Part-concert, part-sculpture installation, part-haunted house, Swell LIVE was an exciting way to experience performance at Melbourne Music Week.
Walking down the corridor towards the eerie green light of the bar and passing several zombie-like people dressed in hospital clothes, I confirmed Swell was delivering on its promise to offer musical performance in a non-traditional format.
My plus one and I waited for the performances to start, but there was so much to experience that it didn’t feel like waiting. We explored the hallways, encountering encrypted typewriters, alcoves of poetry performance and music, and a confession room. We were lead by a ‘priest’ into individual chambers to record confessions before the first performance.
A nurse scurried down the hallway with a bell, telling the audience to choose a performance room. My plus one and I ducked into a room that featured a sunset projection, along with a guitarist and percussionist. Their music had a melancholy groove that let you drift in and out of thought, and I felt at times like my body was absorbed by the music and the experience of the room.
Each of the rooms held a new style of music with a completely different aesthetic. Room 3, which featured the band The General Assembly, was a magical experience. When one of the nurses lifted a curtain to let us into the room, we were blown away. Escaping the creepy haunted hospital, we entered a land of enchantment. The space was filled with white streamers hanging from the ceiling. Soon the streamers shimmered with light that was perfectly timed to the music. Front man Matt Wicking’s voice soared and sparkled, leading the room to settle into a single stream of energy. My plus one spent the next two sessions in Room 3, and I opted to return for the evening’s last set rather than join the dance party in Room 5.
Swell LIVE created another world of music. I hope to experience more performance that is curated in this format. The whole evening — especially Room 3 with The General Assembly — was one of the most engaging and exciting musical experiences I’ve had.
Hannah Rundman, originally from Michigan, USA, is an arts manager and lover of art that breaks the mold of established mediums. She values eye contact and art that brings diverse groups of people together.
Swell LIVE runs 13-20 November at the Former Royal Women’s Hospital.
The venue is not accessible.