The countdown has begun…Sydney is about to ignite and explode with fountains of lasers, electric lightening bolts of rainbow and galaxies of glittering splendour. The 2016 VIVID FESTIVAL kicks off tonight throughout the city and most majestically of all at The Sydney Opera House.
It’s not just a magical colour palette of wonder that is gracing our beautiful harbour HQ either, VIVID Live will oversee orchestras, rock, electronica, harmonies and drum rolls resonating and pumping from its’ glorious curved sails with the beats and vibrations courtesy of the most notable contemporary musicians from around the globe.
The man in charge of this bold feat and beautiful partnership is Ben Marshall.
With the impressive job titles of ‘Head of Contemporary Music at the Sydney Opera House’ and ‘Festival Director – VIVID Live,’ I imagined Ben Marshall to be a slightly formidable character, maybe fashioning an exaggerated thespian drawl and maybe a little arty farty arrogance scattered throughout his manner. I had forgotten the biggest lesson I’ve learnt since launching The National Treasures Series….never assume anything of anyone, ever, until you’ve spent an hour with them, one on one with your phones on silent. Not only that but my mate Leonard Mattis told me about Ben a year ago and Leonard has got really, good taste in people.
Despite Ben’s responsibilities and despite the fact that (incredibly) he agreed to this interview 2 days before Vivid Live kick off, he is calm, collected, happy and very likeable.
He is also, one of the most knowledgeable people that I’ve ever met from the world of music. I’ve spent time with more than a few ‘music people’ in my life and have been bored silly by the self-importance of far too many. He is refreshingly unpretentious and gorgeously down to earth.
The problem is, though, that every other sentence that rolls out of him about the history of contemporary music and what defines this title for him is gold. Pure, quotable gold and with the inability to record with a flat phone battery and only good old pen and paper it was impossible to harness these insightful and articulate literary nuggets in the time that we had. Never have I been more annoyed at myself for my shortcomings…not only that, I am constantly sidetracked as we discover that Joy Division, PJ Harvey, Patti Smith, Nick Cave, Björk, The Pixies, New Order to name but a few shaped us both from our well-spent youth in London to our present day, as parents in Sydney.
His stories and views flow out of him with passionate zestfulness and because I can’t bottle it, I had to make the call and decided that I would do my best to pen our time together but it could never be as good as a podcast. Nothing I write does this man’s knowledge and repertoire justice. So, stay tuned for an airwave interview down the track featuring this wonderful bloke with a great voice who is in charge of your sensory overload at The Sydney Opera House. He is perfect for the job and I hope that he wears this crown for many years to come.
Music as a child
Funnily enough, I wasn’t raised in an overly musical household. Sure, on occasion the Beatles and other records would be listened to but never playing a huge part in our lives. I was, however always incredibly moved by the theme music to Dr Who and the album Oxygène by Jean Michel Jarre. I definitely think that my passion for electronic music started there!
Music as a grown up
Very tough question. I don’t know where to begin or end, but here are 4 that spring to mind right now.
Joy Division – I’m still unpacking them in my head.
Patti Smith – The world is a bigger landscape because of her.
The National – I’m a big fan of this band, and seeing them play to a crowd of 10,000 on The Sydney Opera House forecourt was an immense highlight for me.
Burial – This guy from London grew up listening to drum and bass through his older brother’s bedroom walls. He was too young to be part of that scene at the time but these experiences stayed with him and he grew up to produce the most incredible music – it’s very much a dream-like state, it’s exceptional.
Stand Out Gigs – Recent.
Apart from The National on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt, I would have to say Nick Cave at The Opera House in 2013 and PJ Harvey in 2012 at The State Theatre for Sydney Festival – Let England Shake. She was incredible.
What Makes a Stellar Concert?
The essence, the excellence of work and the energy of the performers. I love a sense of looseness, on the edge of something…like something incredible is about to happen. It’s the raw and flow, feeling a heightened state of anticipation.
What makes a band or artist stand out to you?
Their uniqueness. The ones that don’t treat their work as a product…the ones that are ‘un careerist’ I can smell careerism!
The 2 events at Vivid Live that excite you the most
That is another very tough question! For grown-ups, I’d say composer Max Richter featuring Grace Davidson. For children – Dress Up Attack! Featuring Walter Martin (Walkmen) Sally Seltmann and Holly Throsby.
“I love all art forms but music sends me the furthest the fastest” Ben Marshall
Ben Marshall-Craig Redfearn-Toby Burrows-Klint Collier-Jared @ Salmon Bros Electric-Griff the Griff Griffiths
Photographer – Toby Burrows
Toby’s Assistant – Klint Collier
Art Director – Zoë Porter
Location – Toby Burrows Photographic Studio – Alexandria, Sydney