Melbourne is the self-proclaimed Australian mother city for the diversity and richness that is the dance music scene. A utopia of sonic pleasure that is inescapable within the city, and one that is heavily influenced by all corners of the globe. Dance music is a very vague umbrella term for a variety of genres including house, deep house, techno, acid house, electronic, disco, funk, and even soul, but all these genres meet in the middle and explode with artistic grandeur when talking about music within Melbourne. Here is an A-Z of everything central to the Melbourne dance scene.
A – András fka. András Fox:
This pocket rocket of a producer is one you definitely want on your radar. Dabbling in the genres of deep house, ambient, soundtrack, and electronic, this Melburnian has become synonymous with drum machines and soft dreamy synthesisers. He’s one we should be proud to call our own and has performed at almost every major Australian dance festival since he came on the scene. When he isn’t soothing your earholes, he’s hosting ‘Strange Holiday Radio’ on 3RRR FM or collaborating with close friend Oscar Key Sung.
B – Berlin
Our sister city, the spot where all the kids run off to play every year in those boring months we call winter, and then return in August with a new collection of vinyl and new memories to hold tight until next year. Infamous Berlin venues such as Berghain, Tresor and About Blank have an audible influence on the Melbourne scene, and Berlin DJ residents such as Marcel Dettman and Markus Schulz can often be spotted performing a guest set in Melbourne nightclubs, with tickets selling at quadruple the price that they would be in the European capital.
C – Commerce Club
Having opened in 1991, Commerce Club was first and foremost a gay club that opened in the CBD. Importing the acid house genre in the early 90s due to a DJ residency from Rudeboy, who was born and raised in the UK, this hot and sweaty nightclub quickly became infamous for being a techno drug haven for the LGBTQI community. This was the venue where the famous 1994 ‘Tasty Nightclub Raid‘ occurred in which 463 venue patrons were arrested and strip-searched over drug-related crimes. The nightclub goes down in history as the first techno nightclub in Melbourne.
D – Deepcast
Melbourne Deepcast can be seen as the holy grail of exposure to new dance music. A clever fusion of the words ‘deep house’ and ‘podcast’, this platform can also be called a label, a blog, a streaming service, and a great little tool when you don’t know what you want to listen to – but you know you want it to be dirty. Established in 2011, and now clocking over 26k followers, Melbourne Deepcast has featured the likes of Max Graef, Andy Hart, and Sebo K. Give it a peruse if you haven’t already; it might just expose you to some cool new artists you didn’t even know existed.
E – EDM
A brief title that encompasses the vast world that is Electronic Dance Music. Many sub-genres can be included within EDM, from familiar ones you may have heard of like ‘house’, to more obscure genres such as ‘industrial electronic body music’. You can basically fuse any combination of adjectives together to birth a new genre of EDM, but that’s the beauty of the movement as a whole. EDM doesn’t just start or end within the confines of what you’ve already heard, it’s a genre free for creative exploration and development, and in Melbourne, it is in great abundance whether you are listening to it on the radio every morning, at an underground gig, or a large scale music festival.
F – Freedom Time
The ultimate Melbourne music day festival. Emerging in 2015 from the mind of Edd Fisher, one-third of Melbourne act Waxo Paradiso, this event is held annually on New Years Day and has hosted the likes of Jeremy Underground, DJ Harvey, and Nick The Record. A colourful affair hosted at the Coburg Velodrome on the outskirts of the CBD, it draws a crowd who is there to enjoy the impressive lineup of local acts and international acts, and to enjoy the company of their fellow dance music lovers, Freedom Time is a music festival that you can go to if you’re after a chilled day with friends, or you want a session.
G – Gasometer aka ‘The Gaso’
If you go to the corner of Smith and Alexandra Parade in Collingwood in the early hours of the morning, you might just be lucky enough to spot the elusive species of the Melbourne youngster, who frequents the Gasometer Hotel to enjoy a night of frivolity and appreciation of disco/funk/house music. This hotspot has hosted some impressive Melbourne notables such as DJ Manchild, Total Giovanni, and Slum Sociable, and even features a second story balcony in which you can overlook the chaotic mosh pit that is a Sunday session, and make eyes at strangers in the crowd. Their summer series ‘Daydreams’ is notably one of the best events you can attend at The Gaso, just be ready to queue up if you don’t get there early.
H – Harvey Sutherland
Melbourne producer Harvey Sutherland has made a name for himself by leading the way for modern dance music with his take on old school genres such as disco and funk. Describing his own music as ‘minimal-disco’, he’s also tackling the industry with his band Bermuda, a trio with Sutherland at the forefront that can be described as a dreamy and futuristic genre of their own. Their latest EP release Expectations was released on Sutherland’s own independent label Clarity Records and received widespread praise for its uniqueness, and ability to transport its audience to a futuristic discotopia. You can see Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda play in Melbourne on July the 20th at The Croxton Band Room.
I – Inner Varnika
On Easter weekend every year in Melbourne, a bunny comes and drops some incredible international and local DJs and artists in the middle of a farm just three hours out of the CBD. Inner Varnika is a notable music festival that is widely respected for its intimacy and sense of community. This unique soiree sells only 1700 tickets every year, but its exclusivity isn’t the only thing that keeps the festival tickets so strongly sought after. Its niche music market chooses very specific guests, ensuring that only the most dedicated music junkies are attending each year, and that the attendees are there for the right reasons. Having hosted artists in the past such as DJ Sprinkles, Vril and, D.Tiffany, this festival has a real sense of belonging to it, but if you want tickets to this one you better get in very early.
Jazz is a genre not always associated with dance music, but one whose roots can be heard within the foundation of most dance music genres. The soothing sound of a piano chord progression, a saxophone, or a double bass paired with a strong 4/4 kick and a complex drum combination aren’t unheard of within Melbourne. A good knowledge of jazz and the origins of the genre can help you as a producer, a music listener, or even inspire you to write music of your own. A great example of these two genres fusing can be heard in the work of Flying Lotus. This California-based producer has blessed Melbourne with his presence on a couple of occasions, and work like this is emulated throughout the dance music scene.
The most diverse of instruments within the construction of electronic dance music. Whether playing a traditional grand piano, an organ, an electric piano, or even an analogue synthesiser, keys have become synonymous with electronic dance music. This special instrument can be heard in the backbone of almost all dance music, and traditional sounds are often bent and warped out of shape to create a modern approach to music.
L – Lounge Bar
Head up a flight of stairs off Swanston Street, and into a dimly lit bar with an accompanying view of Melbourne, and you’ll find yourself in one of the longest standing dance music venues in Melbourne, Lounge Bar. Recognised as one of the best bars in the CBD, this venue can easily accommodate those who want a casual beer over lunch or those who intend on dancing into the early hours of the morning. Lounge is the second home to uni students who want a guaranteed good night out. When on the dance floor you can expect to hear a delicious fusion of disco, house, funk and techno genres.
M – MDMA
This one might seem a bit tasteless, but nevertheless is a contributing factor to the dance music scene. Also known as ecstasy, this party drug of choice is a strong contributor to the rave culture within Melbourne and internationally. Arguably, this trend emerged from the gay party scene in America in the 80’s and 90’s at venues such as ‘Paradise Garage’ and ‘The Loft’, and the trend spread like wildfire across to Europe, South America, and then down to Australia. This drug can give users a sense of closeness to other people, and the release of serotonin in the brain are a couple of reasons why MDMA is so frequently used in the dance music and party scenes. Undoubtedly Melbourne is not the only Australian city whose drug culture is fueled by partying and raves, but Melbourne’s party culture attempts to replicate that of our European and American sister cities, drug culture having a large part to play in this.
N – New Guernica
Typically attracting a crowd of younger attendees, this Melbourne nightclub is considered one of the best venues for listening to house music in Melbourne. With a 4.5-star TripAdvisor rating and multiple treehouse-style rooms to accommodate whatever music style you’re feeling on the night, this venue almost always has an extensive queue out the front. Although it’s not well-known for the DJs that are on rotation there, it’s still a very popular spot to have a boogie and experience the hectic Melbourne nightclub scene. Be ready for a queue just to get out to the smokers section.
O – Oscar Key Sung
Melbourne local Oscar Key Sung soothes audiences with his mellow ambient dance beats and angelic vocal harmonies. Having signed to Good Manners label, and with multiple EP releases under his belt, Oscar Key Sung is a legit homegrown hero. Some of his collaborations have been with other Melbourne locals András and Banoffee, and his work has sent him touring internationally more than once.
P – PBS Radio
PBS 106.7FM hosts a range of shows and segments including ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ with CC Disco and ‘Electric Sunset’ with DJ Ides. Although it may not be the most popular radio station in Melbourne, its dedication to fluidly weaving unheard-of artists into local legends makes it important. You definitely won’t just hear your classic indie rock, electronic, and funk artists on rotation here, you’ll have your mind expanded while you’re exposed to music from every corner of the globe.
Q – Q-Dance
Although this one is not necessarily only applicable to Melbourne, the Q-Dance music platform is the spot to go for all things hardstyle. With news on releases, events, artists and tickets relating to hardstyle, this website is the place for in-depth information on such a niche genre and market.
R – Revolver Upstairs
An institution, a dirty cultural temple, a Melbourne must-see. Revolver Upstairs aka ‘Revs’, is probably the most talked about dance music venue in the city, whether it’s about the quality of the music there, the quality of its patrons, or its reputation. Not for the faint of heart, this venue houses notable DJ regulars Boogs and Spacey Space. It’s not unlikely to see people here for days at a time, dancing, drinking and doing dark deeds in the smokers’ area. If you haven’t been here, are you even really from Melbourne?
S – Store DJ
A musicians’ wonderland conveniently located in Richmond. This place is a retail paradise of equipment, where you can find basically every instrument, every product, every cable, lead or software you could ever need to create or perform music. Ask the staff any question about music, and they will not only be happy to answer your queries, but they’ll answer questions you never even knew you had, and throw in a demonstration for good measure. You’ll often see gear freaks here for hours at a time playing with the latest instruments on the market.
T – TR808
The Roland TR-808 is a drum machine that rose to fame when it was released in the 80’s. One of the first of its kind on the market, this drum machine is featured in Marvin Gaye – ‘Sexual Healing’ and Afrika Bambaataa – ‘Planet Rock’. Originally popular within the hip-hop genre (most notably by artists such as Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys) this famous little piece of gear is now just known as the ‘808’ by everyone in the music world. Within Melbourne, it is still used by producers to this day, the sounds on this machine recognisable within many dance music tracks. One of these babies can go for us much as $6,000.
U – Underground Tunnel Rave
Under the city of Melbourne, stretches over 1000km of abandoned tunnels, a perfect little place for a party among friends. Unheard of on Google, or Facebook, the underground tunnel raves held in this city are mostly found out about through word of mouth, and texting a friend of a friend. The exclusivity of this could be seen as potentially pretentious, but equally as fun, because it ensures that the no wanker policy is strictly adhered to. Transporting decks and speakers below ground is obviously tricky, and anonymity is extremely important because, well, these parties aren’t technically legal. If you’re lucky enough to hear about one, do not miss it because it’s an experience like no other.
V – Vinyl
Vinyl is back, and it seems that it’s once again the norm for DJs to use vinyl rather than a CDJs and USB combo. There are many reasons both for and against vinyl being preferential to digital media when DJing and listening to music, partly because some say the sound and warmth of vinyl can’t be replicated, and the physical media of a record is a treasure you can keep for life. The market for vinyl in Melbourne is booming, so it’s lucky that Melbourne has an abundance of record stores. The most beloved stores populate the inner-north, and stock the expected old faithful records, new releases, secondhand rareities and vast selections of imports, keeping Melbourne DJs in the loop. And if you just can’t find that one rare 12″? Head online to eBay or Discogs.com.
W – Wondercore Island
This Melbourne-based record label and management company is one of the most well-known independent labels in the country. Wondercore Island houses some large names such as Hiatus Kaiyote, and HTML Flowers, and sits at the forefront of the Melbourne music market. Not only specific to the dance music genre, artists from this label span genres and scene, and have received local, national and international recognition.
Because let’s be honest, there’s not a whole lot of ‘x’ words I could use for this one. From the percussion family, this fun little instrument doesn’t just have to be for kids to play on, it can be the foundation for a strong house track. Exhibit A: *HINT* skip to 3:42 for prime xylophone example.
Paving the way for the future of dance music, Melbourne’s youth are proving that age is no barrier to an aspiring artist. Artists such as Kllo, Fortunes, and Banoffee, all Melbourne artists in their early 20s, have been able to work and tour internationally as full-time musicians – which is an accomplishment in itself no matter what age you are. This young generation have been able to build careers for themselves through accessibility to new technology and exposure to music worldwide. As our access to technology grows, it becomes easier to create, publish and distribute music from your bedroom, giving exposure to new talent andexperimentation, raising the standard for music as a whole, whilst creating new styles of music along the way.
Just what you’ll need after a big night out in Melbourne’s dance scene.