Media releases

Now or Never brings live music back to Royal Exhibition Building 

31 May 2023

Melbourne’s iconic Royal Exhibition Building will play host to a cutting-edge line-up of local artists and international headliners when the City of Melbourne premieres its vibrant new major festival Now or Never.

The inaugural 17-day event will transform Melbourne with immersive experiences of art, ideas, music and technology in August and September.

Carlton’s Royal Exhibition Building has been unveiled as one of the festival’s major venues – marking the first large-scale live music performance in the historic building in more than two decades.

Highlights from the Now or Never music program under the building’s spectacular cathedral ceilings include:

  • An Australian exclusive by American singer, songwriter and producer Kelela, supported by genre-bending avant/R&B musician, serpentwithfeet
  • A club night like never before, co-hosted by Untitled Group – headlined by a live set from German house and techno producer Âme, as well as performances by internationally renowned Axel Boman, Melbourne native CC:Disco!, rising star Ayebatonye, and Brisbane mainstay and Yuggera woman, dameeeela
  • A unique sensory experience by English electronic duo Autechre, who will headline a night of live electronic music in complete darkness – enhanced with a psychedelic 3D audio-visual experience by British artist Max Cooper
  • A hypnotising electronic show from Bristol duo Giant Swan and a thumping live set by UK based artist Actress
  • Orchestra Victoria’s take on US composer Steve Reich’s iconic Music for 18 Musicians, accompanied by a 16-metre-high commissioned video work by multimedia artist Jesse Woolston

The Royal Exhibition Building will also play host to Never Permanent, presented by the internationally acclaimed design festival, Semi Permanent. The to-be-announced line-up will be stacked with thought-provoking keynote speakers and panel sessions featuring leading creative visionaries.

Now or Never will also feature immersive art installations at venues and locations across Melbourne – including the city, Docklands and Carlton – between Thursday 17 August and Saturday 2 September.

Now or Never thanks its valued partners for their support, including Foundation Partners: Melbourne Museum and Moon Dog Craft Brewery; Major Partners: Mitchelton Wines; and Event Partners ACMI, Dann Event Hire, Four Pillars, Rydges Melbourne and Scent Air.

For more information on the first program announcement, or to buy tickets, visit Now or Never.

Now or Never’s full program will be revealed in late June.

Quotes attributable to Lord Mayor Sally Capp

“For the first time in more than two decades, Now or Never will bring large-scale live music back to the spectacular Royal Exhibition Building – with an unmissable line-up that celebrates our incredible homegrown talent, alongside ground-breaking work from international artists.”

Now or Never will be an unmissable addition to our bustling events calendar this winter – cementing Melbourne’s reputation as Australia’s cultural capital, providing a boost to the local economy and supporting jobs.”

“We’re excited to welcome Semi Permanent back to Melbourne with the addition of Never Permanent to our stacked Royal Exhibition Building line-up – where more than a thousand visitors will enjoy thought-providing discourse from leading innovations and visionaries from around the world.”

Quotes attributable to City Activation portfolio lead Councillor Roshena Campbell

Now or Never will explore the intersection of art, ideas, sound and technology – and we’re so excited to announce the Royal Exhibition Building as one of our major event hosts.”

“Set to attract more than 200,000 visitors to the city, this inaugural festival will add to our vibrant creative scene and invite even more visitors to explore the best of what our wonderful city has to offer.”

Quotes attributable to CEO Melbourne Museum Lynley Crosswell

“Melbourne Museum is thrilled to be part of the City of Melbourne’s Now or Never festival by hosting this incredible line-up of events at the Royal Exhibition Building.”

“This festival will bring the Royal Exhibition Building to life with these eclectic musicians, cutting-edge performances and provocative talks.”

Quotes attributable to Semi Permanent Founder, Murray Bell

“Never Permanent brings together the best creatives and innovators from around the globe, and we can’t wait to offer our platform to these world-renowned names in the industry.”

“This line-up for Never Permanent is shaping up to be one of our best yet, and we’re thrilled for this to be a part of Now or Never.”

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