Music, tennis and beer: Beat's guide to the Australian Open 2018

There's a lot more to the Australian Open than world-class tennis. 

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The Australian Open is the ultimate summer festival where music-lovers can dance and sporting buffs can frolic. Perch up in Garden Square as all the action ensues on the big screen, meander the outside courts and witness tennis battles like no other or head over to the AO Live Stage where music’s most talented put on a show. Like a cauldron of all your wildest dreams, the Australian Open will enchant as much as it will inspire. 

Introducing the AO Live Stage + AO Festival

When living legend Jimmy Barnes was revealed as the flagship act of the Australian Open’s music program, the word was out that an impressive lineup would follow. And so it has; 15 consecutive days of live music on the AO Live Stage brings punters a double treat night after night. Each bill has not one, but two acts set to enliven Birrarung Marr with a party atmosphere.

Barnes will take to the stage on the eve of the Australian Open as part of a charity concert raising money to FightMND. Supporting the tournament’s commitment to battling Motor Neurone Disease, Barnes will be joined by local icons Dallas Crane to perform a career-spanning set for eager punters.

The music doesn’t stop there, the next 14 nights will see musicians from all over the world ignite the dancefloor. Global pop heavyweights Rudimental will bring all their hits to the stage while superstars TLC also perform as well as Tina Arena, Client Liaison, Meg Mac, James Reyne, Bliss n Eso, Illy and more for what’s set to be a special summer at the Grand Slam event.

Within arm’s reach of the AO Live Stage is the AO Festival. Bringing music and tennis together in one place, the AO Festival will see DJs ignite the dancefloor with their summer soundtracks as all the live action is broadcast on giant TV screens. You can also grab a bite to eat with Biggie Smalls, Gingerboy, Doughnut Time, Hunky Dory Fish & Chips and Huon Salmon setting the menu.

Introducing Grand Slam Oval

As you indulge in the very best music displays, wander down to Grand Slam Oval where a specially curated food and beverage oasis awaits. Leaders of modern Mexican cuisine, Mamasita, are returning once again to cook up their dearly loved selection of tacos and burritos. George Calombaris’ Greek restaurant Gazi will also be there while, for the first time, the Burger Project arrives. Other food connoisseurs include San Antone, serving up their take on southern soul food, as well as Doughnut Time, for all the sweet tooths out there.

Grand Slam Oval is also home to the Coopers Beer Garden where, for the second year, Coopers will be pouring their effervescent ales for those keen to ramp up the occasion. The Jacob’s Creek Wine Bar will excite vino appreciators while whisky lovers need not worry because the Canadian Club Bar will also be opening up shop.

Introducing the Australian Open main event

A ground pass or stadium pass will not only get you access to the AO Live Stage and Grand Slam Oval but also the main event – the Australian Open itself. The tennis grounds of Melbourne Park hold opportunities to relax, be enthralled and get involved. Like a garden sanctuary, Garden Square is the Australian Open centre – the nucleus, meeting point and haven for relaxation where all the action happens before your eyes. Like an outdoor cinema, a big screen precedes an orchard of deck chairs where you can sip on your favourite champagne while lounging in the sun.

You’ll want to stretch your legs after a while to go and explore the city of the Australian Open. Finding a seat at Hisense Arena, Show Court 2 or 3 is a fantastic start – during the first week, you’re likely to see tennis’ elite talent vying to ascend closer to the title. Picture the heralded Roger Federer, Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic unfurling their craft before your eyes while the ever-popular Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the energetic Kei Nishikori and Australia’s hometown favourite Nick Kyrgios go about their work.

Introducing the AO Ballpark

Bringing the whole family? The kids have it all before them at the AO Ballpark. It’s like a mini theme park where children of all ages can test their arm at mini-tennis, scale a huge rock-climbing wall, go full throttle down a 60-metre zip line or get crafty with some face-painting. Other highlights include the NERF Battle Zone HQ where friends become enemies with special NERF guns in hand as well as the AO Ballpark Stage where heaps of entertainment, stage shows and autograph sessions are in store.  

Two days before the Australian Open main draw kicks off, kids become champions as part of the Kids Tennis Day. The AO Ballpark will be roaring with every activity open, while there are also some special stage show slated featuring all your favourite Disney and Marvel characters. On top of that, the Rod Laver Arena Spectacular takes over centre court. Indie pop outfit Sheppard will perform as the world’s biggest tennis stars put on a special display for the kids.

Five AO Live Stage performances you don’t want to miss

Tina Arena + Ali Barter

The two best women’s tennis players have been decided. Having outplayed and outlasted 126 other female competitors, there is only one more crusade that stands between them and the Australian Open title. As tennis’ two female titans battle it out, a momentous performance will be ensuing on the AO Live Stage to sound the end of the women’s draw – Australian icon Tina Arena will be joined by emerging songstress Ali Barter for an exclusive show. Having just completed her 16-date ‘Innocence To Understanding’ tour in October, Arena will be riding a wave of momentum to the Australian Open and will be sure to bring all of her hits to stage. Barter will support, having just released a stellar album in 2017’s A Suitable Girl.

Saturday January 27

Rudimental + Jakubi

In the Australian Open’s biggest international coup yet, British pop juggernauts Rudimental are slated for a special slot on the AO Live Stage. Decorating Birrarung Marr with drum and bass, the four-piece will be bringing all the hits that have made them so famous – ‘Not Giving In’, ‘Feel the Love’ and 2017’s ‘Sun Comes Up’ are just a few of their most memorable tracks. Emerging soul fusion outfit Jakubi will perform the opening set, armed with their acclaimed EPs 61 Barkly and Holiday.

Sunday January 21

James Reyne plays Australian Crawl + Darryl Braithwaite

As the sun sets on Day 3 of the Australian Open, national icons James Reyne and Darryl Braithwaite will be firing up. As if Australian Crawl and Sherbet were going toe to toe, the respective lead vocalists will go back-to-back performing all the hits from their former bands. From Reyne, punters will be able to indulge in the Australian charms, ‘Reckless’, ‘The Boys Light Up’ and ‘Oh No Not You Again’ while Braithwaite has ‘Howzat!’ in store on top of one other classic which has taken the country by storm over the past few years. ‘The Horses’ will be the perfect soundtrack against the Wednesday summer twilight.

Wednesday January 17

Client Liaison + Northeast Party House

Australian cult favourites Client Liaison have forged themselves quite the reputation across the country. Working their way up from minnow status, the four-piece, led by exuberant duo Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller, have become a reliable source of frivolity for the past three years. Behind a live show that’s more of a spectacle than anything else, Client Liaison have produced two admirable studio releases in their 2014 debut self-titled EP and their 2016 album, Diplomatic Immunity. Joined by the equally playful Northeast Party House, this show on quarter-final Wednesday will raise the roof and could potentially crown the AO Live Stage for 2018.

Wednesday January 24

TLC + DJ Horizon

From Rudimental to TLC, the Australian Open have really stepped up their game when it comes to attracting international talent. Needing no introduction, TLC are more than an American girl band, they’re a genre-defining, generational traversing supergroup. ‘Waterfalls’ was released in 1994 while ‘No Scrubs’ was unveiled in 1999 and there’s a reason every house party continues to bill these tracks at the top of their playlist. The hooks are ageless and the melodies inimitable; there’s no doubt we’ll still be banging these out in 30 years time. Before TLC perform the last set of the 2018 AO Live Stage incarnation, seminal R&B producer DJ Horizon will fill the dancefloor will all the grooves.  

Sunday January 28

The Australian Open gets underway Monday January 15 and runs until Sunday January 28. For more information, head to the Australian Open website.