While Sunday’s sweltering heat may have deterred some, it certainly didn’t put a damper on spirits at the final day of the Australian Open’s dynamic music event, Finals Festival. Three full days of local music, international stars, and DJ sets – guaranteed to leave your head moving and your feet tapping at this sporty-summer-ending-bash. This is going to be an electrifying finish to the Australian Open festivities.
As soon as I step through the gates of the Australian Open, I am met with an immediate wave of music. A trio of guys armed with a trumpet, saxophone and trombone are tearing through a rendition of Mambo No. 5. As tennis skirts, white visors and wedge heels move past me; I really start to drink it all in. Walking through this Mecca To Sport, I pass tall green muscled men on stilts, more free sunscreen samples than I can carry, and a really convincing Mike Posner cover act. Jamming out to Cooler Than Me, I find the entrance to John Cain Arena and the open-air spectacular that is Finals Festival.
Before I go inside and join the swarms of people inside a de-roofed John Cain, I lounge on the grass listening to the electro-pop tunes of Latifa Tee. A triple j radio host and DJ, she is a summer day with friends and strangers. An exclusive, new remix of Cupid is the perfect pairing with a cold drink, hot chips and prescription sunglasses to people watch. Latifa is so beautiful, completely smooth and in her element onstage. The heat seems to roll off her and she stays upbeat, hair curls perfect and unbothered as she works her magic on the decks.
Next up to the literal hot seat, is Melbourne’s own, Sunshine & Disco Faith Choir. They self-describe themselves as: A true ode to dancefloor salvation, Sunshine and Disco Faith Choir serve to share the gospel of disco faith with those whose enthusiasm lives in the hands of the music. These genre-benders feel almost too cerebral for so early in the day, but regardless I am completely enamoured by them. A disco lover to my very core; this is music for anyone who loves Nu-Disco, Fleetwood Mac, and an unbridled feminine ecstasy. This is a huge group. I’m talking, 12-piece choir big. From the opening minute of Welcome to the Dancefloor, one of the biggest earworms of the last 5 years, I knew these guys were going to be a grand slam. The sounds washing over the crowd are just incredible. There are moments that feel identical to a musical sermon. 10,000 people all holding their breath as Dreams floats over us, until an EDM beat rises inconspicuously into airspace. Then it’s a mess of swishing hair, rolling wrists and fan-flapping. Sunshine is dressed in these long flowing sleeves, with lace and feathers and a hat – of course. They are aesthetically and musically a marvel, and if they were taking on groupies – I’d have found my calling.
British drum and bass heavyweights Rudimental are the penultimate act at the Australian Open on this fine day. Festival staples, the three-piece are playing to a revved up crowd. 10,000 of us fight for the half of the arena that has shade. My years of training (going to emo and hardcore shows) have meant I have a great spot with view of the stage. While Rudimental are known for some Rhythm and Blues softness, today it’s time for daylight depravity. An extra heavy version of 2024 release Alibi is a highlight for me. The screens behind the stage are bright yellow, and red and pulsating. Smoke billows out onto the crowd and lights shine down onto us as we let loose into the sound. We are truly dancing the day away. As quick as they start, they’re off. They’ve even curated a great section of ‘hold music’ – including an EDM remix of 1965 The Temptations hit, My Girl. An entire crowd is screaming along to the words; My girl! / My giiirl for at least 3 minutes. And it’s beautiful. There is such a lively, upbeat and energetic vibe in John Cain this Grand Final.
Groove Armada come on and the arena is suddenly packed to the brim. So, I stand off to the side and watch Andy Cato and Tom Findlay run through a super high-energy DJ set. The two have such a great comradery with each other. They smile as though they’re making a joke none of us are in on. And to be honest? They could be laughing at us. We don’t care. As long as they keep the beats going. Personal favourite, reggae/ska infused electronica banger, Superstylin’ is one of the first cabs off the rank. Even though it’s still so sunny outside, it suddenly feels like night-time. Bright lights flash and I can feel the bass in my fingers. My bones are shaking with every rhythm change and beat drop. It’s awesome. There is something late-night about Groove Armada. They feel timeless, placeless – like if oblivion was a new club that we were all dying to be on the waitlist for. They’re effortlessly cool, low-stakes and perfect for grooving. You could not ask for a better closing act.
This was a day of sweat, icy drinks and teeth chattering levels of bass. An electric finish is putting it mildly. This was a trip through so many genres, people, drinks, laughs, songs, sets – I’m sad to have landed back on the tarmac. I still haven’t undone my seatbelt though, I’ll be here, hoping for one more lap around the court, just to get a fraction of those vibes again.