The Queensland Music Festival’s Immersion brings a whole new meaning to the ‘intimate gig’

As part of this year’s Queensland Music Festival, Artistic Director Katie Noonan has come together with Brisbane hotel, The Johnson, in curating a one-of-a-kind live music season in Immersion. The 10 day series sees some of our best and favourite names hosting intimate shows in a hotel room at The Johnson, offering a boutique live music experience unlike any other.

Featuring the likes of MontaigneRobbie Miller, Noonan herself, All Our Exes Live in TexasDeborah Conway and more, the Immersion series is touted as one of the QMF’s highlights on this year’s program and as we have found out, the musicians involved are equally as keen.

“The thing that most attracted me to it was that it would be such a small number of people, in such close proximity.” Immersion showcase artist and noted jazz singer Kristin Berardi says. “It’s quite a rare and special set of circumstances really – sort of like having a jam with your friends in your lounge room, but you can get dressed up if you like!”

“Small spaces and small audiences are more conducive to personal storytelling, and that is something that I thrive on!” Montaigne adds. “I’m looking forward to the feeling of connectedness and belonging, which I’m sure will permeate the room.”

Kristin Berardi (Photo: Metaxia Coustas)

The diverse list of names set to perform as part of Immersion adds to the overall high quality output Noonan’s QMF program has boasted this year.

“I think the audience will be able to hear artists up close and personal, which is something they may not be able to do in bigger venues.” My Nightingale‘s Elly Hoyt says. “It allows the audience and artist to connect on a different level. They’ll be able to hear songs that wouldn’t normally be played the same way and stories that may not have been heard before.”

“I love the kick-ass artists on the lineup and the idea behind using this space. It’s very rare to be able to play a gig that is unamplified and so intimate; it’s really a musician’s dream. This set up enables everyone to be raw and honest and really feel the energy in the room. I’m super excited to play music and meet the audience. ”

“I hope audiences get to feel apart of it all.” Berardi adds. “It’s such an intimate setting and music is about connection and sharing, so I hope anyone who attends an Immersion show will feel the warmth of that special setting.”

My Nightingale

For Conway, being part of this series (she performs on Monday), the opportunity to share such a unique experience with an audience was one not to be passed up.

“I love making connections with people who are so clearly there for no other reason than to listen to music, it’s a very pure exchange; audience and performer are so focussed on making a moment, a song, a concert work.”

“While there are few places you can go publicly where there is no soundtrack, listening to music in an intimate acoustic setting is still relatively rare. I know from my experience, that it is moving being that up close and personal with music makers in full flight.”

For the Australian music icon of course, these sorts of intimate shows are no rarity, with Conway’s various Australian tours bringing her up close and personal with fans frequently.

“Intimate acoustic shows have been part of my regular gigging pattern for more than a dozen years, since 2004 when Willy Zygier and I put out our first independent release – “Summertown” and I had to think about marketing. I was thinking about how you get into people’s lounge rooms if radio won’t play your songs? And it struck me, “Why don’t we just walk in?” Do what Tupperware do.”

“No one had ever done this before, certainly not in Australia.” she explains. “So this format for the house concert was born, we called it The Summerware Party – a combination of Tupperware & Summertown; people bought 30 copies of the album & then Willy & I would turn up on the appointed day and time to play a four song set, no amplification, deliver the CDs and sign them for all the guests.”

Conway and Zygier’s shows have been nationally-renowned.

As part of this year’s Queensland Music Festival, the Immersion series shines a light on local talent and also the concept that live music can be taken and placed in quite literally, any room, and still be delivered with passion and intensity that could be expected on any professional stage.

“I think it’s extremely important.” Berardi says of the prominence of local artists on these festivals. ” We tend to think more highly of people from overseas than our own at times. We as Australian artists, scientists, sportspeople etc, can be exceptional as well. When a major festival takes the time to include our home-grown talent, it really gives those artist the support they need, and let’s the public know what great talent there is in our towns and cities.”

“I am really thankful to have been apart of this year’s Queensland Music Festival. Thanks to everyone involved, especially to Katie Noonan for her vision and total engagement in this festival.”

“We need to support our local and established artists to keep the culture and scene alive.” Hoyt agrees. “Australia, as a whole, is a young country, but the arts are huge and by making this a priority, we continue to grow together which I think is important. My Nightingale has only been around for a short time, and being invited to play this festival opens up a new demographic and audience for us – we are able to meet other inspiring artists and be part of something that is important.”

“Broadening one’s market is key to extended the lifespan of a performance career.” Montaigne adds. “I hope they [the audience] take away a unique experience of performance and gain new insights into an artist’s life, for all the trouble and banality that is hidden behind the facade of musical persona.”


So with both the audience and the artist set to be in a live environment where hearts are laid out on sleeves and vulnerabilities are open to be embraced, the title of this QMF series has never been more apt.

“I really like being able to feel like I could really look at everyone, and let them know I’m so glad they came.” Berardi says. “It is also quite terrifying, in that you can really see everyone! Not like in a theatre, when you see a few faces and mostly just darkness. So, it is risky and wonderful all at once! Like most of life’s most rewarding things, I guess.”

“These are my favourite gigs.” Hoyt enthuses. “In some ways they are more nerve-wracking because of the intimacy but at the same time, the most familiar and comfortable, because it’s a similar space to when you are writing music and playing at home. One of the great parts is it takes away any challenges of amplified gigs for example; the battery in the guitar might go flat or you have no fold back and you can’t hear yourself, the list goes on…”

“[The] QMF have always been a festival with a community focus,” Conway adds. “As part of that being able to draw attention to up and coming talent in local areas as well as established artists is part and parcel of what makes QMF one of the most interesting festivals in the country.”

Find out more information here.

July 15th | Montaigne
July 16th | All Our Exes Live in Texas
July 17th | Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier
July 18th | Hannah Macklin
July 19th | My Nightingale
July 20th | Katie Noonan
July 21st | Jeremy Neale
July 22nd | Robbie Miller
July 23rd | Berardi, Andrew, Sandon


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