Melbourne is known for its arts scene and its music festivals. There always seems to be something lively and colourful going on with events selling out fast and hordes of people converging on public spaces to watch acts. In fact, according to a Music Victoria study, the city hosts 62,000 live concerts every year, which means it’s Australia’s live music capital.
If you’re keen on music festivals, then when you’re choosing where to live, study or holiday, Melbourne should really be at the top of your list.
You can’t beat a good music festival for fun, socialising and escapism. Summer is obviously the most popular time for festivals, given the chill in Melbourne’s winters. Grab your sunglasses and hat, slap on a wrist band and get partying!
- Beyond the Valley (Dec/Jan) – Ring in the New Year with a four-day, multi-genre gig 90 minutes outside of Melbourne. Set up camp in the free general camping area or live large in the Lux Camp which offers premium toilet and shower facilities and a bar for your exclusive access. Beyond the Valley even offers an Electric City pass which gives you a powered campsite and you can plug in your phone chargers, hair dryers, lighting and other luxuries. Thousands of revellers attend the festival every year and party all day to hip hop, techno, dance, electronic and other performances. The 60-metre wide main stage is where most of the action happens but there’s also an incredible Dance Tent and Central Park Stage. Eat from gourmet food trucks and chill out with morning yoga classes.
- Rainbow Serpent (Jan) – Be a part of a 15,000-strong crowd, many of whom go along each and every year to this end of January music-fest. What used to be an electronic music festival now offers much more, with a particular bent on spirituality. Join in the relaxation and healing activities, see art in motion and take in all the thrilling installations which bring so much colour and energy to the gig. Artistic stage design is one of the best things about Rainbow Serpent and even the shade structures are created to be kaleidoscopic and intriguing. There are plenty of on-site accommodation options including a camping village and Sleepy Hollow, the more luxurious option. Look forward to four entire days and evenings of full-on entertainment everywhere you look.
- Share the Spirit (Jan) – Held on Australia Day, the Share the Spirit Festival is Melbourne’s longest-running and biggest Indigenous music festival. Expect to experience great country music, rock, folk, funk, soul and hip hop, all performed by Indigenous artists over numerous stages.
- Midsumma Festival (Jan/Feb) – For three weeks over January and February, the LGBTQIA communities gather to enjoy Victoria’s premier queer arts and cultural festival. The 2018 event featured almost 170 individual gigs, created and/or performed by over 500 artists across 100 different venues right across Melbourne and Victoria. It is estimated that over 200,000 people attended, making Midsumma one of the most important music festivals Melbourne has to offer. Aside from musical acts, the program includes cabaret, film, spoken word and theatre performances and dance parties, all largely produced by the community. You have to check out Duclie’s Dog Show, a festival institution that invites community members to show their dogs and be awarded prizes. The last day of Midsumma is T Dance, a massive party under the stars.
- St Kilda Festival (Feb) – This one is free! The St Kilda Festival is a 9-day, family-friendly event with music, dance, poetry, comedy, visual art, outdoor cinema, beach sports and children’s activities all on the bill. St Kilda’s streets are closed to traffic and there are carnival rides, buskers, workshops and plenty of excitement for the 400,000 attendees that descend on the area.
- St Jerome’s Laneway Festival (Feb) – Indie rock and indie pop acts feel right at home in Melbourne, particularly during the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival on the shore of the Maribyrnong River and at Footscray Park. It’s an 18+ event and alcohol is available for sale on site. Local and international acts are on the bill every year.
- Melbourne Music Week (Nov) – Both free and paid events take place over this special week in Melbourne, with gigs taking place across a range of unusual venues like cathedrals, laneways and clubs. These eclectic, one-off gigs are acts – 250 of them – you wouldn’t normally expect to see. Join Melbourne Music Week’s Live Music Safari, a ‘wild night of free gigs and parties’ over 13 live music venues.
Slow the pace down and dress up a little, June is jazz time.
- Melbourne International Jazz Festival (Jun) – Get ready for an impressive line-up of local and international jazz greats! Running since 1998, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival has the format down pat and attendance grows steadily year on year. Go along to intimate late night art parties, attend laneway performances, see jazz superstars from overseas, discover novice acts and check out the Monash University Music Auditorium. Over a whole week, you’ll be pressed to narrow down your choices to the ones you have the time to attend!
The city still loves the country and it’s evidenced in all its glory at Melbourne’s country music festivals.
- Bluestone Blues Festival (Dec/Jan) – Spend New Year’s Eve and Day in country heaven at the Bluestone Blues Festival, 25 kilometres outside of Geelong. Only a small festival with an audience in the hundreds, it’s very popular with fans of blues music.
- Whittlesea Country Music Festival (Feb) – Going strong for over 15 years, the Whittlesea Country Music Festival is a family-friendly event with big names in Aussie country such as Tania Kernaghan and Troy Cassar Daley. You can also catch buskers doing their thing and the kids will have a great time with face painting, a jumping castle and an animal nursery plus free horse and cart rides.