Vivid Live is the music festival Sydney badly needs, its curator says.
"We just haven't been experiencing music together, not in a free way, for a long time," Ben Marshall told AAP.
The last Vivid Sydney in 2019 attracted a record 2.4 million people and was worth $172 million to the local economy, with the live music line-up a major part of its success.
But the next two festivals were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Mr Marshall has found himself putting together this year's music line-up out of the ashes of the unrealised programs.
The festival is usually based around headline international acts but after Mr Marshall devised a 2021 line-up entirely from Australian and New Zealand performers, he was left with a dilemma for this year's event.
"I just decided I didn't want to be a curator that asked Australian artists to step up in a year when the borders were closed, then slammed the door on them," he said.
Mr Marshall said all performers on the 2021 bill were offered a place in this year's Vivid Live.
The result is more than 70 acts across six performance spaces at the Sydney Opera House, with headliners Paul Kelly and Sampa the Great, hip-hop duo Hermitude and the iconic sails lit up with art from the Parnngurr community of the Western Desert.
International acts include Yussef Dayes and rappers S1mba and JAY1, all out of the United Kingdom.
"It's ended up being this astonishing amalgam of vital Australian voices with really rigorous top-end international work," Mr Marshall said.
With the festival in its 12th year, he is confident Vivid Live's more out-there acts have a place at the Opera House, with Sydney punk band Low Life sitting happily next to Opera Australia.
"We've missed deeply that communal experience of being together in a room experiencing art ... and the city just needs that electrical charge running through it," Mr Marshall said.
Vivid Sydney runs from May 27 until June 18.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.