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Underground gigs to see in Sydney

Go out in the city after your work day is done and experience these hot music events

Alemay Fernandez and Evelyn Feroza sing the music of Michael Pignéguy
Photograph: Supplied Alemay Fernandez
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You’ve finished up another day on that nine-to-five grind and you’re ready for something a little more exciting to do. May we suggest that you take advantage of the fact you’re already in the city to go and enjoy some great live music?

We’ve rounded up a list of eight outstanding yet under-the-radar gigs that are on in late May and early June as part of Vivid XCelerate, Vivid Sydney’s spotlight on emerging musical acts across different genres, which is funded by the City of Sydney. There are dance parties to groove to, cabaret to experience and many other fantastic gigs to find.

And as it turns out, going to experience live music can actually boost your productivity in the office and improve your wellbeing day-to-day, as well as in the future.

Vivid XCelerate highlights

Homage to the Hollywood
Photograph: Supplied

Homage to Hollywood

What: Hollywood-themed drag and cabaret paying respect to Doris Goddard
Where & when: Hotel Hollywood, May 25, Jun 1, 8, 15

Doris Goddard is the actress, singer and cabaret star who went abroad to star in Hollywood movies in the 1950s before returning to Sydney and opening the Hotel Hollywood in Surry Hills. At age 89 she is one of the oldest publicans in the state and a living Sydney legend. Over four Saturdays, the pub will host a cabaret and drag tribute to Doris inspired by Goddard’s original compositions. Performers include Christa Hughes (May 25), exotic entertainers Melissa Ali and Malika Lam (Les Girls, Jun 1), drag performers Miss Monique Kelly and Lada Marks (Jun 8), culminating in a show by the legendary performer Carlotta (Jun 15).

Kings Cross Hotel Vivid
Photograph: Supplied

Kings Cross Hotel Presents: Vivid Music Series

What: Three curated Saturday nights of music
Where & when: Kings Cross Hotel, May 25, Jun 1, 8

Kings Cross Hotel and Vivid Sydney are joining forces to present innovative music acts from Sydney and further afield across three consecutive Saturdays, and entry is free. It all kicks off on May 25 with an all-female electronic music line-up spearheaded by Nina Las Vegas, along with Isa, Tyoow and Caitlin Medcalf. June 1 is curated by multi-disciplinary crew and label Clipp Art; UK DJ-producer duo FYI Chris are headlining in their first ever Australian show, and stellar locals Jerk Boy, Sophie Forest, Pinz and Pelz, Donald Leicester and more are supporting. Lastly, on June 8, is a collaboration between Heaps Decent and Shantan Wantan Ichiban. Heaps Decent is an Australian-based arts organisation working with young people and emerging artists from diverse communities. Shantan is a radio presenter, MC, party promoter and DJ. Each is curating an entire level of the Kings Cross Hotel, with hip hop, dancehall, R’n’B and more.

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The Soul Sense
Photograph: Supplied

The Soul Sense

What: An evening of local original soul music 
Where & when: The Soda Factory, Wed May 29

Soul doesn’t stop at the city limits of Motown – no sir. In fact, Sydney has its own thriving scene of soul singers and songwriters, and you can experience their work, whether it leans jazzy, funky or smooth, at free night the Soul Sense at the Soda Factory. First up is Funky Punch, with their fusion of alternative soul and funk; followed by neo-soul chanteuse Miss Soma Sutton. Then there’s Glenn Lumanta, who performed at a Stevie Wonder charity concert helmed in 2017 alongside Pharrell and Common, and is a singer and keyboard player whose skills would not shame the Master Blaster himself.

Women in Music, Lupa J and Xira
Photograph: Supplied

Women in Music, Lupa J and Xira

What: First in a series of pop-up live music events featuring women
Where & when: Ziggy’s Barber Shop, Thu May 30

Ziggy’s Barber Shop is hosting female acts throughout Vivid XCelerate, starting with two emerging electro-pop artists. Lupa J published her first three songs at just 15 and then went on to garner radio attention at Triple J and FBi. She has supported big names in the genre including Grimes, Sarah Blasko and Tegan and Sara. Xira is the project of Sydney local Tamika Stanton, who released two singles this year which have already racked up over 25,000 streams and some impressive radio play. Catch these performers now in intimate surrounds before they’re playing huge crowds.

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Sound and Sense
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Sound and Sense

What: Music and poetry with a side of ridiculousness
Where & when: The Flying Nun at East Sydney Community and Arts Centre, Fri May 31

Thriving on weirdness in their performances under stage name Sexually Transmitted Politics, artists Sean Maroney and Julia Christensen perform what they describe as a “party-cum-exhibition” with poetry, music, dance, deep-thought and absurdity on the menu. Maroney has performed at Splendor in the Grass and has written three plays, while Christensen has performed and created for theatres around the country. Expect the unexpected.

Moussa Diakite
Photograph: Supplied

Moussa Diakite

What: A legend of Malian music plays with his Australian band
Where & when: Venue 505, Sat Jun 1

Moussa Diakite merges his Southwest African roots with the Australian African music scene with his new band, Wassando. He is a legend in the scene, and was part of the trailblazing wave of Malian music in the ’70s and ’80s, when he honed his guitar playing, singing and songwriting. He has played with singer Salif Keita and when he settled in Australia formed bands Badema and Afro-jazz. Expect a combination of blues, jazz, Cuban and Afro-rock at the intimate jazz bar Venue 505.

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Alemay Fernandez and Evelyn Feroza sing the music of Michael Pignéguy
Photograph: Supplied

Alemay Fernandez and Evelyn Feroza Sing the Music of Michael Pignéguy

What: An evening of chilled jazz and song
Where & when: The Vanguard, Fri Jun 7

Drummer, composer, band leader and producer Michael Pignéguy was born in Sydney, has worked all over the world and is a notable figure in jazz and world music. On the tail of his appearance at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, he’s bringing his band, the Awakenings Ensemble, as well as two noted vocalists, Alemay Fernandez (Singapore) and Evelyn Feroza (Malaysia), to Vivid XCelerate. They’ll be performing a selection of his recent music straddling Arabic, Latin, funk, soul and classical composition.

20 Years of Beats in Space with Tim Sweeney and Adi Toohey
Photograph: Supplied

20 Years of Beats in Space with Tim Sweeney and Adi Toohey

What: An influential DJ plays through 20 years of dance music
Where & when: Freda’s, Sat Jun 8

New York City’s Tim Sweeney is coming to Frida’s to play a four-hour set as a retrospective of his 20-year-old radio show, Beats in Space. The show has been on air since 1999 on New York University’s WNYU 89.1FM; it also became a record label in 2010, releasing dance music that has had an indelible impact on the genre. Sweeney will be joined on the decks by local radio host and DJ Adi Toohey from FBi Radio, giving you the perfect opportunity to shake it to a set that digs down deep into the recent history of dance music.

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