STANDING ROOM ONLY: Kalpowar's newly-renovated hall was sold out for a night of world-class music.
STANDING ROOM ONLY: Kalpowar's newly-renovated hall was sold out for a night of world-class music. Melinda Jones

Community-minded festival brings the best to the bush

A NEW-look Kalpowar Hall was sold out on Saturday night as townspeople and travelling concert-goers spilled onto the verandah and stairs to catch the anticipated performances of folk musicians Harry Jakamarra and Elwood Gray, and award-winning Canadian duo Madison Violet.

Almost $60,000 in funding over the past two years brought the little old hall back to life and helped Kalpowar land a coveted spot on the Festival of Small Halls tour.

The concept is the brainchild of Woodfordia - creator of the renowned Woodford Folk Festival - which endeavours to bring rural communities together by hand-picking the best contemporary acoustic artists for performances off the beaten track.

Festival Of Small Halls tour manager Aimee Gray said Kalpowar, the penultimate stop on the festival's 20-date spring calendar, was a highlight for artists and promoters alike.

"I think it's a fantastic concept. It's really important,” Ms Gray said.

"There is a want and need in regional communities for access to quality shows without having to leave town.

"It fits with the ethos of folk musicians, who are all about community and telling stories that connect with people.

"It's nice for the artists to experience the hospitality of regional Australia and it's a special opportunity for them to see parts of the country that many don't get to see.

"We've been welcomed with open arms everywhere we've been and it has been really beautiful.”

Homegrown country sensations, Broome brothers Harry Jakammara and Elwood Grey, got the nod as the tour's Aussie act.

Up-and-coming artists Harry & Elwood Gray said they have loved the small halls experience.
Up-and-coming artists Harry & Elwood Gray said they have loved the small halls experience. Mackenzie Colahan

Small town boys themselves, Harry, 26, and Elwood, 19, said when they were asked to be a part of a boutique festival that brought high-quality music to outback Australia, they knew it was a match made in heaven.

"We love the concept of brining communities together,” Harry said.

"This is not like just rocking up to play at a pub. It's not any old gig.

"In the remote, drought-affected areas we have had a chance to meet people who are genuinely appreciative we're playing there.”

Elwood said the past month on the road had been one of the most enjoyable of the pair's burgeoning career.

"There has been so many good shows,” he said.

"You get an interesting experience at each little town.

"Some of these gigs have been our most memorable of all time. It's the best tour we've been on, definitely.”

The boys know modern audiences are fickle and the music industry can be unforgiving.

For unheralded artists with such a raw, unique sound, breaking through to commercial success is tough.

The duo have been grafting - constantly writing and touring in the hope their break will come.

The young musicians' star is starting to shine and they're now getting the recognition they deserve.

The Kalpowar Hall at full capacity.
The Kalpowar Hall at full capacity. Melinda Jones

Still, they're aware breakout acts are often one-hit-wonders and they said they have no desire to be just a flavour of the month.

"The most sustainable careers are built on hard work,” Harry said.

"Musicians and bands blow up overnight but they can also disappear overnight.

"We've been trying to tour consistently but we love it. It's fun.”

For Kalpowar, members of the small community commented on the warm, positive atmosphere of the festival and how nice it was to see people not glued to their phones.

The successful bid for a spot on the tour was made by the Kalpowar Hall Committee and organiser Meagan Ellerton said the feedback from those in attendance made the hard work worthwhile.

"Our local community benefited greatly with all the accommodation in Kalpowar sold out for the night,” she said.

"A local family, Barb McEwan, provided a gourmet buffet breakfast for the tour manager, production crew and the artists.

"We dived head-first into organising the event with a bank balance that was sad to say the least.

"The North Burnett Regional Council contributed to the success of the event by supporting our committee by providing marquees, chairs, wheelie bins and more.

"The grant we received from the Regional Art Development Fund was what really made our event possible and allowed us to cater to the needs of those attending the festival.”

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