Best Music Event

Presented by Red Bull Sound Select

Pulling off a great festival or series of parties takes serious chops. In 2016, these five crews have pushed the envelope, throwing inventive, inclusive and exceptionally curated live music and art events. They’ve built communities and kept Sydney a great place to go out. Tell us which one takes the cake!

BAD Festival

BAD was a one-night showcase of artistic and musical diversity at the Factory Theatre in October. The creation of three restless Sydney minds, Greta Balog, Gina Karlikoff and Danielle Karlikoff, the event was a pointed fusion of the personal and political. Pushing back against ingrained discrimination and disadvantage in both music and art, BAD filled its lineup with talent hand-picked from communities close to the curators. Chunyin (Rainbow Chan), HTML Flowers and Angie played alongside Dispossessed, Corin and Gussy, together with visual works from Alice Joel, Hayley Coghlan and Michael Filocamo, among many more. BAD offered us true respite from the norm.

Heaps Gay

Heaps Gay are the all-inclusive champions of pure positive vibes, known for throwing some of the city’s wildest, most extravagant parties. Their range of events gets more diverse by the day, and the parties just keep getting bigger—this year’s outrageous Mardi Gras float featured 100 glittering Beyoncés. They partnered with Vivid Sydney for a second year, throwing a day and night carnival of music and art at the Factory Theatre in June. For their third birthday in October, Heaps Gay did a whole-venue takeover of the Imperial Hotel—the massive crowd a true testament to the absolutely vital place Heaps Gay have in our cultural heart.

Sidechains

Sidechains diversify like Wall Street stock options. They’re DJs, producers, radio stars, party throwers, label bosses, real life memes. Their monthly parties at the Hudson Ballroom (formerly known as Plan B Small Club) have set 2016 on fire, establishing Sidechains as a serious fixture in the city’s live music calendar. The cloud rap of Tag Shai, the dark atmospherics of Friendships, and the lush electronic instrumentals of Anatole have all found a home and a crowd at a Sidechains event over the past 12 months. They got their start booking the old Backroom in Kings Cross, landed themselves a residency on FBi Click, and now tap some of the most off-kilter acts around for their colourful, hotly anticipated monthly shows.

Summer Dance

Rising to the challenge posed by nightlife restrictions in the CBD, local tastemakers Astral People got creative. Making the most of Sydney’s long summer days, they crafted Summer Dance: a series of outdoor Sunday sessions. Bringing the world’s finest selectors to the historic site of Darlinghurst Gaol – now home to the National Art School – Summer Dance hosted international dance music icons including Julio Bashmore, Hunee and Jeremy Underground, plus local favourites Touch Sensitive, Mike Who, Adi Toohey and more. Set among sandstone buildings and lush lawns in the sizzling heat, the events were unique experiences run for and by true lovers of dance music. In its second season, 2016 saw Astral People perfect the formula and cement Summer Dance as a season staple.

Volumes

Breathing life and vigour into an area that’s had more than its fair share of knocks, the multi-venue Volumes festival returned to Darlinghurst in 2016 for a massive second year. Set across four Oxford Street venues over two big nights in August, Volumes brought Koi Child, Alba, Nicholas Allbrook, Marcus Whale, Donny Benet and a ridiculously long list of other acts to stages in Oxford Art Factory, The Cliff Dive, The Burdekin Hotel and Brighton Up Bar. Volumes is the brainchild of James Spink and a team of pioneering figures in the Sydney live music scene. They have blown us away with what can be achieved from one bold idea, a tonne of grit and the energy to make it happen.