Eight unmissable gigs and events to see at Leaps and Bounds Music Festival 2021

Eight unmissable gigs and events to see at Leaps and Bounds Music Festival 2021

Leaps and Bounds 2019 - image by Naomi Lee Beveridge
Words By August Billy

Leaps and Bounds Music Festival kicks off on Friday July 16.

No interstate travel? No worries. The 2021 Leaps and Bounds Music Festival program proves that Melbourne has more than enough talent and diversity to pack a ten-day festival full of live music, talks, markets and special events. After running the 2020 instalment virtually, this year’s LBMF will be a celebration of what makes the City of Yarra such a special live music ecosystem.

There are mini-festivals such as the soul, funk and hip hop extravaganza Fitzroyalty and label showcases from Bad Apples, The Push and Rockhopper Records. There are also intimate shows at The Tramway and The B.East, Sunday sessions at The Tote, late night parties at The Night Cat and even a First Nations trivia night.

Here are our eight must-see events at this year’s Leaps and Bounds Music Festival.

Keep up with all the latest festival news, reviews and interviews here.


Programmed by Music Victoria Hall of Famer Mary Mihelakos, Fitzroyalty is a paean to the artists who’ve made Brunswick St a soul, funk, blues and hip hop mecca over the last couple of decades. While Fitzroyalty is a tribute to such fertile breeding grounds as The Evelyn, The Night Cat, Rainbow Hotel and Bar Open, it’ll be going down at the Fitzroy Mills, a partially open carpark on Rose St.

Dan Sultan and 1200 Techniques will headline, with support from Checkerboard Lounge, The Wolfgramm Sisters, The Band Who Knew Too Much and loads more.

Fitzroy Mills, Saturday July 17. Tix here.

Rah! Rah! #2 redux: a Feminist Punk Retrospective of Melbourne Music

Rah! Rah! #2 is a sequel to 2019’s sold-out feminist punk retrospective of Melbourne Music. Head down to the Fitzroy Town Hall on the afternoon of Saturday July 17 for a session of talks, panels and intimate performances. Much like the inaugural event, Rah! Rah! #2 endeavours to look at the intersection of feminism and punk rock, both in ideology and sound.

It’ll bring together generations of female and gender diverse artists from Melbourne’s punk rock scenes, including Linda Johnston (Little Ugly Girls) and Amy Taylor (Amyl & The Sniffers).

Fitzroy Town Hall, Saturday July 17. Tix here.

Taste of Southern Africa – Makepesi

Makepesi are an a cappella ensemble whose repertoire includes both contemporary and traditional South African songs. Valanga Khoza leads the collective of five vocalists, who follow in the footsteps of legendary South African male choral group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The struggles of apartheid forced Khoza to flee South Africa in 1976, but the experiences of his upbringing continue to inform his work.

Along with Makepesi’s beautiful harmonies, the performance at Richmond’s Burnley Brewing is certain to includes stories from Khoza’s upbringing and global travels as a refugee.

Burnley Brewing, Sunday July 18. Tix here.

The Americana Carnival

Monty Python’s Eric Idle once famously joked that “American beer is a little like making love in a canoe – it’s fucking close to water”. But in recent years the American beer industry has led the way in high ABV and outrageously flavoursome beers, which inspired the folks at Dainton Brewing to develop their delirious range of brews.

So, it’s fitting for Dainton to present The Americana Carnival at the Fitzroy bowlo on Sunday July 18. Along with plenty of loopy beverages, the event will feature Music Victoria’s reigning country champs Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife plus fellow Americana, country, blues and folk adherents, Duncan Phillips, Jess Parker, Catherine Britt and Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes.

Fitzroy Victoria Bowling & Sports Club, Sunday July 18. Tix here.

The Truffle Pigs and Craig Dermody

What would a Leaps and Bounds Music Festival be without a messy Sunday arvo at the Tote? On the corner of Johnston and Wellington Sts, The Tote is perhaps the quintessential inner north music venue. This makes it the perfect location for the launch of the Johnston Street Live Music Map – an original design by artist Steph Hughes documenting the 14 venues along Melbourne’s most musical artery.

Hughes will also be hitting the stage as one third of The Truffle Pigs, a collab with Amy Hill (Primo!, Terry) and Al Montfort (Dick Diver, The UV Race). Craig Dermody of Scott & Charlene’s Wedding will be warming up the stage with some heart on the sleeve jangle pop.

The Tote, Sunday July 18. This one’s free. More info here.

Bad Apples House Party

Yorta Yorta MC and cultural juggernaut Briggs initially founded the Bad Apples label so that he had something to write on the back of his self-released CD-Rs. It’s since turned into one of the most reliable curatorial bodies of First Nations music.

Taking place at the Fitzroy Town Hall on Friday July 23, the Bad Apples House Party will be a showcase of Blak excellence, with performances from hip hop artists Barkaa (Malyangapa, Barkindji) and Kobie Dee (Gomeroi), intimate singer-songwriter Alice Skye (Wergaia, Wemba Wemba) and punk rock band Chasing Ghosts (led by Goori man Jimmy Kyle).

Fitzroy Town Hall, Friday July 23. Tix here.

Gypsy Brown Ft. thando + N’fa Jones

As if a super-rare 1200 Techniques performance wasn’t enough, the band’s iconic frontperson, N’fa Jones, is hitting The Night Cat the following weekend as part of the nine-piece funk spectacular, Gypsy Brown. In true Night Cat style, it’s a late night event, kicking off at 11pm, and the nine-piece ensemble promises an unconventional and genre-defying fusion of funk, Latin and reggae sounds. The inimitable Zimbabwean born and Melbourne based singer-songwriter, thando, is also joining the act.

The Night Cat, Friday July 23. Tix here.

The Big One – Black Jesus Experience + special guests

As far as iconic Johnston St haunts go, the family-run Ethiopian restaurant and live music joint The Horn is right up there. Central to the venue’s unique appeal is its resident band, Black Jesus Experience.

BJX are a 12-piece combo specialising in a dance-inducing junction of traditional Ethiopian song and 21st century groove. For their LBMF performance, they’re inviting a bunch of special guests to join them at The Horn, including proud Kuku Nyunkal man Sean Ryan on Yiki Yiki (didjeridu), Vida Sunshyne on vocals and Luis Poblete on percussion.

The Horn, Sunday July 25. Tix here.

Leaps and Bounds Music Festival hits Melbourne from Friday July 16 until Sunday July 25. Check out the full program here.