In Melbourne, the heaving Australian trendsetter and southern hemisphere event epicentre, it appears that New Year’s Eve is out. The packed clubs, belligerent punters, frustration at lining for drinks or trying to get a cab is unappealing, and more and more music fans in Melbourne are saying a deafening ‘no’.
Enter the New Years Day party. It’s relaxed. The sun is (usually) out. There’s no pushing. Shorter queues. Likeminded people. Yes, these New Years Day festivals have been around for years (think Summadayze), but there are some new kids on the block – Let Them Eat Cake has been going from strength to strength each year for the past four years, and Animals Dancing have also been bringing their day raves to Melbourne punters who don’t want the lights to come on.
Another welcome new addition this year was brought to lucky Melbournians by the masterminds behind the Freedom Time parties, who have been building a solid fan base in a short amount of time, Freedom Time NYD only being the third instalment in the series of parties.
Now… let’s set the scene. North Coburg has a bit of an end-of-the-earth feel, with long, suburban streets full of nothing but houses with huge front yards, and industrial areas too. Tucked right up at the end of Coburg, past Bell St, past Pentridge and even past Gaffney St, lies a venue that was just made for music events… though it took a genius to have the lightbulb moment to do just this.
It’s a sultry, tropical day in Melbourne. The grey clouds create a dramatic backdrop for the festival. The velodrome is like a giant saucer, with tufts of yellow grass sprouting from it and speckled with an eclectic crowd over three stages. Freedom Time events can boast that they attract a huge variety of people, and not just any old people. Friendly people. Smiling people. Musical people. Creative people. Funky outfitted people.
This is a fantastic vibe for New Years Day. There is space to breathe, there is space to dance, and the queues for drinks are not long! There are planes flying overhead and people point up at them in wonder and surprise. It is a quirky and fitting element.
At the Wondercore Island stage, Andras plays a set that traverses disco, techno and acid-house. It starts off slowly but warms up, and is a nice start to the day. Back on the main stage, Prequel amps up the crowd a bit more with fun, party disco tunes.
Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda are the performance of the day. The live element works really well in this setting, and their smooth house and disco occasionally crosses over into jazz, with stunning melodies and buildups. J’Nett is a Melbourne favourite and rightly so. Her set is fun, full of great disco and the crowd is up for it – there is no downtime and no boring moments. Over on the Wax’o Paradiso stage, Edd Fisher and Andy Hart play with a tropical flavour and lots of disco.
Theo Parrish plays an interesting set, different to his recent Golden Plains and Womadelaide performances which were loved by many and received rave reviews. There are splashes of rare disco and classic era house, but the set meanders and doesn’t peak, and the crowd can be heard talking over him for parts of it. There is the sense that punters are waiting for something uplifting and fun at the end of the day, but Parrish unfortunately never quite takes them there. Thankfully, the local contingent had more than made up for it.
Freedom Time #3 only hosted three internationals but the 5,000-strong turnout weren’t wrong. The punters wanted a different New Year experience and Freedom Time delivered – and the local performers were the winners of the day.