Now or Never Festival

Thu 17th August, 2023 – Sat 2nd September, 2023
Multiple locations
A multi-sensory dining experience by Supernormal, music festivals inside the Royal Exhibition Building, a pop-up 360-degree dome cinema, a 1.2-kilometre art trail, Semi Permanent’s new conference and more are taking over the city.

The City of Melbourne is hosting a massive new festival, with events taking place in nightlife spots, historic buildings, city streets and more. Called Now or Never, the event brings together art, ideas, music and technology.

The centrepiece is four nights of live music and performances at the Royal Exhibition Building, with both international and Australian headliners.

On Thursday August 24, Orchestra Victoria is performing composer Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, a genre-defining work by the minimalist pioneer, alongside a newly commissioned video piece by Kiwi multimedia artist Jesse Woolston. The next day, Friday August 25, English electronic duo Autechre is heading up “a journey of sonic exploration” played in total darkness, with 3D audio-visuals by artist Max Cooper and sets by British techno experimentalists Actress and Giant Swan.

The iconic structure is then taken over by Untitled Group, the producers behind Pitch Music & Arts, Beyond the Valley and Sun Cycle, for a club night featuring German house and techno duo me, Swedish house DJ Axel Boman, local club favourites CC:Disco, Ayebatonye and Dameeeela – it’s happening on Saturday August 25. And finally, Sunday August 26 will see an Australian exclusive performance by America’s Kelela, supported by fellow avant-garde R’n’B performer serpentwithfeet.

The southern hemisphere’s biggest and longest-running design festival, Semi Permanent, is also returning to Melbourne on Thursday August 24. Filmmaker and frequent Wes Anderson collaborator Roman Coppola is headlining the one-day conference, called Never Permanent, which’ll explore the intersections of tech, design and creativity. Other names on the bill include musician Ta-ku, multimedia artist and musician Serwah Attafuah, designer and technologist Mindy Seu, Meta's VP of product design for AR and wearables, and more.

Another event to watch out for is the Neversphere, a massive pop-up dome in the Melbourne Museum forecourt that’ll be used as an immersive 360-degree cinema – and of the city’s best restaurants is popping up inside it, too. 360º Dining with Supernormal features one-of-a-kind dining from Andrew McConnell’s popular eatery. Guests will enjoy a set menu with a Four Pillars cocktail and matched Mitchelton Wines, while art from Ryoichi Kurokawa, Pantha du Prince and Natalia Stuyk is projected all around them.

A 1.2-kilometre stretch of Docklands is being transformed with a huge art trail by Experimenta, an organisation that explores the intersection of art and technology through robotics, creative coding, data, and virtual and augmented reality.

Nonstop Wknd will feature 12 gigs by 70 artists in six Melbourne venues (including icons such as The Toff, Section 8, Max Watts and Miscellania). Meanwhile, at the Shrine of Remembrance, Hungarian artist Laszlo Bordos is using 3D-mapping, sculptural illuminations and projections to bring the iconic structure to life like never before, alongside a “sonic landscape” by a Czech composer.

Around 200,000 people are expected to attend the events over 17 days, so plan ahead. Tickets are available now; $1 from each ticket sold will be used to ensure the event is carbon-neutral.