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Fred Again: who is the DJ who has thousands queuing for a ‘secret rave’ at the Sydney Opera House?

<span>Fred Again whips up unstoppable mania for each one of his surprise shows. The British DJ will play at the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday night.</span><span>Photograph: Joel Goodman/The Guardian</span>
Fred Again whips up unstoppable mania for each one of his surprise shows. The British DJ will play at the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday night.Photograph: Joel Goodman/The Guardian

Michael, Fred Again announced this morning that he is playing a surprise live show at the Sydney Opera House – tonight. After more than 120,000 people queued for tickets and he temporarily crashed the Opera House website, it has sold out. Tell me more about this guy – and is there any chance of getting a ticket to that show?

If you are asking this now, it’s already too late. Fred Again – whose real name is the extremely British Frederick John Philip Gibson – could be described as the Taylor Swift of the dance world: a musician and DJ who attracts fearsome love and scepticism in equal measure. He has been making music for a decade – first as a protege of Brian Eno, then as a songwriter for George Ezra and Rita Ora. But he really blew up during lockdowns with a trilogy of albums titled Actual Life, all of which feature samples from conversations with his friends and peers set to house-ish tracks.

Case in point: his breakout hit Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing), where fellow DJ The Blessed Madonna waxes lyrical about the communities forged on the dancefloor over synths. You may have heard it at the end of Triangle of Sadness.

Since then, Fred Again has exploded into public view. His “secret raves” in London and New York sold out within minutes; he often announces and performs these shows within hours of each other, and always on the same day. His Melbourne gig last year sold out in 3.4 seconds, according to ticket company Humanitix; it would take me 3.4 seconds just to open Safari on my phone. Mind-boggling!

OK, 3.4 seconds is crazy. Do Australians love him in particular?

Related: In-demand producer Fred again.. : ‘I was fortunate not to be good at anything else’

If there’s one thing about Australia it is that we are desperate babies who glom on to any artist who gives us the time of day. (See also: Pink). And Fred Again has more than provided: alongside his surprise Melbourne show last year, he also played a surprise Sydney set the same month alongside his previously announced appearances at Laneway festival and accompanying sideshows. At a show in Sydney’s Enmore theatre he told the audience that Australians were always in his DMs, which makes sense. (See above: desperate babies.)

If he’s so popular, why does he keep his shows secret? Why not give people more notice that he’s coming?

Because it is a very effective tactic. Obviously clandestine raves have existed as long as the fun police; if I had a dollar for every time I saw the phrase “secret warehouse location” I would probably have enough money for a Fred Again ticket. It helps him whip up an unstoppable mania for each one of his surprise shows. We might trace it back to 2022, when a series of listening parties for Actual Life 3 popped up at pubs around the world. Fans on his Discord channel – which has more than 26,000 members – were sent a link to the album a day before its release to host their own events, many cobbled together within hours.

A cynic could say that the secret shows give him a degree of street cred at odds with his massively mainstream popularity. Or, like this GQ profile says, you could argue there is a link between the spontaneity of his shows and the DIY nature of his music, which often draws from the lives of himself and those around him.

You mentioned Swift, who has a really intense fan following. What is Fred Again’s relationship with his fans like?

To use your word: intense! Like Swift, he is particularly fond of dropping clues on social media. For example he has been hinting for the past 24 hours about coming to Australia. “We’re getting on a flight now and when we land, we’re gonna play some shows,” he wrote on his Instagram story on Monday, followed by many stories from airports and flights. The fans immediately began sniffing out the truth: one TikTok surmised Fred Again’s Australian destination based on a jar of Vegemite he posted earlier, and a commenter identified his flight as one operated by Qantas.

You can certainly see the joy in these Easter eggs: last January, one concertgoer in London said they were handed a USB containing unreleased Fred Again tracks and remixes by a mysterious member of the crowd who then vanished.

A month later, the DJ left Fred Again sweat towels around a Melbourne venue – and then posted the resulting mad rush and diabolical queues on TikTok.

The fans can get the clues wrong. In his Melbourne trip, he posted a series of whale emojis on Instagram, which made people rush to St Kilda’s Prince of Wales hotel thinking they had cracked the code to a secret gig. They were not only wrong (he was off somewhere watching penguins), but also now in St Kilda.

Basically, everyone is insane about him and you probably can’t get tickets to his show now, but thanks for playing.