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Here Are Our Top Picks For Vivid Festival 2018

By Yvonne Lam
24th May 2018


If there are two words to describe Vivid, it’s these: choice paralysis. The winter festival is Sydney’s celebration of lights, music and ideas, and it delivers on all three fronts in spades. We’ve waded through the program and picked our favourites (which includes a good smattering of freebies, if you’re looking for good time not an exxy time). 

Here is everything you need to do and see at Vivid Sydney 2018. 



If you haven’t heard of Sydney trio Roadhouses, get your ears ready. Led by vocalist and guitarist Yvonne Moxham, they play “codeine tempo anti-romance” songs—which, ironically, will make you fall in love with their smoky blues-laced sound. It’s music best paired with a whisky, swaying and a shoulder to cry on. Don’t miss this trio—we predict they’re going to be big deals very soon, and it’s crazy you get to see them for free. Roadhouses is part of a Vivid line-up of amazing acts at the Golden Age Cinema, including Gabriella Cohen, Mick Turner (Dirty Three) and CLEWS. More info here.

When: Friday 1 June, 9pm–late
Where: Golden Age Cinema & Bar, 80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills
Cost: Free event, registration essential

St Vincent

Since her early days as a guitarist for the happy go lucky Polyphonic Spree, pop genius and guitar extraordinaire St Vincent (Annie Clark) has not put a foot wrong. Her most recent album MASASEDUCTION is a rollicking work that explores themes of mass consumption; city life; and love, longing and loneliness—or as the musician herself has put it, “sex, drugs and sadness”. We loved the mind-bending, light-tricks-laced choreography of her last self-titled Australian tour. To say that we’re trying not to pee our pants for her Vivid show is an understatement. More info here

When: Sunday 17 June, from 8pm
Where: Carriageworks
Cost: From $100


It’s been an incredible few years for Solange. Her 2016 album A Seat at the Table topped music critics’ best albums lists world-over; she and Beyonce made history as the first set of sisters to both hold top spots on the Billboard charts; and then there was that sick-as dance routine from this year’s Beychella performance (you know the one). Her Vivid appearance at the Opera House is set to be a show-stopper of her signature RnB tunes and moves. Though, bad news if you’re a slow-coach—tickets have sold out (I’ve got my ticket, sorry/not sorry). You can maybe check the Opera House website for last minute release tickets. More info here

When: 1–4 June
Where: Sydney Opera House
Cost: Sold out, but check the website for last minute release tickets (cross your fingers!)

A Live Performance Of The Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack

There’s nothing like then-teen heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio to make a ol’ Shakespearean dialogue all of a sudden more palatable. In the 90s, fresh-faced DiCaprio and Claire Danes set hearts alight as the star-crossed lovers in Baz Luhrmann’s seminal film, memorable for its montages, costumes, fish tanks...and that soundtrack. See the soundtrack performed live by a spectacular line up of Australian artists, including Abby Dobson (Leonardo’s Bride) Ella Hooper (Killing Heidi), Hayley Mary (The Jezabels) and Jake Stone (Bluejuice). We’re hanging out for that performance of their Young Hearts Run Free. PS there’s a masquerade ball dress code. More info here

What: Young Hearts Run Free - Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack (Vol 1)
When: Thu 7 June, 8pm
Where: The Enmore Theatre
Cost: From $59.90

Hiatus Kayote

When Aussie musicians do good at the Grammys, we cheer: Gotye, Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala...god, even ACDC (probably the only bit of the awards that your dad will enjoy). Hiatus Kayote have been nominated—twice—in the best RnB performance category, and it’s obvs why. Their kaleidoscopic high-energy tunes defy time and space, and have made fans out of Erykah Badu, Pharrell Williams and Questlove. They’ve even been sampled by the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Drake. The quartet were a late addition to the Vivid line-up, but if their 2016 Opera House show is anything to go by, this one’s gonna be a sell out. You know what to do. More info here.

When: Sat 26 May, 8pm
Where: City Recital Hall
Cost: From $49.90


How Accessibility Makes For A More Liveable City

It was the late disability advocate Stella Young who said, “No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.” It gives you pause for that it was only in 2015 a lift was installed at Redfern station (and even then, it only services one platform). Over 4 million Australians live with a disability, but too often, accessibility comes last in the list of priorities when we design our cities. This really important Vivid Ideas event poses the question: what would happen if we reversed this approach? Would a more accessible-designed city reap benefits for all of Sydney? We highly recommend this. More info here

When: Monday 28 May, 3–5pm
Where: Vivid Ideas Exchange @ Museum of Contemporary Art
Cost: from $20

Let’s Talk About Death. It Won’t Kill You. 

Death and mortality aren’t the cheeriest topics to tackle after work, but the peeps from The Groundswell Project and The Indigo Project are seeking to change that. They want to change the way death is discussed and demonstrate that it can be approached with creativity, humour and love. The immersive event includes a 20-minute public death ceremony, a tour of gallery works that explore the end of life, and a performance from Goldheist in collaboration with Auslan interpreters. This is going to a special one. More info here

When: Wednesday 30 May, 5.30–9pm
Where: Art Gallery of NSW
Cost: Free

Has #MeToo Gone Too Far?

They’ve done well with the clickbait event title, because this is going to be a controversial one. At the heart of the debate is whether the #MeToo movement “Is… bonding women together to create an inspirational force to affect behavioural change, or is it pitting woman against woman and driving feminism’s efforts backward?” And when we say debate, we’re for reals: there’s a for and against team, and our faves Benjamin Law and Jeanette Francis are representing, too...but we’re not going to tell which side they’re on. More info here

When: Tuesday 5 June, 6-8pm
Where: Sydney Town Hall 
Cost: from $16

Come Closer… Sex and Pleasure

Surely, the most stimulating event in the Vivid program. This after-hours event at the Art Gallery of NSW explores female sexuality and the role pleasure plays in our lives. There’s a talk by Isobel Parker Philip on her newest photo exhibition exploring sexual politics, and what happens when the camera lens affixes on the female body; fun sex ed by sex educator Georgia Grace, and music by the synth-tastic Haiku Hands. More info here.

When: Wednesday 13 June, 5.30–9pm
Where: Art Gallery of NSW
Cost: Free


A Cute AF Musical Rainbow

What’s better than a double-rainbow? An inflatable, musical rainbow that’s cute AF, and it’s waiting for you at The Rocks. The rainbow was designed with Japanese “kawaii” aesthetics in mind, and delivers big on the happiness and harmony. Best of all, if you bring your mates and link hands to form a human chain, the “rainbow of peace” will light up, play sounds and animations, and basically will make your night. More info here

When: 25 May – 16 June, 6–11pm
Where: The Rocks
Cost: Free

A Giant, Ghostly Puppet At Barangaroo

There’s no telling whether you’ll be dazzled or terrified by this one. As night falls, a giant luminescent creature-puppet will stalk the Barangaroo waterfront in a theatrical display of sound and light. It’s by a team of visionary designers including Jacob Nash (Bangarra), Mandylights and Erth Visual & Physical Inc, and is sure to be a stunner. More info here

When: 25 May – 16 June, 6–11pm
Where: Wulugul Walk, Barangaroo
Cost: Free

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

The light show at Customs House is always a treat, and this year’s installation won’t disappoint either. Per usual, the historic building will serve as a projection screen for animations of Australia’s own Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as they explore the Australian bush, and encounter the weird and wonderful. The original artwork of the favourite gumnut heroes by author May Gibbs has been adapted for the Vivid installation by Ample Projects. More info here

When: 25 May – 16 June, 6–11pm
Where: Customs House, 31 Alfred Street
Cost: Free

1000 Cranes

There’s a poignant story to this installation. Sadako Sasaki, a victim of the 1945 Hiroshima bombing, was inspired by the Japanese legend that if 1000 origami cranes are folded and hung in one’s home it will bring good luck. After her death, her classmates completed the project in her honour, and the practice of senbazaru grew in popularity throughout Japan. In 1000 Cranes, the senbazaru legend still resonates as a story of hope and positivity in today’s world. There’s a beautiful interactive quality to the installation—the hanging canopy of origami cranes light up according to the amount of visitors. As the crowd grows, more cranes light up until all 1000 cranes are fully illuminated. More info here

When: 25 May – 16 June, 6–11pm
Where: The Rocks
Cost: Free

Magic Carpet

Ever wanted to fly on a magic carpet, Aladdin-style? Well, in a way, you nowcan. Just sit on this mat and it’ll transport you to a whole ‘nother world—you might even end up underwater or in outer space, who knows? It’s a highly interactive installation that encourages play and movement, and although it looks like it’s aimed at kids, we’re defs having a go. (And afterwards, grab a bite from the food universe The District). More info here.

When: 25 May – 16 June, 5.30–10.30pm
Where: The District on Level 3, Chatswood Interchange, 436 Victoria Ave, Chatswood
Cost: Free

Image Credit: Destination NSW

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