Music should be an all-out assault that envelops the mind, body and soul: the lore promised by wellness living; the drug that doesn’t make you chew the inside of your mouth off and leave you with a raging comedown. And although Vivid Sydney is split roughly into three subdivisions, the division between these blur ensuring each contribution is a multi-sensory experience, entwining music with art, ideas, lights and technology, all helping to celebrate Sydney as an epicentre of creativity and inspiration.
Eight years in and Vivid Live have established themselves as one of the premiere festivals in the entire world.
Vivid hasn’t quite reached veteran status but, now in its eighth year, is firmly out of the wobbly teething stage. This year will see the festival hijack the city for 23 days and nights, making 2016 the longest yet, and its unique, overlapping amalgamation of components has earnt it its stripes as the largest event of its kind. Even the city of light, Paris, only dares host events lasting a night – Nuit Blanche for art and light, Fête de la Musique for music. Perhaps the only downside to this is that Vivid inevitably becomes a road to insomnia, as you find yourself exploring the city at all hours, overcome with FOMO.
Part of Vivid Live’s draw is, perhaps inevitably, its spectacular setting. But the Sydney Opera House also lends itself to epitomise what the festival is built on: the contrast of old with new. The Australian Indigenous artwork teaming the sails looks simultaneously forwards and backwards, and Vivid celebrates musical icons who’ve influenced entire generations on equally footing with fresh, innovative artists. It’s a time-honoured tradition to honour the most well-known artist with the latest timeslot, even in minute details, like giving them a largest font on collateral. But for Vivid, the ranking order rulebook gets kinda refreshingly thrown out the window.
Although a fair number of Vivid’s events are free, the line up this year is the kind that makes you want to peer cautiously into your bank account and realise that food’s probably a luxury you can live without for a couple of weeks. Previous years have seen an impressive list of residencies, from Karen O to Kraftwerk, The Cure to Morrissey, and Lauryn Hill to Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Vivid has also hosted milestones – both The Drones and Future Classic have celebrated anniversaries onstage. And what better place to do so. It has seen albums debuted, courtesy of Daniel Johns and Empire of the Sun, and this year’s no exception: Esperanza Spalding will perform brand new music she promises will unfold as “live music vignettes”, and Tiny Ruins will preview her forthcoming third album.
Vivid also allows artist the opportunity to present in forms we don’t normally associate with them – something other festivals could seldom administer. New Order will bring with them the New Order Project, a series of exhibitions, screenings and talks, which will touch on design, nightclubs, photography and running record labels; BJÖRK will premiere her virtual reality project BJÖRK DIGITAL, an intimate merging of surround sound and vision, alongside a curated program of music videos spanning her 24-year career; Antony and the Johnson’s Anohni will put on a multimedia show; and Goodgod will be hosting a hedonistic rave cave. Bands are inherently visual as well as musical, and that’s truly the epitome of what makes Vivid so unique. It’s also great to catch those almost unreal moments of juxtaposition, such as Deafheaven performing black metal on a stage preconceived for ballet and opera.
The rest of the musical line up is the opportune type that smashes together all manner of musical cultures and genres, including future-soul, hip hop, indie folk and rock, jazz, post-rock, shoegaze, synth-pop and even self-described ‘multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic ganger shit’. Bon Iver, Hiatus Kaiyote with Sampa The Great and Oneohtrix Point Never will perform, as well as Poliça, Ta-ku featuring Wafia and the Wayne Shorter Quartet; plus Max Richter, who’ll put on an overnight performance of his record-breaking 31-track, eight-hour album Sleep. Maybe start paving the way for a sickie for that one?
Vivid LIVE will run from 27 May to 13 June.