Nine totally free music performances you can’t miss during Sydney Festival 2017

Part of the Meriton Festival Village, which opens tomorrow night (Sydney Festival Eve!) in Hyde Park, is The Village Stage presented by China Southern Airlines. The stage will feature a fantastic – and totally free – music program through the length of the festival, with a curated mix of disco, funk and Latin as part of a series they’re calling “The Perm Set”. Here are some of our picks of that program, as well as a few other free music picks across the three weeks of the annual Sydney Festival.

Spectres of Love

This recently formed trio – which is something of a supergroup of incredible Australian talent – share a lust for primal swamp, garage rock, doo wop and 60s pop. If that doesn’t sell you, just a quick look at the lineup – Mikelangelo (Black Sea Gentlemen, Tin Star) on lead vocals and electric guitar, Michaela (El Dinero) on bass and AJ True (Zombie Ghost Train) on drums – will tell you everything you need to know. That’s talent stacked on top of talent, wearing a vest.

Spectres of Love will be unofficially opening the festival tomorrow at 6.30pm, with an encore performance on Saturday 7th at 6.30pm.


Favourites from the Meriton Festival Village last year, this indie quartet “combines sophisticated yet catchy pop arrangements with surreal lyrics about modern life.” Come and see what all the fuss is about when they hit the stage on Wednesday 11th January at 6.30pm.

Mighty Duke & The Lords

Crisp linen suits and sharp-witted lyrics are blended with junk percussion and double entendre by this five-piece band, resulting in a tropical cyclone of mad calypso rhythm and rum-soaked tomfoolery. They’re playing 13th, 14th and 15th January from 6.30pm (except on the 13th at 6.15pm).

Alice Terry

With a multi-faceted voice that slides from gutsy Delta blues queen through to a powerful yet ethereal falsetto, Terry’s beautiful songs have deservedly earned her the title of ‘Sydney’s first lady of blues’. Don’t miss her on 19th January at 6.30pm and 25th January at 6.45pm.

Los Tones

Combining old school psychotropic beats with hip grinding dance rhythms, this garage rock quartet hurl themselves around with abandon and offer a sound that is gloriously big and brash. They’ll hit the stage on 27th & 28th January at 6.45pm.

For the full “Perm Set” line-up, and for more details, head HERE.

Orszaczky Budget Orchestra

This one’s not part of the Perm Set program, but will take place twice during the festival on the same stage. This event is a special one, paying tribute to the late, great Hungarian-born bandleader, composer and visionary Jackie Orszaczky.

Jackie was a beloved staple on the Sydney music scene for more than three decades, holding free Tuesday night residencies at iconic inner-city venues, where young musos could go to learn from one of the most respected figures in the game. He arranged innovative horn and string sections for some of the country’s biggest bands, including collaborations with Marcia Hines, Billy Thorpe, Hoodoo Gurus, You Am I and Savage Garden.

Jackie died of lymphoma in 2008, but his energy, passion, and dazzlingly inventive arrangements live on in multiple groups, including the 12-piece Orszaczky Budget Orchestra. Fronted by Tina Harrod and vocalist Darren Percival, the ensemble showcases a big band which features many of the musicians that collaborated with Jackie over the years and was specially formed to showcase a vibrant horn section. A throwback tribute party full of Jackie’s soul-funk tunes and his arrangements of classics, truly worthy of both his memory and most of the leather on your dancing shoes.

The orchestra will hit the stage twice during the festival, at 6.30pm on the 17th and 24th of January, also at The Village Stage in Hyde Park. For more details head HERE.

Let’s Dance – A David Bowie Tribute

To mark 12 months since his passing, Sydney Festival will be holding a special tribute night to the one and only David Bowie.  Mega-fans Otto & Astrid will host the night of non-stop celebration, while the Let’s Dance house band (led by Lucian McGuiness and featuring members who have played alongside Lou Reed, Paul Kelly, Neil Finn, Jimmy Barnes, Paul Dempsey and Katie Noonan), will support a marathon of vocal, aerial and burlesque performances by community participants.

Special guest Jeff Duff – Australia’s Star Man – will perform some of Bowie’s greatest hits. Performers from NAISDA (where the original dancers for the Let’s Dance clip were selected from) will kick off proceedings in the Meriton Festival Village while the China Southern Airlines stage screen will display images from Bowie’s time in Australia as well as a live camera feed bringing the audience to the stage.

DJ Stephen Ferris will take you through a musical landscape of Bowie’s various eras from 5pm on January 10th – bring you Bowie memories and inspired-fashion, and join us for an evening to celebrate his legacy.

Head HERE for more details on an event that is sure to be a favourite for all Sydney Bowie fans this year, and follows on from the impromptu events that took place at the festival in tribute to Bowie last year.

Symphony Under The Stars

No Sydney Festival would be complete without the free, iconic “Symphony Under the Stars” event. This year it’ll take place across two venues – The Domain, Royal Botanic Gardens on 14th January at 8pm and The Crescent, Parramatta Park on 28 January, 8pm. Guests are encouraged to bring a rug, hamper and friends for a night that will feature Adams, Mozart, Elgar and more, with violin soloist Andrew Haveron and viola solist Tobias Breide.

Head HERE for all the details you need on this one.

Courtyard Sessions at the Seymour Centre

And finally, though it’s not an official part of Sydney Festival, head along to the Seymour Centre every Friday during the festival for free music in their courtyard; coinciding with the venue’s festival program. Imogen Clark will be hitting the stage on Friday, January 13th, Leroy Lee on January 20th and the incomparable Jordie Lane on January 27th. The Courtyard Sessions series continues through March, every Friday from 6pm to 9pm. For more details on the event, head to the official website.

And for more about Sydney Festival’s free program, head to the “Free & Cheap” section on the website. The 2017 Sydney Festival officially runs from Saturday, 7th January through to 29th January, though some events commence tomorrow, 6th January.

Pictured: Los Tones (Photo by Oliver Heath)