Festival Gives Musicians Passport to Airlie

Discover New Talent

Gavin Butlin and Cindy Jensen know how to pick a winner.  

In 2018 they awarded Tones and I the coveted title of ‘Totally Talented’ at Ms Jensen’s ‘Battle of the Buskers’ event. 

Then a busker from Byron Bay, Tones and I won a package including a performance slot at Mr Butlin’s Airlie Beach Festival of Music. 

Fast forward to 2019 and Tones and I has topped the charts in 15 countries with her single ‘Dance Monkey’.

The resulting international touring commitments might have stopped her from playing that slot in Airlie Beach, but Mr Butlin and Ms Jensen are already looking for the artist who will fill her shoes. 

Four weeks ago, Mr Butlin was part of a panel who selected Gold Coast artist Chev Wilson as this year’s Battle of the Buskers winner, and this weekend, Ms Jensen will be one of a small group judging the Airlie Beach Festival of Music’s nationwide Passport to Airlie competition. 

From Darwin to Melbourne and everywhere in between, 225 acts entered what has now become Australia’s largest live, original music movement. 

Bands battled it out in heats around Australia, with winners crowned in each of the major regions. 

Making their way to Airlie Beach to compete in the national grand final this weekend are: Ward Hancock Trio (Darwin), Stone Alley (Cairns), Tendermen (Townsville), The Base Coats (Mackay), Flaskas (Sunshine Coast), Benny Nelson (Brisbane), Lemaire (Gold Coast), August River Band (Byron Bay), Glovers Lane (Newcastle), Analogue Dreams (Illawarra) and Lash 78 (Melbourne).

Each of these acts will play three sets in festival venues outside of the main tent, hoping for not just an overall win but also the prize of a headline spot at next year’s Airlie Beach Festival of Music.   

Passport to Airlie co-ordinator, Cherrie Hughes, said the chance to be on a bill with international stars was “once-in-a-lifetime”. 

“There’s a lot at stake in terms of the doors this can open for them and they won’t know when the judges are going to appear, so the sets need to be professional and tight and they need to get the crowd engaged,” she said. 

Ms Jensen said the judges would be looking for “uniqueness” among other qualities. 

“It’s about that voice you haven’t heard before that stands out above the rest, as well as a stage presence that sets the room alight,” she said. 

“I can feel that award-winning musician within two seconds of seeing them – it gives you goose bumps – you just know they’re going to go somewhere and that’s what happened with Tones and I.” 

Chev Wilson said winning the 2019 Battle of the Buskers and the performances in Airlie Beach this weekend were milestones he wasn’t taking for granted. 

“Playing at an event with artists like Yothu Yindi, John Butler and 8 Ball Aitken is massive, but I’m determined it’s only the beginning,” he said. 

“I’m going to play the best shows I can this weekend and prove I’m an act worth seeing who sings from the soul.”

Mr Butlin said the Passport to Airlie and Buskers initiatives gave ticket-holders an opportunity to discover new talent and see more than just headline acts. 

“The daytime content is a festival in itself, and to have that combined with the main tent in one, tropical location is one of the things that makes this festival unique,” he said.  

The national Passport to Airlie winner will be announced on the main stage before John Butler’s performance this Sunday, November 10. 

Tickets are on sale via OzTix, BigTix, Whitsunday Tickets, The MECC, Tourism Whitsundays, and direct from www.airliebeachfestivalofmusic.com.au

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