community theatre, a barbershop quartet (plus one), and a polished, musical stage show. Adult humour is tastefully implied to remain G-rated in a family environment. A skill not many professional comedians have mastered. If you happen to see The Pigs on a lineup, do yourself a bloody big favour and go see them.

Across the other side of the Mareeba Rodeo grounds, the afternoon’s alive and kicking and the Bull Bar is cranking. So, this is where the local muso crowd has been hanging.

Chocolate Starfish

Local legend and music teacher, Mick Porter and his band of TAFE students are shaking the dust from the Bull Bar’s rafters with loud, funky rock beats. Once more, I find myself proud to see so much support for local acts at SITR. Caught up in the excitement of the Bull Bar, we nearly miss seeing Chocolate Starfish on the Big Top stage. Dashing across in time to catch the last few songs, a magnificent showman in a black-winged cape, golden tassels, mohawks, and good times were waiting for us.

As a warm-up for their 30th anniversary tour, Chocolate Starfish have turned this enormous tent into a raging rock concert!

As the sun sets on the final day of Savannah in the Round, golden light filters into the big top.

We are introduced to Mareeba’s homegrown star returning to her hometown. It’s been many years since Jade Holland was crowned 2006 Mareeba Rodeo Princess, but she has not been forgotten. Old schoolmates and family wait eagerly to see their local darling on stage.

Jade enters in a summery, flared jumpsuit as her fans dance to Dream Wild. Catchy pop-country tunes have hips bumping and hands clapping on the floor. Jade is filming her live set for her new single release, Hometown. Written about Mareeba, Jade expresses her joy about being home to share this moment with her friends.

Jade is still brimming with emotion when we catch up with her. As she takes photos and signs merchandise for the long line of admirers, she tells us she was choking back tears through her show.

When asked about her experience of playing SITR in her hometown, Jade says,

“It was really nerve-wracking, to be quite honest. I remember performing the first song and then feeling everything and every single emotion that went along with it. The tears welled up in the middle of the second song, and then I couldn’t control it. It’s a phenomenal feeling to be home.”

“Savannah in the Round is incredible! I hope we can come back next year, and I’ll be taking a whole week or two to vacation here and visit everyone.”

So, what’s next for Jade Holland?
“Well, I’m touring for Home Town and working on a new album that I hope to release next year. I’m taking my time to write it. I don’t want it to be generic – I want my songs to be felt throughout your soul”

I walked into Savannah in the Round three days ago and found the heart of Australia. Dozens of acts, hundreds of talented musicians, and thousands of music lovers and friendly faces. SITR has brought rural Far North Queensland closer together. It highlights what it means to be a musician. Music is about connection. It’s a celebration of what it is to be human.

Thanks to for the hospitality

And more Day 3 photos courtesy Nicole Nighthawk – Nighthawk Creative

And thanks to Nicole and Leigh for the report



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