A review of Sun Cycle 2021: One big sustainable dance party in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl

A review of Sun Cycle 2021: One big sustainable dance party in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl

C.FRIM - image by Paigge (@paigge)

The likes of CC:DISCO!, C.FRIM, Mildlife and more performed at the event.

In the midst of the strangest summer for live music Melbourne has ever seen, the good folks at Crown Ruler and the venerated team from WAT Artists dared to dream of something that only a few months ago seemed impossible. Enter Sun Cycle 2021 – that’s right, a festival.

Boasting a lineup which was a celebration of local artists – a well-deserved flex for the diversity of home-grown talent – and underwritten by an ethos centred around anti-racism, sustainability and respect for the true owners of this land, Sun Cycle held promise of a party to please anyone and everyone.

Did they deliver?

I went along to find out.

The evening began with a special Welcome To Country, allowing attendees a moment to reflect on the stolen lands they occupy. Even after the passing of Invasion Day, January remains a month of mourning for Indigenous peoples across the country and after the events of 2020, it’s refreshing to see such a strong and respectful anti-racism stance from event organisers.

In readiness for the event, the iconic Sidney Myer Music Bowl had been transformed into a socially-distanced party haven – bizarre to the eye for first-time arrivers. The grass valley had been dissected into what I can only describe as “party pens” – or “pods” to use the official terminology – made for groups of six to get down in a COVID-safe fashion.

While freedom of movement wasn’t completely restricted, it was quite the sight to gaze upon from a distance – hundreds of little clusters of people boogying. It seems “together but apart” is set to be the motto of the early 2020s.

On the bill for the evening were CC:DISCO!, Izy, C.FRIM, Mildlife and Wax’o Paradiso, with Sophie McAlister on interstitial and Northside Records and RRR’s Chris Gill on the MC tip. Genre-wise, these local stalwarts offered a smorgasbord across soul, jazz, electronica, and of course, disco.

Neo-soul superstars Izy began the proceedings in the smoothest of fashions, welcoming everyone in with their vastly-enjoyable rhythmic groove. Then it was time for Wax’o Paradiso’s Simon TK and Edd Fisher to return to the big stage, ready to prune back their usual three-to-four hour set to a tight 50-odd minutes. They succeeded, of course, with a fresh selection of rare disco tracks and a tempo which had everyone on their feet.

As anticipated, C.FRIM stole the show and all of our hearts with a pumping set full of energising, foot stompin’, spicy-hot tracks. The crowd leapt to a standing ovation the second she walked on stage, ready for the good time that would duly follow. Dressed in a getup showcasing independent, sustainable labels – most notably an incredible lime-green oversized fluffy hat by Mlauzi – her selection demonstrated precisely why she’s currently one of the hottest talents on the scene.

 

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Mildlife mellowed everyone out, with a set oozing high-key psychedelic groove. They performed all of their classic hits and then some, including a flawless transition from ‘The Magnificent Moon’ into ‘Zwango Zop’. Mildlife’s Sidney Myer debut was both a blissful and equalising experience, ending on a high with a powerful rendition of ‘Automatic’, the title track from their highly-regarded 2020 album.

Closing the night was boogie legend CC:DISCO! whose set was everything you might have expected: high-energy tracks bouncing across italo to your typical disco fare. By the time we made it to the final songs, the audience had thrown all caution to the wind, evacuating their party pens to fill the aisles, gyrating in euphoric frenzy.

In an act I can only liken to the closing set of a three-day festival, CC busted out ICEHOUSE’s ‘No Promises’ – prompting a viscerally-emotional response from the enraptured crowd.

There’s something very special in bearing witness to an Aussie classic blasting out of powerful speakers, lasers and lights flashing and wheeling, everyone hugging and jumping about.

As the last chords began to wind up, I felt a very distinct mixture of nostalgia and joy. The ICEHOUSE track, the sad-it’s-over yet happy-to-be-here feeling you only really get when a good night ends on a high… it was all too familiar.

But the most palpable feeling I felt shimmering across the bowl was that of catharsis. It was a moment to throw off the baggage of the last year, let go and dance.

Highlight: C.FRIM busting out Sonique’s ‘It Feels So Good’. Let me tell you, it felt so, so good.

Lowlight: The short event left us all wanting more. At a tiny 50 minutes per set, there wasn’t really enough space for a fully-fleshed out performance from many of the DJs. I would’ve loved more time for the artists to take us on a journey. Greedy, I know.

Crowd favourite: As if CC:DISCO!’s final track wasn’t iconic enough, after dropping a few tear-jerking words about Melbourne’s music community, she invited the production team and DJs onto the stage to hug and dance it out with her. The mood was exultant, and not a soul was ready for it to end. But like all good things…