André 3000 Volume
André 3000 is headlining Volume festival. Photography: Dexter Navy

IF YOU MISSED the inaugural Volume festival in 2023, you were most certainly kicking yourself. The Art Gallery of New South Wales’ innovative music and art series was headlined by RnB-pop-soul dream queen Solange Knowles, and it sold out as quickly as it deserved to. The show’s setting added to the fever: it took place inside the Tank, a former World War II oil tank beneath Sydney Modern, which the gallery converted into a cavernous exhibition space as part of its state of the art 2022 extension. Solange was the first musical artist to perform down there, and although I was one of those people that missed out (I kicked myself), by all accounts she gave the space an appropriate christening. 

Now, Volume is set to return for the second time this July. But this year, there isn’t just one big headliner; there’s four. 

By now, you’ve probably heard the bill — with a line-up this good, it hardly remains a secret. Genesis Owusu, Tkay Maidza, rock ’n roll icon Kim Gordon and André 3000 (as the flute player, not the polaroid picture-shaking one-half of Outkast) are performing live as part of the two week-long festival, which kicks off on July 5. But these guys aren’t the only attractions. Volume also features an expansive free program, consisting of sprawling performances that blend sound, lighting and art in innovative new ways. This year, Defender will be a major partner of Volume. The team-up feels like a no-brainer, given the trailblazing marque’s global reputation for high-performance in-car audio technology, which, in recent years, has become something of a springboard for the brand’s commitment to supporting the music industry here and abroad, and new trends that emerge within it.

Whether you’ve already got tickets to André 3000’s New Blue Sun Live performance (it’s sold out), or this is the first you’re hearing about the groundbreaking festival, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to the event, including our must-see shows, how to get tickets and what other exciting stuff is happening on the periphery. 

What is Volume Festival?

Volume is a music series presented by the Art Gallery of New South Wales that runs for two-and-a-bit weeks inside the gallery’s iconic Tank. Unlike traditional outdoor music festivals, where the sound tends to be sub par, Volume exists to push the limits of sound and live performance, through a program spanning live shows by world-renowned artists (more on that soon), experiential soundscapes and groundbreaking visual works. Basically, Volume not only sits at the intersection of art and sound – the program is designed to push the boundaries of live performance and offer a truly unique experience for those of us who head along. This is the second year Volume will take place, following its debut in 2023.

Terrace of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Naala Bady building. Photography: courtesy of AGNSW

Where is Volume? 

Volume will be held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Of course, there are plenty of spaces within the gallery that would be perfect for a musical performance, but the team – led by the Art Gallery’s music and community curator Jonathan Wilson – knew that for Volume to be truly original, it needed the most extraordinary setting.

Enter the Tank. Lying beneath the gallery’s north building, also known as Naala Badu, meaning ‘seeing waters’ in local Indigenous language, the Tank is one of Sydney’s most extraordinary architectural wonders. It is the site of two former oil tanks that were built into the eastern side of the Domain in Woolloomooloo during WWII, to provide fuel for the naval fleet at the nearby Garden Island; they lay dormant until their transformation as part of the recent gallery refurb. Now, the underground section is one of the institution’s biggest highlights, and its dark expanse comes alive during live performances. Volume couldn’t have a more appropriate stage.

Other performances will illuminate other areas of the gallery. ‘Extasis’ will activate the gallery with exploratory sonic approaches by several of the world’s leading experimental musicians working across ambient, neo-classical and electronic forms. See who further down.

The Tank space in the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new SANAA-designed building. Photography: courtesy of AGNSW

Who is performing at Volume? 

As mentioned, for its second iteration, Volume has four huge names headlining. Kicking off the headline performances will be Esquire cover alum and multiple ARIA Award-winning Ghanaian-Australian multidisciplinary artist Genesis Owusu, whose two performances will be shaped by his experience touring the world with his Struggler album, as well as contemporary visual arts more broadly.

For one night only, Zimbabwean-born, Australian-raised, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and rapper Tkay Maidza will bring her high energy to the Tank, reprising bangers from her 2023 album Sweet Justice as well as some of her earlier hits. Obviously, the crowd will be dancing.

Genesis Owusu. Photography: Bec Parsons
Tkay Maidza. Photography: Dana Trippe

Then, Kim Gordon – yes, she who co-founded the generation-defining alt-rock group Sonic Youth – will perform music from her recent albums, including tracks from her critically acclaimed second solo album, The Collective, exclusively for Volume. Yes, this will be your only chance to see the pop-culture icon performing in Australia this year, and quite likely for some time.

The final headliner, André 3000, will round out the series with a live performance of his debut solo album New Blue Sun, which also marked his debut as a flautist (previously, we knew him as one-half of the early aughts hip-hop duo, OutKast). At Volume, he’ll perform the 2023 album with a band that features percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Carlos Niño, Surya Botofasina on keyboards and Deantoni Parks on synthesiser and drums. According to Volume, “these Sydney-exclusive performances will be immersive and transcendent”.

Kim Gordon. Photography: Danielle Neu
André 3000. Photography: Dexter Navy

These four headliners aren’t the series’ only draw cards, however. Volume is also home to a bunch of free events, including a new commissioned work by musician Flume and his longtime visual collaborator Jonathan Zawada, which is built from short visual, lighting, soundtrack and laser-based pieces that riff on the standard elements of an EDM festival – sonics, heady projections and mesmeric lighting and lasers.

See the full program including all free performances.

What is the Defender Music Studio?

Photography: courtesy of Defender.

Defender, the iconic British purveyor of off-roaders, is launching the Defender Music Studio, an audio experience that takes listeners on an immersive rhythmic journey. Featuring a soundscape produced in collaboration with a yet-to-be-named Australian composer, inside the Music Studio, sounds played inside the Defender Electric Hybrid, through the Meridian™ sound system, will create the impression of conquering various terrains. Participants will be gifted with this exclusive music track after their experience.

The development of this pioneering experience aligns with Defender’s – and the entire Jaguar Land Rover family’s – long-term engineering collaboration with British audio innovator Meridian, which crafts the sophisticated sound systems installed in each of its cars. The Music Studio will be putting the Meridian†† system to the test; according to the brand, it lets you feel the rhythm of the music, with exceptional definition, crystal clear highs and full, deep bass. Sign us up.

When is Volume? 

Volume will kick off on Friday July 5. The headliners will play the following dates:

Genesis Owusu: Friday July 5 and Saturday July 6.

Tkay Maidza: Saturday July 13.

Kim Gordon: Thursday July 18 and Friday July 19.

André 3000: Saturday July 20 and Sunday July 21.

For the full schedule, including all free performances and events, see here.

Mourning [A] BLKstar perform during Volume 2023 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photography: Felicity Jenkins. Courtesy of AGNSW.

How much are tickets for Volume? 

Ticket pricing for all Volume performances varies.

Tickets to Genesis Owusu and Tkay Maidza’s performances are $80 ($75 for concession and $70 for AGNSW members). Buy tickets to Genesis Owusu’s Volume shows here, and buy tickets to Tkay Maidza’s Volume show here.

Tickets to Kim Gordon’ performances are $115 ($110 for concession and $100 for AGNSW members). Buy tickets to Kim Gordon’s shows here.

Tickets to André 3000’s performances were $125 ($120 for concession, $110 for AGNSW members), but these have all sold out.


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