Stars & Bars Festival Returns to Heathcote for the Ultimate Countrified Adventure

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Stars & Bars Festival Returns to Heathcote for the Ultimate Countrified Adventure

Star and Bars
Stars and Bars
Nathan Seeckts, Image Credit: Patrick Callow
The Seven Ups
Stars and Bars
1 / 5
Words by Talia Rinaldo

This epic music festival, a fusion of magical mystery musical bus tours and brewery/winery explorations, promises a weekend of star-studded entertainment against the backdrop of Heathcote's charming locales.

The legendary Stars & Bars Festival is making its grand return to Heathcote this month, this time expanding into a two-day musical spectacle like no other. Taking place on Friday, 26 April and Saturday, 27 April, this hybrid music festival combines the allure of a magical mystery bus tour and the infectious nature of country music with the delights of a winery and brewery exploration.

Now in its third year, Stars & Bars Festival Heathcote, created by industry veteran Lincon Boyd, is all about celebrating the best of music, wine, beer, spirits, food, and hospitality that the Heathcote region has to offer in the most experimental and adventurous way possible. 

Kicking off on Friday, 26 April, the festivities commence with a special Family Dinner at The Union Hotel Heathcote, featuring a delightful blend of cuisine and entertainment in true Stars & Bars style.

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

On Saturday, festival-goers are invited to embark on The Heathcote Express, an epic multi-locale magical mystery musical bus tour that culminates in the renowned Evening Session at Palling Bros Brewery. The tour, starting at 10:30 am, promises a scenic journey through Heathcote’s picturesque landscapes, including stops at Red Edge Winery for morning tea and wine tasting, historic Tooborac Hotel & Brewery for lunch, and Munari Wine at Lady’s Pass for a guided wine tasting and afternoon tea.

From engaging performances by incredibly talented artists to immersive experiences at unique locales, this festival promises an unforgettable adventure.

The Locales

At the heart of this whole experience is the festival locales. Carefully selected for their immersive qualities, the locales offer more than just venues for musical performances. They provide an enchanting backdrop with indoor/outdoor stages against stunning vistas, enhancing the overall experience for attendees.

Among the notable locales hosting this year’s festival is The Union Hotel Heathcote, a historic establishment renowned for its traditional charm, hearty meals and excellent selection of local wine and beer. This is where the festival kicks off with a Friday Night Family Dinner. 

Red Edge Winery, with its sweeping vistas, offers the perfect setting for morning tea, wine tasting and a taste of alt-country vibes during the festival.


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Meanwhile, the Tooborac Hotel & Brewery, steeped in history since 1857, promises a family-friendly atmosphere and modern craft beer delights. With an on-site brewery, this charming spot is also Victoria’s oldest National Trust-listed country pub. Munari Wines, a celebrated family-owned vineyard, invites visitors to experience the passion and precision behind their exceptional wines with an expertly guided wine tasting flight. 

And finally, a favourite on this whistle-stop tour, Palling Bros Brewery delivers the perfect backdrop for the climatic Evening Session. As the original brewer in Heathcote, this gem serves as the ultimate hub for handcrafted artisan beer, fine dining, and live music in the vibrant indoor-outdoor setting of the beer garden.

The Artists

As you taste and explore the Heathcote region with this countrified music bus tour, you’ll get to enjoy live performances from a handpicked selection of mavericks, maestros, and misfits guaranteed to captivate with their diverse sounds.

The Seven Ups

Prepare for a mesmerising musical journey with Melbourne’s very own The Seven Ups. This seven-piece powerhouse from the vibrant northern suburbs infuses funk, psychedelic rock, and cinematic soul into their electrifying performances. Fresh off the release of their masterful album A Free Blowing Wind in 2023, The Seven Ups promise to sweep you off your feet with their captivating blend of groovy rhythms and blistering solos. Having graced stages like the Port Fairy Folk Festival, they’re set to ignite the dancefloor at Palling Bros Brewery.


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Nathan Seeckts

Dynamic local singer-songwriter Nathan Seeckts seamlessly blends Americana, folk, country, and blues into his compelling music. Drawing inspiration from legends like Bruce Springsteen and Lucero, Seeckts crafts songs that resonate authentically with his audiences. With critically acclaimed albums under his belt, Seeckts’ performance, accompanied by bandmate Sean McDonnell on guitar duties, promises to be an unforgettable journey from Melbourne to Memphis.


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Riley Catherall

Australian artist Riley Catherall captivates audiences with his heartfelt storytelling and emotional depth in the Americana and alt-country music scenes. His debut album When I Go garnered critical acclaim, showcasing his ability to connect deeply with themes of love and loss. With a new release imminent, Catherall’s performance, backed by a full band, offers a preview of things to come from this rising star.

The Drunken Poachers

The Drunken Poachers have entertained audiences for over a decade with their rambunctious drinking songs and foot-stomping singalongs. Known for traversing the spectrum of Bluegrass and country music, they promise a special trio show for Stars and Bars, with a few surprises up their sleeve. 

Luke Sinclair

Luke Sinclair, of Raised By Eagles fame, presents his solo work ablaze with country soul, pop, and rock n’ roll. With his debut solo release ‘Heavy Dreams’, Sinclair showcases his evocative lyrics and universal songwriting that has garnered critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base. 

Grim Fawkner

Grim Fawkner, the rambling man of acoustic-driven storytelling, brings tales and musings from his global travels to the stage. From soft ballads to upbeat roots/country/blues, Fawkner’s performances connect with audiences of all sizes, making him a beloved figure in the folk scene.

Jungle Jim Smith

Prepare for an electrifying experience with Jungle Jim Smith, the one-man-electric-boogie-band. Armed with a foot-powered drum set and guitars, Jungle Jim delivers a dynamic mix of blues and garage grooves that guarantee an irresistible foot-tapping, head-bopping experience.


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Bill Barber

Blues virtuoso Bill Barber’s soulful voice and masterful guitar work resonate deeply with audiences. Celebrated for his electrifying live performances and profound connection with his listeners, Barber continues to push the boundaries of contemporary blues music.

Special Guest DJ Chunky Love

Geelong’s international superstar DJ Chunky Love brings Big G-Town Energy to the H-Town Long Weekender. With vintage vinyl classics and dancefloor fillers, DJ Chunky Love promises an unforgettable musical experience at both the Union Hotel Heathcote Family Dinner and the Palling Bros Brewery Evening Session.

Ticket Options 

For an unforgettable musical adventure at the Stars & Bars Festival in Heathcote, choose from three ticket options:

Heathcote Express Bus Tour: Join the all-day tour on 27 April for $120 + booking fee. Experience seven acts across four locales, with guided wine tastings and entry to the Evening Session included.

The Evening Session at Palling Bros Brewery: Enjoy performances by four acts for $30 + booking fee on 27 April from 6:00 pm to 11:30 pm. Limited tickets are available online or at the door.

Friday Night Family Dinner at The Union Hotel Heathcote: Kick off the weekend on Friday 26 April for $10 + booking fee. Enjoy food, drinks, and performances by Jungle Jim Smith, Bill Barber, and DJ Chunky Love.

With the (almost) Anzac Day long weekend providing ample time to explore Heathcote at leisure, the Stars & Bars Festival offers the perfect opportunity to leave the city behind and immerse yourself in Victoria’s heartland. 

So, why wait? Secure your tickets now and embark on a sonic journey like no other. As they say, buy the ticket, take the ride. Tickets are at