Melbourne comes alive in summer. I know that the Lord Mayor likes to throw this phrase around a lot, but he's right. The people, the streets, the music, the food, Melbourne really puts on a show in summer. To me, the heartbeat of summer in Melbourne is the live music scene. From grunge pubs to town halls, street corners to dancehalls, talent spills out and bass float in the air mixing with the scent of sweat and sunscreen. This is my Melbourne in summer.
Even better, are the many options to enjoy this side of the city for free. So whether your preference is to pack a picnic to put on your dancing-heels, read on to find a free music event near you this summer.
If you have not yet been to the temporary, yet dazzling MPavilion, then these free Sunday sessions are the perfect excuse. The MPavilion is a commissioned space where architecture and art meet, housed in the Queen Victoria Gardens. Weekly on Sundays from 3pm – 5pm join hipsters, creators, art lovers and music connoisseurs as they gather to experience a range of music styles. Every Sunday the format changes and on the third Sunday of each month, the stage is programmed by the Melbourne Recital Centre – so you're even more assured of quality content. Participating artists include Cosmo Cosmolino with their unique form of tango/gypsie theatrics, Andras Fox a local solo artist who creates melodic simplicities as well as DJ sets by Michael Ozone and Becky Sui Zhen.
Every Thursday from 5.30pm – 7.30pm, the outdoor stage at Federation Square hosts a range of independent and emerging acts for your listening pleasure. The manmade amphitheater is studded with deck chairs and surrounded by restaurants, so you can either bring a snack and enjoy the vibe close to the stage, or dine al fresco and enjoy dinner and a show.
The annual Sidney Myer Free Concerts series are always worth checking out. How many times do you get the opportunity to see the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra play under the stars in one of Melbourne's most iconic venues, and for free? In 2015, the series consists of three shows, on the 14, 18 and 21 of February all at 7pm. The program includes the performance of masterpieces composed by the likes of Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, Brahms, Smetana and Bartok. The best way to enjoy these concerts is to pack a picnic dinner, grab your friends and family and head down early to get a god spot. The gates open at 5pm and it's not unusual to be met with a long line if you arrive closer to the 7pm starting time. I cannot recommend these concerts enough. The tranquillity of the venue matched with the talent onstage is simply unsurpassable.
The Night Cat on the corner of Johnston and Brunswick Streets in Fitzroy in famous, or infamous, for it's Friday night free music. Inspired by all walks of life, the only thing you wont find here is flat-footed suits. The Night Cat is a place for salsa, for dancehall, for booty-shaking and rhythm-making. The general vibe is somewhere between funk, soul, afro, jungle beats and reggae, but with more bass. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it apart from, 'a whole lotta fun!' Doors open at either 9pm or 10pm on Fridays and the venue closes at 3am. Be sure to grab a bite to eat before you head in, you'll need all the sustenance you can get, it's bound to be a long night.
Lunchtime tranquillity anyone? Sometimes the workday just gets too much and all you want to do is unplug the phone and hide under your desk. This maybe the next best thing. Thursdays from 1pm – 1.30pm, St Michaels on Collins St hosts free organ recitals. This grand building is accepting of all and is always cool and calming, even in the hectic peak of summer. These recitals have been running for seven years and are well attended by a broad range of the public. If you have never heard the power and majesty of a grand organ, then head along, even just to experience something new.
New to Melbourne in 2015, SummerSalt is hosting a range of music and arts events. While much of the Festival is ticketed, free events can be found. Gong Garden is a free interactive, musical journey with internationally acclaimed gong artist Michael Askill. Event location and times are yet to be announced however this event is very family friendly. With much of the program yet to be revealed, keep an eye on the SummerSalt Website more upcoming free events.
These monthly concerts are free for all to enjoy. See some of Melbourne's finest and brightest music stars take to the stage to perform everything from classical to big band and jazz to contemporary pop. The 2015 program restarts on the 2 February with Kevin Chow (piano), and is held monthly from 12pm - 1pm on the first Monday of the month thereafter. Hosted at Federation Square's Deakin Edge, this state of the art venue is air-conditioned and the perfect reason to switch off our mobile phone and have a little Monday lunchtime escape.
The opening day of the annual Midsumma gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex and queer festival is Carnival. Held on 18 January in 2015, the Alexandra Gardens on the southern banks of the Yarra River come alive for a full day (11am – 10pm) of free entertainment, with a whole lot of glitter and dancing! From 11am – 5pm be entertained by local queer and allied artists on the mainsatge, then at 5pm strap on the heels, it's time to dance as T Dance kicks into gear. T Dance is a large outdoor danceparty for the GLBTIQ community and their friends and allies. Watch the sunset and you dance yourself into a frenzy as local DJs take to the stage to keep the energy soaring. T Dance concludes at 10pm, so you still have time to grab the last train/tram home. Perfect for a balmy Sunday evening.
Since launching in 2013, White Night Melbourne has had its share of positive and negative press. The free all-night event will be held on Saturday 21 February 2015 and will showcase both local and international artists in a diverse programme of works. The program for the night is always launched very close to the event itself, so be sure to check the website closer to the date, however you can generally expect a line up of National chart-topping live music artists to perform on the primary stages and any number pop-up shows across the CBD. The idea is that everything is free, and it runs from dusk till dawn. It's a fun night but I would not recommend taking the kids. The city is packed with people and it can be a little overwhelming, even at times for adults. However if you're a seasoned party and festival-goer, this is perfect for you!