Conservative went out the window as Solution Entertainment took charge of their second consecutive AIME Welcome Event, bringing an eclectic mix of fringe festival style performers and a range of musical acts to The Ormond Collective in St Kilda, a new Melbourne event venue, most recently home to the Belgian Beer Garden.
Special report by Bronwen Largier
“It was a culmination of all the festivals of Melbourne,” says Solution Entertainment Director Brad Hampel on the company’s inspiration for the theme. “We feel that Melbourne and Victoria is really really strong in the festival scene.”
“What we wanted to do was give that festival flavour and combine them all to create the festival of AIME.
“We were, as a business, thinking because of the crowd we want it to be conservative but we were given really great reign by the MCB to allow us to push the boundaries a little bit more and, I guess, open up those doors a little bit more,” says Hampel.
The event, spread across a sizable outdoor space and three interconnected indoor spaces, indeed delivered a number of both quirky and contemporary acts, ranging from a performer walking across champagne bottles (towards the beginning of the evening) to a three piece jazz trio, roving human lightening bolts, a crowd-pleasing band and a girl in a ball (towards the end of the night).
“I felt the spaces worked really well. The one-off performances were quite intriguing and really quite different to what people would have seen and quite fun,” says Hampel.
“I felt like we had a really great mix of that corporate musical style and that kind of contemporary feel with that artsy type style. I think we had really nice pops of interest throughout the evening and that was our plan.”
From ASE’s perspective as attendees, the event had an air of endearing oddball luxury to it, balancing the essential corporate nature of the occasion with the creativity of a public event. A sense of careful curation and generally great execution of the entertainment made the event fit the audience without being a standard business event, deviating from the safe space that many similar events often, lamentably, inhabit. We got the feeling that this was a demonstration of the potential of business events to be fun as well as functional.
The bottle walker was a delightful eye-catching early stunt (after much conjecture, the general consensus was that the bottles did not appear to be glued down, raising the impressiveness of the – pardon the pun – feat); the jazz trio added a great atmosphere to the main bar, but the Gin Project, the major act appearing several times across the night in the largest indoor space would have been better without amplification. As the night progressed – and got progressively cooler – more of the crowd found their way into this room and together with the band, the noise reached slightly above optimal levels for networking.
The girl in the ball was a fascinating spectacle – certainly one of the best “pops” of the night although it would have been an interesting subversion, given the current climate, had it been a boy in a ball.
Cool weather and wind meant the outside area was largely vacated later in the evening although we did spot several intense conversations taking place in the Fringe Marquee (possibly Melbournians, Tasmanians or New Zealanders – clearly those more impervious to the cold than the writer of this piece, who, quite frankly, should have brought a coat down from Sydney). As Hampel points out, however, another few degrees would have made all the difference and turned the outdoors into the most perfect networking space an event producer could hope for.
“The fun of being in Melbourne…you never know what’s going to happen with the weather,” says Hampel. “If it was not as windy and a little bit warmer I would have been very happy. 26 and sunny would have been perfect.”
There was another initial setback for the outdoor area which Solution Entertainment overcame in planning to add another layer to the entertainment offering.
“We had challenges…in the outdoor area not being able to amplify music so we went and tried to work out how to best utilise that space to give it a bit of flow. That’s where the Horns of Leroy came in and we had La Rumba – they’re the original Bourke St Mall buskers – and we tried to just add different flavours so each room was completely independent but they worked really well together as a flow. We were really happy with the delivery of all those components.”
It’s worth noting that the Horns of Leroy had, in fact, played a set on the all-night Uptown Funk stage at White Night just two nights earlier, proving their festival scene credentials.
ASE can certainly vouch for the festival vibe, right down to the printed program. The only negative was the promised food offerings in said program did not, disappointingly, all materialise in our vicinity (or anywhere that we could find), although it could not be said there was a lack of food, nor that the food we were served was anything other than delicious. The miming burger bar was hilarious and the opportunity to construct one’s own waffles for dessert was a nice interactive touch. The cheese selection – discovered through word of mouth – was a lovely surprise, but we’re still mourning the lack of opportunity to sample the mac and cheese donuts. On the other hand the truffle cheese toasties were a simple pleasure.
If Solution Entertainment were to land the gig a third time, Hampel says they would continue to work on the networking opportunities for attendees.
“There’s always interesting learnings. I think that networking piece is so important and that’s really what it’s based on. I was very comfortable with where it landed but I’d like to try and create a better networking space, potentially, [where] people can still immerse themselves in the event – essentially what the outdoor would have been, if it…wasn’t windy.”
“I think it’s so important to always change up the venue and I think it’s so important to always keep it fresh with innovative entertainment and new concepting. That’s why I’m really comfortable with what we did this year in terms of the theme because I thought it was really where things are at in Melbourne. I think it’s a really big theme that we’ll see come out throughout the year of events.”
Hampel says to be successful in running any event, creativity cannot be underestimated.
“My take on it is creativity is very defining in this industry because I feel like there’s so many players out there.
“I think…we won it with the creative concepting that we came with and I just think that was what we needed to do and we will continue to need to do if we want to maintain our position as the people running the event.
“I believe everyone can deliver a great event, I just think we have to be really strong in our creative components and obviously the delivery needs to match that creative component,” says Hampel.
“We’ll never ever get complacent in our approach and never think that we’re guaranteed to get anything – that’s with my business in general and I think personally, we just have to continue to look for a new, awesome idea that can be delivered to an event space.”
Client: Melbourne Convention Bureau
Event Producer: Solution Entertainment
Furniture and Audio Visual: Harry the Hirer
Signage: Evan Evans
Catering and venue: The Big Group
Entertainment by Solution Entertainment
Hugo Bladel – Main stage acoustic performer
Gin Project – 7 Piece, RnB and funk band
Simon Page Jones and Wild Boys – The opening performance
J’AIMIME – Bubble Pop and Invisible Man cabaret performance
Horns of Leroy – Horns band
Anna Lumb – Bottle walk and Hula Hoop performance
La Rumba and Laura Yu – Mexican band and Flamenco dancer
Dancing with Strings – Puppet dance performance
Strange Fruit – Sway poles
Afterglow – jazz combo