It’s an eclectic month of music in Melbourne, from a Hugh Jackman arena spectacular to orchestral renditions of iconic video games to the return of the city’s bravest festival. And there's an interactive kid-friendly day party from the brains behind Laneway Festival.
Buoyed by the success of his last screen musical, The Greatest Showman (and its chart-topping soundtrack), Hugh Jackman will perform songs from his stage and film career backed by a live orchestra in arenas around Australia.
The boy from OZ. Australia’s chosen son. Jackman’s the all-singing, all-dancing, baddie-slicing, muscle-bound boy next door. He wins Tony awards pirouetting around Broadway one minute, then, as his X-Men character Wolverine, proceeds to stab and maim people with six blades protruding from his fists.
At MIFF on Thursday night last week, the Australian premiere of the The Australian Dream – a new documentary on the booing of Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes – concluded with a standing ovation. The applause was a moving rejection of the racism and violence inflicted on Australia’s First Nations. The next night at 8.30pm at a civilised Fitzroy North pub, a fight broke out and a man was punched to the ground, where he lay bleeding on the terrazzo floor from a gash on his head.
While it isn’t a problem unique to this country, violence and machismo are built into Australia’s identity – despite its attempts to crawl out of the last century. All of which is a long way of saying that although Jackman’s Hollywood charms feel like they come from a different age, in many ways he’s a mirror of a country learning to discover its sensitive side, while struggling to hold onto the sweat, blood and muscle of its past.
Hugh Jackman plays Rod Laver Arena on August 16, 17, 18 and 27. Tickets here.
If there’s one Melbourne musician primed to break out of the local scene in a big way, it’s Allysha Joy. The accomplished, self-taught pianist and singer works with the nebulous 30/70 Collective, a group of jazz-trained musicians riding a second wave of neo-soul, following in the footsteps of Hiatus Kaiyote.
While Joy’s music is broadly accessible, you can hear experimentation all over her 2018 album Acadie : Raw. Take opening track FNFL, for example – Joy’s gravelly yet buoyant vocals flicker across the beats in a near scat, before changing gear to glide over her organ work. It’s a seriously impressive feat to pack so many twists in. Elsewhere on the record you’ll find jazzed-up ’90s boom-bap hip-hop beats, and a raw, blistering vocal performance on Know Your Power.
You can also hear Joy on Sunny Side Up, a compilation of Melbourne’s young rising jazz stars, recently released on celebrated BBC DJ Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings. From house music to ’70s funk, the influences on Sunny Side Up are diverse, but its Joy’s track Orbit – an exploration and celebration of the menstrual cycle – that provides a moving cap to the song cycle (and showcases Joy’s poetic talents).
Soon, Joy and 30/70 Collective will appear on Seven Wonders, Plug Seven Records's compilation of emerging groove-led Melbourne musicians, and they’ve also got an album dropping in September on London-based label Rhythm Section International.
So get along to Joy’s August residency at Geddes Lane Ballroom – gigs this intimate won’t last for long.
Allysha Joy plays Geddes Lane Ballroom on August 8, 15, 22 and 29. Tickets here.
Wham Bam Thank You Fam
There’s only a brief window of time when you can dance with your kid and you can both enjoy the experience. By age 10 they’ve started down the horrific road of self-consciousness, and by age 16 they’ll have forced you down it too.
As well as making the most of treasured moments, it’s also important to teach your wee ones the joys of an open and respectful dance floor – it’s an important lesson to prime them for all-nighters at Revs in a few years. Which is where Wham Bam Thank You Fam comes in, a new, kid-friendly day party hosted by Jerome Borazio of Laneway fame and celebrated music journalist Mikey Cahill.
As well as a dance floor soundtracked by “floaty disco” and “Pixar classics for maximum interpretative dance” from DJs Joey Lightbulb (Cahill), Bruce Swayin’, and Single Dad, there’ll also be DJ lessons for up-and-coming jockeys, pizza-making lessons courtesy of Slice Girls West, a Fortnite dance zone, textas to destroy the walls of the drawing room, a meditation and yoga room, and free parents counselling from C-Collective.
Teach your resident anklebiters the difference between good tunes and crap ones while they still believe you. It’s your duty as a parent – and might be one of the few parental duties that will actually be fun.
Wham Bam Thank You Fam takes place at The Line on August 18. Tickets and more information here.
Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy
Few things symbolise how embedded video games are in modern culture than the combination of game soundtrack and philharmonic orchestra on display at Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy – a live rendition of music from the game first released in 1987.
As with DJs who perform a similar trick, having your media recreated in the rarefied world of concert halls and classically trained musicians, is the last step in the line of full-blown mainstream acceptance.
If you haven’t played one of the sprawling Final Fantasy video games, it might be hard to understand how someone could attach emotion to a bunch of blocky pixels, as seen in the series high-water mark Final Fantasy IIV. You might even think it’s silly to have music composed entirely on a Roland SC-88 synthesizer recreated by live instruments and highly accomplished musicians. But you also wouldn’t have lived through several hours of gameplay only to have Aerith – a character with healing abilities, the emotional heart of your travelling party of warriors – suddenly killed with no option of a replay. Nor would you have experienced the jaunty jubilation of winning your first Chocobo race. You’ve got Brahms, Beethoven and Bach, but there are millions of others who appreciate Final Fantasy IIV composer Nobuo Uematsu just as much.
Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy takes place at Melbourne Arena on August 24. Tickets here.
Supersense: Festival of the Ecstatic
Curated by New York-based Australian musician Sophia Brous, Supersense: Festival of the Ecstatic leaps across borders, world views and experimental art practices. It touches the outer reaches of pop music, theatre, performance and ancient music traditions from around the world.
There are some big names on the music bill, including New Zealand folk-singer surrealist Aldous Harding, who recently released her stunning third album Designer. Also on the bill is Harding’s countryman Marlon Williams, whose stirring take on country music will be backed by an exclusive orchestral presentation of his work by The Impossible Orchestra.
On a more experimental bent, there’ll be a performance from seminal avant-garde jazz group the Art Ensemble of Chicago. And in an Australian exclusive, Robert Wilson – an icon of American experimental theatre – will perform and direct celebrated composer John Cage’s A Lecture On Nothing, a key text of experimental 20th-century literature.
There’ll also be a diverse range of musicians from non-Western musical traditions. Master Iraqi musician Hamid Al-Saadi will perform Maqam, a centuries-old poetic music tradition. From Indonesia comes Rully Shabara’s Setabuhan, a modern reinterpretation of tribal trance music accompanied by martial artists. And Mohammad Reza Mortazavi from Iran will bring his up-tempo, danceable rhythms performed with Persian hand drums. This is just a touch of what’s on offer at one of Melbourne’s most artistically daring music festivals.
Supersense: Festival of the Ecstatic runs from August 23 to 25 at Arts Centre Melbourne. Tickets here.