The regional tour of Keep the Circle Unbroken is coming to Kilmore Gaol next month, kicking off a monthly gig series at the venue.
“It’s different,” Strath Creek musician and event organiser Bobby Valentine said.
“It’s done in the round, everyone sits in a circle and that was a revelation because it was amazing how it drew people in.”
Rugs will be laid on the gaol’s bluestone floor and the group of artists on guitar, bass, drums, banjo, dobro and fiddle, as well as six to eight singers, form a circle facing inwards. The audience, seated around the circumference, peers in.
“It’s almost like watching 25 people at a jam session,” Rod McCracken, owner of Kilmore’s Guitar Room and event organiser, said.
Keep the Circle Unbroken is a collaboration between artists from across Victoria, including Debbie Byrne, The Screaming Jets and The Masters Apprentices.
While the show is primarily in the style of blue grass, an all-acoustic style of American country-folk music, Mr Valentine said it was engaging, high energy, with ‘a bit of everything’ thrown in.
“It started in the big lockdown last year. It was originally a seated show but ended up being streamed live,” he said.
“It was really well received, which was both gratifying and surprising given what was going on at the time.
“On the strength of all of that, Craig Johnston [a Melbourne-based singer-songwriter], who runs the whole thing, it’s kind of his baby, organised a miraculous regional tour, which we did in March this year.”
After taking the show to Melbourne, Warrnambool, Gippsland, and a sundry of small towns in between, they’re now planning a national tour in 2022, with a few more shows to round out this year.
Mr McCracken and Mr Valentine suggested bringing it to Kilmore as a launchpad for their new venture; a ‘stripped-down, unplugged’ gig series of both headline and local names at the gaol.
“This is a real litmus test to be able to launch it,” Mr McCracken said.
“The idea is to bring up marquee acts, have a local unsigned act that we can promote and give a bit of airtime to, and then a big act afterwards and a couple of beers in the courtyard at the gaol – happy days.”
“Once a month, maybe it’s an off night like a Wednesday or 2pm Sunday, so we’re not interfering with the big-ticket items for a lot of these Melbourne acts that have to sacrifice a massive gig to come up to us.”
Mr McCracken said there was a lot of young talent and untapped skill in the area that he hoped to spotlight; aiming for a spring launch.
“My experience in the year and a half since opening the shop is that there’s a hell of a lot of players in the area and musos,” he said.
“The music program at Assumption College is a really massive, booming space with really good young acts, so I’m really hoping to use it as a way to promote some of the local acts.”
He said a show of enthusiasm for the initial Keep the Circle Unbroken event will help the pair launch the next step.
Keep the Circle Unbroken is at the Kilmore Gaol, 8 Sutherland Street, Kilmore, on Sunday July 4, from 2pm. Tickets can be booked at www.trybooking.com/book/sessions?eid=773793, and more information is available at www.keepthecircleunbroken.com.