It’s hard to come up with a better way to spend a weekend than in the Whitsundays listening to an exciting and eclectic mix of bands, while also getting to sample all that the beautiful coastal town of Airlie Beach has to offer. Held from Friday 6th to Sunday 8th November, the brilliant Airlie Beach Music Festival filled the streets with music lovers both young and old, out to sample not only the bigger acts such as 10cc, The Black Sorrows, Wendy Matthews and Toni Childs, but also an array of promising up and coming artists.
Only in its third year, it really is an impressive feat for the festival to be able to schedule 74 bands (to reflect the 74 islands of the Whitsundays) to play across three days in 16 areas across the town. While the music by acts both international and local stands as a major draw card for attendees, the festival is also very much about enjoying everything else that the area has to offer. That is, it smartly leads us from bar to restaurant to park by the water, each a new venue with stunning views of the aqua water. Further to this, most venues are close together, making it easy to hop between various acts so that you may tailor your experience to be as varied and active or as relaxed as you may choose.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to experience the festival on Friday, thus missing what I hear were incredible performances by much loved artists including The Black Sorrows and Angry Anderson with the James Southwell Band. I was however able to dive straight into the music upon arriving at around lunchtime on the Saturday, starting out at Anchor Bar (which boasts amazing views) with The Chontia Robinson Trio – a relaxed jazz and blues act with a truly powerful vocalist. This trio was followed by Brisbane based guitar virtuoso and folk artist John Malcolm, a musician who clearly captivates crowds with his intricate guitar work.
On the Saturday we were also lucky enough to catch a number of wonderfully entertaining acts over at the main stage at the Whit Sailing Club. Electrik Lemonade would have to stand out as the most energetic act of the festival, comprising of a big band supporting two hyperactive (and amazingly entertaining) front men who danced across the stage throughout the entire set whilst delivering a catchy blend of hip hop, funk and jazz. Richard Clapton had the crowd swooning as he delivered his classics across his set, while Toni Childs had every person in the crowd completely absorbed in her emotive power ballads. While definitely one for the slightly older crowds, it was great to see all ages clearly loving Toni Childs’ set, with Toni even sitting with her audience for her final song to deliver the powerful song, “Because You’re Beautiful”.
That day we were also able to catch the promising new act Tia and Jack along with Bill Chambers. Hailing from Mackay, Tia and Jack are a young acoustic-folk duo who won the Tamworth Country Music Festival Busking Championship at the start of this year. With hints of alternative country, folk and blues and supported by the highly esteemed country musician Bill Chambers (also the father of Kasey), it will certainly be interesting to watch this young duo and to see what new music they release in the future.
Other favourites for the weekend included the talented young acoustic singer Jake Mason, as well as the wonderful gravelly voiced artist Mescilato Blues. Ben Ransom closed the Cactus Jacks stage with his lovely blues folk, Grizzlee Train had a more raucous blues rock sound playing at Beaches and perhaps our favourite act on the Sunday was West Australian act Chris Matthews, delivering a vibrant blend of country, folk and bluegrass to a captivated audience.
All in all, the Airlie Beach Music Festival was a musically varied and well executed event that allowed all attendees to not only soak up the music, but also the beauty of the place itself.
Lead imaged supplied and used with permission