This Week’s Must-See Acts At VIVID Sydney: Arca, The Middle East, Hermitude & More

21 May 2024 | 4:22 pm | Ellie Robinson
In Partnership With VIVID LIVE

Australia’s biggest and most beautiful celebration of lights, music and ideas is underway with its epic 2024 season!

Arca / The Middle East / Hermitude

Arca / The Middle East / Hermitude (Supplied)

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Even if you’ve never actually been, you probably know at least a little bit about VIVID, Australia’s biggest and most beautiful celebration of lights, music and ideas. The annual festival launched all the way back in 2009, and since then it’s been a staple on the calendar of any fun-loving Sydneysider. It features a packed slate of mind-bending light installations, talks and debates that could change the way you see the world on a fundamental level, and of course, one-of-a-kind live performances from some of the world’s most exciting musicians.

As announced back in March, this year’s program will run for a mammoth 23 nights, kicking off this Friday (May 24) and wrapping up three weeks later on Saturday June 15. It was curated to spotlight “the essence of humanity”, with a press releasing noting that its team are working with the ethos of showing “how creativity fuels our interconnected world”. The line-up certainly reflects this, with a suite of artists from all around the world who are shaping and defining a new generation of pop, rock and electronica.

Some of the biggest standouts on the roster include Yves Tumor, Arca, Underscores, Deerhoof, Yasiin Bey, Yung Lean and Sky Ferreira – and those are just the internationals! We’ll also see career-defining sets from local stalwarts like Electric Fields, Cult Shφtta, Thelma Plum, Jen Cloher, Budjerah, Zion Garcia, BARKAA... The full itinerary is legitimately wild – head here to see it for yourself.

In a press release, festival director Gill Minervini said of this year’s program: “Humanity is at the core of everything we do, and this year VIVID Sydney is diving deep into what makes us uniquely human. We have curated a diverse program that explores the human spirit, designed to foster connections, spark imagination and showcase the multitude of ways creativity enriches our lives. Everyone is invited to be part of this global event in the world’s most beautiful city to connect, create and celebrate.”

Adding to the sentiment was VIVID Music curator Julian Ramundi, who said in his own statement: “Vivid Music in 2024 elevates artist stories and connects audiences in a diverse range of spaces, from cultural institutions and theatres to free and accessible spaces across the Vivid Light Walk. Hear music in new parts of our city and gather to celebrate voices from all around the world, artists who remind us that songs vibrate at the centre of our shared humanity.”

Every week, we’ll be rounding off the five shows we’re most excited for, highlighting artists from home and abroad across all levels of notoriety. Here are the ones we can’t wait to see this week...

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WHEN & WHERE: Friday May 24 at Sydney Opera House (Concert Hall)

In an age where virtually anyone can make music, it takes a true visionary to really stand out. Arca ticks all the boxes, with her artistry dense and intricate, sprawling across a kaleidoscopic landscape of sounds entirely her own. Arca’s most ambitious project yet is the five-part Kick series, released across five albums between June 2020 and December 2021, where she explores a labyrinth of hypnotic IDM, experimental avant-pop and soul-moving club music. Her live show, too, has been described as a “fever dream” that only Arca’s one-of-a-kind mind could ever conjure, and a “visionary audio-visual experience”. Her exclusive show at VIVID will mark time her first time performing on Australian soil, and with a backdrop of the iconic Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, it’s sure to be a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Mallrat + Tiffi

WHEN & WHERE: Friday May 24 at Tumbalong Park

Mallrat is well-known as one of Australia’s brightest stars in alternative pop, with age-defining hits like Groceries, Charlie and Better all but guaranteed to go down as classics of the late 2010s. The artist born Grace Shaw is said to be hard at work on her second album (following up on 2022’s enchanting Butterfly Blue) and given her history of previewing new songs in the live realm, this free show at Tumbalong Park could very well tease the next big Mallrat era. Meanwhile, Taiwanese-Australian stalwart tiffi has been following in her footsteps with bright, emotive and infectious alt-pop that marries tight pop production, soaring guitars and rich, honeyed vocals. She made crazy waves with her debut EP Dating Pool last September, and she’s already grown since with the explosive singles Ur Embarrassing !!! and Chemtrails.


Spunk Records 25 Finale

WHEN & WHERE: Friday May 24 and Saturday 25 at Sydney Opera House (Joan Sutherland Theatre)

All good things must come to an end, and sadly, the legendary Spunk Records is not immune from that. After 25 years and a legitimately insane 700 releases, the Sydney-based indie punk mecca closed its doors back in March. To celebrate all the wild milestones it hit, founder Aaron Curnow has curated two enormous farewell shows, both going down at the Joan Sutherland Theatre in the Sydney Opera House with sets from Texan post-rock favourites Explosions In The Sky (performing their classic 2003 album The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place), Kiwi indie-folk gem Aldous Harding and the Townsvillian luminaries in The Middle East. These shows mark the end of an era for one of the most important names in Australia’s independent music scene, and as such, we’re expecting huge scenes – mostly those of a celebratory nature.


Jalbu Muna

WHEN & WHERE: Saturday May 25 at Tumbalong Park

Described by the VIVID team as “a moving and celebratory glimpse into the deep-rooted traditions and vibrant contemporary expressions of First Nations cultures”, this one-of-a-kind show is sure to leave you feeling high on life, and ecstatic about the future of Australian art. The free event is set to bring Tumbalong Park to life this Saturday (May 25), with a lineup curated by renowned jazz artist and proud Yalanji woman Deline Briscoe. The bill certainly reflects the title of Jalbu Muna (which translates to “confident, brave woman” – in addition to Briscoe herself, we’ll be swept away by performances from ARIA-winning pop icon Christine Anu, fast-rising indie gem Kee’ahn, (who recently shone as a cover star on and mesmerising multi-hyphenate Akala Newman.


Elefant Traks 25th Anniversary – The Finale

WHEN & WHERE: Sunday May 26 at Sydney Opera House (Joan Sutherland Theatre)

Elefant Traks is another iconic Sydney label closing shop after a quarter of a century, leaving behind a storied legacy as one of the most pivotal movers and shakers in Australian hip-hop. To send it out in style, some of the label’s biggest stars will convene at the Sydney Opera House for a celebratory night of sick beats and even sicker bars – from trailblazing up-and-comers like B Wise, Joelistics and Sachém to household names like Hermitude, Horrorshow and Urthboy. Also set to take the stage are the likes of ANESU, Jane Tyrrell, Jimblah, Nardean, OKENYO, Ozi Batla, The Herd and The Last Kinection. Not only is this one of the dopest lineups of Aussie hip-hop artists we’ve ever seen, but the fact they’re all coming together for such a huge moment in the scene’s lineage, this show will undoubtedly be one for the ages.