Melbourne’s essential summer music events

This music-loving city turns it up to 11, with everything from outdoor concerts and jukebox musicals to queer and Indigenous celebrations.

Garden parties

Zoo Twilights delivers another program of top musical talent this summer. Some shows are already sold out but (at time of writing) tickets are still available for The Preatures, Cut Copy, Sunnyboys and Kate Miller-Heidke. Arrive early to say goodnight to the animals and stake your claim on the lawn’s prime real estate. Proceeds go to Zoos Victoria’s Fighting Extinction program.

An aerial view of a big crowd of people gathered around a stage in a park

Zoo Twilights

Celebrating strength in culture in 2018, the annual Balit Narrun – Share the Spirit Festival showcases the diversity of local Indigenous musicians. Archie Roach and Dan Sultan headline this free, family-friendly concert in the Treasury Gardens. There are also dance performances, art, activities for young people, and food trucks to keep you going all afternoon.

The unlikely partnership of a house-music legend and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra promises a classic night on the Sidney Myer Music Bowl lawn. Symphonica: Armand Van Helden with the MSO brings the New York dancefloor legend to town for the first time in seven years. Seventy musicians recharge 20 years of Van Helden hits like U Don’t Know Me and Bonkers.

DJ and producer Armand Van Helden joins forces with the MSO at the Myer Music Bowl

Blue notes

There’s more music in the great outdoors, with the added pleasure of gliding around the bay, during the Lady Cutler’s bi-monthly Blues Cruise Melbourne. Expect live bands, two dancefloors, two bars, food and awesome views, from the city to St Kilda beach. You’ll be singin’ the blues with a smile!

American jazz pianist, composer and producer Cyrus Chestnut has collaborated with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea and Isaac Hayes. On his previous tour two years ago, his Melbourne dates sold out. He’s playing cool little laneway jazz club Bird’s Basement. Three very good reasons to book your tickets for the Cyrus Chestnut Trio.

January jewels

Summer in Melbourne means the Australian Open, which brings the rock stars of tennis to town – and some actual rockers too. It’s happening all throughout the tournament with the likes of Bliss n Eso, Tina Arena and Client Liaison hitting the AO Live Stage. All you need is an Australian Open ground pass for access to this 15-day festival.

Midsumma is another big event that makes Melbourne smile every January. For 15 years, one special lady has reigned supreme at this annual celebration of LGBTQI culture and community. Dolly Diamond’s 15 Year Anniversary Gala puts our cabaret hostess with the most-ess in the spotlight, alongside a glittering parade of performers.

A crowd of people in front of an outdoor stage with the city skyline in the background

AO Live stage at the Australian Open

A myriad of musicals!

Expect even more glitter and glamour when the Priscilla – Queen of the Desert musical rolls into town. This adaptation of the beloved 1984 film is on its 10th anniversary celebration tour, driven by dancefloor classics like It’s Raining Men. Fresh from Broadway success, Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical is also coming to Melbourne. Featuring all the songs from the band’s 2004 album of the same name, it’s political punk meets heartbreak.

Belinda Davids channels a pop goddess in The Greatest Love of All – The Whitney Houston Show. It’s one hit after another, from How Will I Know to I Will Always Love You, in this tribute performance. Other late, great singers are re-born on stage in Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

A group of people singing and dancing on stage

American Idiot

Want more?

Don’t stop till you get enough, thanks to these free music events!

Live music at MPavilion: scattered across the MPavilion program in the evenings, lunchtime and weekends are a bunch for free gigs as part of MMusic – Bakehouse Session: Secret Rehearsal program. An extension of one of the city’s most respected music studios, expect the unexpected with emerging and established acts presenting public rehearsals and secret shows. Or, catch the Orbweavers’ twilight set on Sunday 21 January.

A group of people watching a performance in front of a modern architectural structure in a park

Don’t miss the free Bakehouse Secret Sessions at MPavilion. Photo: John Gollings

Live instore performances at Basement discs – both international and local artists have graced the tiny stage at Basement Discs free instore performances sessions. These free sessions have included Billy Bragg, Thompson, John Scofield, Michelle Shocked, Tim Rogers, Stephen Cummings, Mick Thomas and more. Stay up to date on what’s on and when on their Facebook page.

NGV Triennial Extra – enjoy summer party DJ sets each night in the NGV garden during NGV Triennial Extra festival. Featured artists include Miami Horror, Midnight Juggernauts, Dan Kelly, Dan Sultan, Adalita and Tex Perkins.

The Night Market – don’t forget there’s free live music across two stages every Wednesday night at the Queen Victoria Night Market

Find out more about where to hunt out live music at Melbourne’s hidden music bars