After ten years, Melbourne Music Week continues to reflect the city’s rich culture
13.11.2019

After ten years, Melbourne Music Week continues to reflect the city’s rich culture

Civic Sounds
Civic Sounds, 2018.
Pantha du Prince, 2013
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Words by Augustus Welby

Melbourne Music Week is celebrating its tenth year. The citywide celebration returns, bigger than ever, on Thursday November 14 for ten days of live music and experiential events.

There’s no shortage of music festivals in Melbourne, including those such as Leaps and Bounds, Darebin Music Feast and the Melbourne International Arts Festival that run over the course of a week or two.

But along with being owned and produced by the City of Melbourne, Melbourne Music Week has sought to be the definitive celebration of Melbourne’s music culture by working hand-in-hand with the music industry.

“MMW’s unique co-production model supports and directly works with the local music industry,” says Councillor Rohan Leppert. “It’s an event for the industry to benefit from, with a profit-sharing model that sees ticket sale revenue from co-produced shows going back to the promoters.”

Melbourne Music Week has a different flavour every year, led by its hub location. The location of the hub has become a source of great intrigue over the last decade, with unique spaces such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Argus Building, ACMI’s Basement, Queen Victoria Market and the uninhabited former Royal Women’s Hospital getting an overhaul for the annual event.

“We ultimately want to create unique, grand, ephemeral experiences for the artists and audience, so what better place to do this than in some of the city’s most celebrated and untraditional spaces?” says Leppert.

“The hub venue each year is really important in our lineup, too, and can often shape which talent we select. For example, programming for a church will vary greatly from programming in the basement of a disused building.”

Kubik returns as this year’s MMW hub. Designed by Balestra Berlin, Kubik is an arrangement of illuminated water tanks that respond to the music and mood of the audience. Balestra Berlin have reproduced versions of Kubik all over the world, and it was MMW’s first-ever hub in 2011. It’ll be situated in Alexandra Gardens on the south bank of the Yarra River.

“It has a completely different design this year, with taller towers and a much larger stage to allow for the larger bands programmed,” says Leppert. “[Kubik will host] diverse programming with 50-plus acts ranging from disco, techno, house, soul, hip hop and rock, and a family rave for big and little kids.”

A variety of the city’s historical sites that have been transformed for MMWs past are getting a reboot for the ten-year celebrations.

“We’re transforming St Paul’s Cathedral for a concert by Sarah Mary Chadwick who will perform on the T C Lewis Organ. The State Library Victoria will also be transformed with Steve Gunn, Tiny Ruins and Grand Salvo performing in the Redmond Barry room. Then there’s the Melbourne Town Hall and its grand organ for Total Control.”

The official MMW press material states the event’s aim to “showcase and nurture Melbourne’s music industry and its community of talent”, but the program isn’t limited to local artists. This year’s headliners include German legends Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft and Robert Henke, French electroclash pioneer Kittin and UK producer Andy Stott.

“We wanted to reflect the Melbourne music scene, which is so rich and diverse. It’s a healthy industry that attracts international tours and we should celebrate that,” Leppert says.

“While having some international headliners, we also program mainly local, independent emerging bands – 85 per cent or more of the program is made up of local artists.”

This includes a commitment to First Nations representation, which has seen MMW partner with Yirramboi First Nations Festival to curate a lineup of local Indigenous excellence. Soju Gang, Paul Gorrie, Ridzy Ray, Lady Lash, DJ BabyMama and Jesswar are all lined up for a hip hop, soul and R&B party at Whitehart Bar on Saturday November 16.

Program mainstay, the Live Music Safari, will launch this year’s MMW. City venues such as Ferdydurke, The Curtin, New Guernica, Boney, Radar and The Toff In Town will host free gigs on Thursday November 14.

Live Music Safari has been a significant piece of programming over the last half dozen years, underlining the City of Melbourne’s support for music venues and encouraging people into venues they wouldn’t usually visit.

“This year, we wanted to bring it to the forefront of what we do and moved it to the opening night,” says Leppert. “Opening a festival with free programming for everyone to attend is something that we thought was important for our community.”

Since its launch in 2010, Melbourne Music Week has looked to do things differently. This remains a priority for the organisers as the event moves into its second decade.

“We will continue to focus on being relevant to the public and to the music industry. Going forward, we’ll be working closely again with local music venues, labels, promoters and agents to accompany them in the next decade.”

Melbourne Music Week takes over the city from Thursday November 14 to Sunday November 23. Find out more and grab your tickets via the MMW website, mmw.melbourne.vic.gov.au.