VIVID SYDNEY 2012
You don’t have to look far for a little inspiration, as Vivid entered our city last Friday with an illuminated presence. The light, music and ideas show left spectators mesmerised, with the sails of The Sydney Opera House beginning the Vivid experience, beaming with marvelous light dancers strewn across the structure as geometric shapes built themselves up, and then crumbled away seamlessly. It was crystal clear that Vivid Creative Director Fergus Linehan had outshone himself.
Performances were amplified with an atmosphere to make even the most anti-socialites enchanted for more. With Florence and The Machine in the mix, before you know it you’ve been taken away to another world. She staggered her audience with a 50-strong orchestral extravaganza, draped in a beautiful floor-length white frock and launches straight into a subdued ‘You’ve Got the Love’. “I’m really nervous,” she tells the audience. “This is the Opera House, so I feel like I should be proper. I’m trying really hard to be poised.” And poised she was, along with eminently likeable and effortlessly graceful. Welch introduces ‘Cosmic Love’ with the admission she wrote the song during “one of the worst hangovers of my life”, bringing her lofty ideals (as lovely as they are) straight back down to earth, giving us a different side of Florence: a slightly more relatable one. While the set was centred on her second album Ceremonials, we go back to her debut, Lungs, with a scaled-back version of ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)’, before heading onto ‘No Light, No Light’ and breakthrough single ‘Dog Days Are Over’, which closes the set. Welch was never going to get away sans encore, so it’s not long before she’s back with ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Shake it Out’. Naturally she receives a much-deserved standing ovation.
Then there was the infamous Modular Party. The studio was inevitably dotted with posses of American Apparel cut-offs with heads, tag-teaming funk and house sounds behind the decks and giggling into their glasses of bubbly. Jonathan Boulet played an impressive set, keeping up a regular pattern of new singles in the lead into his second album (out June 8th). The leader so far, You’re An Animal, takes his signature sound – simple, almost formless melodies, delivered in playground chanting and call-and-response, armoured in a cascade of thunderous drums and cymbals – and ramps it up to a frenetic battle cry. The crowd visibly leans forward to bellow the lyric at the bandwidth all their might. The other fresh tracks on offer include newest offering This Song Is Called Ragged – a jaunty, piping melody that plunges into a heavy reiteration of itself, showing why Boulet is still head-and-shoulders above any of the cookie-cutter bill-padding local bands peddling Afro-culty shimmer pop. Boulet was followed up by the Purple Sneakers DJs on the case, with a particularly great set full of dreamy beats from the likes of Chad Valley and Kitty Pryde.
A personal favourite, Tom Vek makes his Australian debut at Vivid, having released one acclaimed album in 2005, We Have Sound, and its follow-up Leisure Seizure just last year. Unlike a host of post-punk-inflected 2005 debutants, Vek didn’t fall into the trap of feeling as though he needed to “update” his sound to keep his fans; Leisure Seizure evolved but didn’t essentially change his idiosyncratic, uncluttered structures of mechanically precise percussion, warm, angular electronics and simply-recorded vocals. He’s an unexpectedly charming presence, with a nerdy swagger in his stance as he injects twanging guitars into songs that can feel distant and icy; at one point, hilariously, he leans down to throw up the bunny-ears gesture behind a girl in the front row trying to get a photo in front of the band.
On the topic of attention-grabbers, let’s marvel at the heart-warming and interactive light art structures that were converted into positively huge 3D mapped projections on the Opera House, Customs House and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Giant glowing dandelions, fibre optic sea grass and animatronic dancing lamps, transformed Sydney into a colourful playground of light every night.
Artists, selected from all over the world, created a giant digital game of Tic Tac Toe, a modern spin on Hopscotch, and golden flocking birds and head turning digital puppies. Vivid attendees could follow their dreams with the luminous wings or just have a good old fashioned shout at the installation Screaming Rapture. And if you think I’m crazy, try it for yourself and you’ll get it. The Vivid Sydney light show stretches from the Sydney Opera House all the way around to Dawes Point, so there’s no excuse – every seat in the show is a front-row choice.
Vivid Sydney ends June 11th so make sure you spare a couple of hours at least to get your skates on and explore!
Words by Gaia Gardiner