ELEVATE 2023 Cahill Expressway

Kate Young
5th Jan 2023

It's 2023 and as summer festivals start to come to life. Sydney has kicked off the New Year with a free party. Over five days the team from ELEVATE will be closing down the Cahill Expressway and reclaiming one of Sydney’s most iconic views for a celebration of music, food and community spirit.

This jam-packed program has been divided into three sessions, each serving their own unique entertainment schedule. Mornings have been dedicated to family focused events. ELEVATE Family is a chance for incredible memories to be made with some of Australia’s most loved characters (Bluey I’m looking at you) and performers taking the stage. Creating a space where young and old alike, can sing and dance along together. Afternoons are made for ELEVATE Social, a place to chill out, grab a drink at the Elevate Long Bar (set to be the longest in the world) and dance the afternoon away. At the helm to get you in the mood are Young Franco, Anna Lunoe, Running Touch and many more.

It’s the second day of the festival and I’m here for the third part of the program, ELEVATE Nights, a showcase of top class musical acts. Tonight I had the pleasure of listening to the amazing singer /songwriters Ruby Fields and Thelma Plumb and (at the time of getting ticket) a yet to be announced mystery Guest.

Gates opened at 7.45 and the house DJ had us grooving to tunes as we eased on down the road, passing the glorious smells of food trucks that line the road. To schedule, Ruby Fields took to the stage at 8pm, opening up the set with Kitchen, the atmosphere was set, this was going to be a tame performance, and I when I say tame I don’t mean it a regimented need to stick to rules tame, I think Ruby looked out into the audience and saw the faces of younger fans who wouldn’t normally be at her gigs and took the job of being a rock’n’roll role model seriously, keeping banter a little more PG+13. That’s not to say that the band didn’t give it their all, 'cause they did. Everyone was bopping along to her grungy pop tunes such as R.E.G.O, Trouble and Pretty Grimm. The shining song of the set for me was Song about a boy a punchy heartfelt song, about bearing ones heart and offering it to someone you know isn’t capable of handling it and the aftermath of trying to be how you were before. The band throughout the set thanked everyone who had come out and braved the rain, only to be cheered back at by the poncho clad and those water drenched crowd members who weren’t so prepared. The rain wasn’t stopping anyone today, the music or the vibes

Up next was Thelma Plum now this is who I had come to see- having voted for her in the latest Triple J hottest 100 – I was so pumped to see this songbird in person. Having just released her latest album Meanjin, described as a love letter to Brisbane (Meanjin being the traditional name given to Brisbane) opened up her set with the first track off the EP The Brown Snake, with lyrics like the following “There’s a hundred cities/Not as pretty as you/ Yeah, you always been there/Yeah you always come through/ But if I died and went to heaven/ Then heaven would be this place”, Thelma could clearly be speaking about the here now, high above the Sydney Harbour, with the skies pouring down upon me and music filling my ears, whole heartedly say there is no other place I rather be then the here and now. From here Thelma weaved us through her catalogue of hits like Not Angry Anymore, Don’t Let A Good Girl Down, Homecoming Queen and Clumsy Love from her debut album with the newer release of Back Seat Of My Mind. Not going to lie I was a little disappointed that When It Rains It Pours wasn’t played, given the weather it would have felt quite fitting (this was also the song that got my nomination for JJJ) alas this just means I will have to see her again, which was bound to happen away. Thelma closed the set with Better In Blak. From start to finish the show was warm and joyous, much needed on this cold and overcast evening.

Now drum roll for the mystery guest... Spacey Jane was the final act of the night and by the sound of the crowd, was the reason for most of these people to be here. I’m now going to admit that I hadn’t heard anything from these guys until that night (clearly I’m not as hip and in the know musically as I thought), what I can say however is that I’m now a fan of these melodic pop lords who seem to be huge on all the festival circuits at the moment. Unfortunately I can’t tell you any of their song titles (they were never announced and well clearly everyone else didn’t need to be told unlike this newbie) except for Thrills which is from their first EP released in 2017. By the way everyone here is screaming aloud the lyrics really shows just what I have been missing out on. This band maybe young in age but their tight sound and experience seems like that of much-seasoned musicians... I see now why they are in such demand they are wall of sound that attacks you but is still kind enough to give you a hug and sooth you by Caleb Harpers vocals.

With only three days left to party, I must tell you that if you get the chance to get along to ELEVATE you have too, truly you won't experience another festival like it this year and to think it's free!!!! The ELEVATE team has done such an amazing job especially with a schedule of events that flows with ease. There were no hiccups, all staff, especially security, which were so very friendly and helpful and not just to those lucky enough to be wearing a media pass like myself.

After what seems like years 2023 is looking like it's going to be a wild and crazy ride when it comes to arts and entertainment, with things like Sydney Festival, Sydney World Pride, SXSW Sydney, FIFA: Woman’s World Cup and so many more ELEVATE Sydney has lead the way strong. Here’s hoping the success from this year will lead to even bigger in 2024.

ELEVATE takes place 3-7 January, entry is absolutely free – at the time of writing this article, tickets are sold out but the wonderful team at ELEVATE have devised a system where they will re-release any returned tickets, so please keep heading to their site and hopefully you can snag a ticket. Believe me this is an event you don’t want to miss, even if it’s just for the view.