Goin’ Up The Country: Stars & Bars Music Festival is the must-attend experimental whistle-stop tour of Heathcote

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Goin’ Up The Country: Stars & Bars Music Festival is the must-attend experimental whistle-stop tour of Heathcote

The part country music festival, part mystery bus tour returning to Heathcote in April.

Off the back of its trail-blazing inaugural outing in 2022, Stars & Bars Festival returns to Heathcote in 2023. 

Bringing together a combination of amazingly talented artists, Heathcote’s finest wine, beer, spirits, food and hospitality, and some genuinely unique locales as the backdrop for this experiential festival event, Stars & Bars Festival will see punters take part in an experimental whistle-stop tour of Heathcote on Saturday, April 22 2023.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Created by Lincon Boyd, the brains behind the beloved past NaranaFest, this year’s newly minted edition returns with some fresh new locales, familiar favourites and a stellar handpicked lineup representing everything from Alt-Country, Americana, Heavy Groove, Funk & Soul, Blues & Roots and Electric Jungle Boogaloo. 

Essentially a hybrid of a country music festival, food and wine festival and regional bus tour, this year there are two ticket options up for grabs. 

The first is the luxury bus tour, which will showcase all eight acts across five beautiful locales over 12 hours with complimentary wine-tasting sessions, afternoon tea and access to the evening session. Bus tour tickets are limited, and they go for $100.

For those that can’t spend the whole day, there’s a secondary option to join the Festival at Palling Bros Brewery in the Beer Garden from 6pm where you’ll witness four of the acts. Evening tickets are just $40 with limited tickets available at the door. 

The Locales

The unique central Victorian Goldfields locales are at the heart of Stars and Bars. Much more than just pubs, breweries and wineries, these locales are hand-picked, immersive spaces with stories to tell, perfectly suited for musical performances with a mix of indoor and outdoor stages backdropped with stunningly serene vistas.

The adventure begins with a visit to the 150-year-old pub Tooborac Hotel & Brewery. A country hotel circa 1857 with an onsite brewery, this charming spot is Victoria’s oldest National Trust-listed country pub – renowned for being family-friendly with a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Next is a visit to boutique winery Domaine Asmara, located in the heart of the rich Cambrian region of Heathcote in Victoria. This little gem is a family-owned vineyard producing complex and flavoursome wines. 

Arriving for afternoon tea, punters will indulge in the surroundings at the five-star boutique winery Wren Estate in the shadow of Mt Camel. With a beautiful olive grove and new cellar door, Wren Estate’s wines are produced in small batches from the home block and micro-managed by Michael Wren, who has over 20 vintages experience across Australia, Europe and the US. 

Located just minutes from Heathcote on Wild Duck Creek, Condie Estate is a small-batch producer owned by Richie & Rosanne Condie. Their fruit is organically grown in two vineyards and the wines are made by hand. 

The final destination on this whistle-stop tour, is Palling Bros Brewery and its newly expanded Beer Garden, delivering the perfect backdrop for the climactic Evening Session. Located in the heart of the central Goldfields, this stunning tin-shed establishment specialises in handcrafted artisan beer, fine dining, and fittingly, live music.

The Artists

As you taste and explore along the countrified Musical Bus Tour, you’ll also get to enjoy the live country, blues and folks music from some of Victoria’s biggest and brightest stars: 

The Seven Ups 

Back from headlining last year’s event, The Seven Ups are guaranteed to get the dancefloor moving. Hailing from the northern suburbs of Melbourne, the original seven-piece Lo-Fi Heavy Groove party band skillfully blend influences from 1970s underground Funk with Jazz, Psych and Fuzz Rock. 


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Karl S. Williams

Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and poet, Karl S. Williams is an artist you never saw coming. Bringing along his trademark solo set, frequently referred to as a visceral and ‘spiritual experience’, Williams promises to leave his audience slightly altered in the best way possible. With his heart on his sleeve, this is blues, roots, folk and Americana, but not as you know it. 

Leslie D.King & The Trembling Shakes

With influences drawing far and wide from The Alabama Shakes and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats to Big Smoke and Steve Smyth, stellar musician Leslie D. King and his carefully hand-picked band The Trembling shakes are fun, soulful and full of emotive energy that only can come from the heart. Telling tales of love, loss, finding yourself and promises made to friends, King is armed with some new tunes and a killer live set. 

Jungle Jim Smith

Guaranteed to kick out the jams playing gritty, foot-stomping blues and garage grooves, Jungle Jim Smith is a one-man electric boogie band that has to be seen to be believed. Switching effortlessly between a 3-string cigar box guitar and a reverb-drenched 6-string all the while cranking out primal foot-powered drum beats, you can expect everything from improvised jam-lands to rockin’ tunes to get the dance floor shakin’.

Nathan Seeckts

A powerful singer-songwriter who effortlessly fuses the sounds of Americana, folk, country and blues delivered with a commanding voice that is equal parts gravel and passion, Seeckts has earned himself a solid reputation over the years for his world-class songwriting ability. With equal amounts of power and immediacy in his music, catch him at his best at Condie Estate.

Riley Catherall

Melbourne-based Australian country-Americana artist, Riley Catherall has been a name gracefully on the rise within the Australian Alt-Country Music scene. Earning a reputation as one of the country’s most promising songwriters through his poetic sincerity and alluring live shows, not only does Riley’s song tug at the heartstrings with his ability to story tell, but he’s also able to keep us captivated for the entirety of any performance. Witness that magic at Wren Estate. 

Rhianna Fibbins

Having spent many years with her sister in country band ‘The Sideshow Brides’, Rhianna’s solo career sees her truly shine, with her unique brand of country music that weaves the nitty gritty with a touch of homespun longing. Born and raised in the Hunter Valley, the now locally-based singer-songwriter shares warm and emotive songs close to her heart, weaving themes of true heartbreak and grit with optimistic charm. 

Pete Daly

With a back catalogue of songs demonstrating his natural, kinetic feel for the acoustic guitar and gentle, earthy vocals with flecks of alt-country and cinematic surf rock solos, Pete Daly promises a memorable performance when he kicks off proceedings on the famous Tooborac Hotel stage. There’s a sense of insular reflection, sparse instrumentation gives his recordings and live performances an isolated yet contemplative quality. 

Head to www.starsandbars.com.au/