Sharni Honor rounds the corner to the car park in her van.
I didn’t know what she drove, but this doesn’t surprise me one bit. Patterned scarves are hanging from the windows, and what I think is a dream catcher is hanging from the rearview mirror. Does she have Persian rugs in there right now? It wouldn’t surprise me.
She leaps out of the car and walks my way, arms open to hug me with an enthused, “Hi mate! How are you?”
We walk into Karma & Crow and a man behind the coffee machine throws his hands up with excitement when he sees Sharni. She’s contagious.
The 24-year-old woman sitting in front of me – blonde curls bleached from time spent in the sun, patterned flowing dress, with the biggest smile – is the force behind The Porch Sessions, Porchland festival, and a recent recipient of the Robert Stigwood Fellowship Program for music industry entrepreneurs. Sharni’s Porch Sessions were originally born when the need to organise an event came around for her final assessment at Music SA. Enter the start of one hell of a good time.
Once our coffees are slid in front of us, Sharni tells me how she would explain The Porch Sessions to someone new to the concept.
“It would be based around the idea of a travelling backyard music festival… Over the last couple of years it’s broadened to being creators of nice times. You know? Because it’s a year-round calendar of fruity events in weird spaces.”
Over the last four years spent running Porch events Sharni has become hugely influential in the South Australian arts scene. But the ties have always been there through organising gigs of her own. At 18 she also started contributing to former Adelaide music magazine, Rip It Up.
“Rip It Up was the best way to be immersed in the music scene straight off the bat. Every week I would get delivered 10/15 albums of folk, blues, roots, soul… It was an entry-level knowledge of what the scene was doing at that present time. It was second-to-none in terms of getting a feel for who’s doing what.”
It’s clear that being surrounded by young people in the arts for many years has made Sharni deeply invested, passionate and loyal to those she’s surrounded by.
“[Youth] bring this fresh burst of passion, investment and energy, which is what any scene needs to remain present and healthy. There are a lot of glamorous sides to any music or arts scene, but the amount of hard work that it actually takes to get something off the ground… There’s this low-lying current that a lot of people don’t recognise.
And is Adelaide’s music scene dying out?
“No way. It’s such an amazing thing at the moment. And I think the cool thing about it is how cross-genre supportive it is. In a lot of scenes, a lot of people stick to their niche and that’s how they exist. For the music scene at the moment, everyone is dipping their toes into everything. So people that go to rock shows go to folk shows, people that play in rock bands go to folk shows as well, and vice versa. It’s really healthy and supportive in that sense. And everyone knows everyone, and I just love that.”
When asked what the best bit of the Adelaide arts scene is, there isn’t a single beat before Sharni answers with “the community”. The commitment to building one comes through in everything she does. Almost everyone working at the café knows Sharni, and they all introduce themselves to me. As though, if you’re with Sharni, you must be nice – because she is.
“Have you seen the film Into The Wild?” she asks. “There’s this amazing realisation near the end of his journey where he says this one line, ‘Happiness only exists when shared’.”
“And I’m the most passionate person about solitude… but then I think realising where you’re at and how stoked you are day-to-day – that’s the kind of realisation you have around other people. I think that’s the cornerstone of community for me. People can change your life. And they do so everyday.”
The group of people Sharni has brought together, not only in real life but online with everything Porch-related, is something worth celebrating.
“For everyone to feel part of this massive Adelaide tribe is kind of what we try to do with our social stuff. It doesn’t need to be the ‘hard sell’ all the time. If people want to buy a ticket, they’ll work it out. For people to feel a part of something is the whole point of social media, so that’s what we try to do with that.”
“I’m very passionate about social media,’ Sharni continues. “I love it. I love making up words and shit. It makes me so happy.”
Later, she describes the woman behind Tram Sessions as a “lord sword”. You can find sprinklings of Sharni’s personality and incredible vocabulary throughout Facebook events and Instagram posts, as well as when she’s describing her best friends. It’s a treat.
Tram Sessions has been based in Melbourne for a number of years, and when Sharni was approached to start it in Adelaide for Umbrella Winter City Sounds, she jumped at the idea.
“If there’s a session of some description, I’m on board.”
“Being 20 minute sessions, people get on, people get off, people don’t know where to look, people clap. It’s the greatest experience.”
With the Melbourne Tram Sessions people can find upcoming shows online. Adelaide has been a little different.
“Middle of the day, no one knows, we all just meet at a different tram stop. It’s like Anchorman with the conch shell. It’s like, ‘News team! Assemble!’ and we all come from different corners of the city running in and get on a tram together and off we go.”
Sharni seemingly thrives on creating special moments in unexpected places. She notes some standout moments as a punter at Bon Iver’s For Emma concert at Thebarton Theatre, as well as Nelly’s concert last year (dancing with a Cruiser in hand). This woman goes all out to have a good time, and dedicates her life to making magic for everyone else.“I guess all our concepts started like, ‘Hey, how would I like to experience my favourite bands?’ Like, why does the consumption of music have to be in traditional regimented spaces? I think there’s so much to be said for the kind of atmosphere you can create before the music even starts that alludes to how much of a good time people are going to have.”
Around us, the people of Karma & Crow are sweeping and packing up for the day. We’ve been sitting together for an hour, but to postpone leaving I ask what the dream is.
“Can I put out a few?” Absolutely. “In terms of a concept I’m wanting to put together, it would be a drive-in session. Setting up a little sexy stage, everyone drives in, cracks the bonnet, has a couple of beers, choc tops. Go bananas.”
“In terms of a life dream, I’ve always been kind of keen to run a tiny little venue by the sea somewhere. Maybe when I have little people and a few greys. That would be a great way to lock into a space.”
Before we get up and leave, Sharni says, “I just want to sit here and chat for the rest of the afternoon! Mate, I think we should be friends.”
It’s still winter when we meet, but it’s the first day the sun has come out in months. It’s warm. And I have no doubt this is all due to Sharni.
This woman could talk the clouds into disappearing forever.