Return of the All Stars

Airlie Beach Festival of Music welcomes final headline acts

When Smash Mouth singer Steve Harwell became unwell on stage during the finale of the 2018 Airlie Beach Festival of Music, Nicky Bombaknew exactly what needed to be done. 

Bustamento / Swamp House Photography

Seeing there was an audience front of house who deserved to be entertained, the Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Bustamento front mangrabbed a guitar, took to the stage and led thousands of music lovers through a chorus of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’.

“I had no idea exactly what we were going to do but I trusted in what was going to happen,” he said. 

Nicky Bombaknew
Bustamento / Swamp House Photography

“I was literally walking out thinking,‘everything’s going to be alright’, so I thought, ‘okay, I’ll do that song first –this is a song that everybody knows so let’s get everybody singing’.

Backstage at that moment, everything was far from alright. 

Festival founder Gavin Butlin was holding his head in his hands envisaging a queue of angry fans demanding refunds after not seeing the promised international act. 

Fiddle player Clare O’Meara had gone to the green room to visit her good friends Wilbur Wilde and guitarist Pip Joyce. 

ABFOM All Stars / Swamp House Photography

They had just performed as part of a Frankie J Holden and Wilbur Wilde set, taking festival fans back to the days of the good Ol 55’. 

“We were just hanging out and the next thing I knew there was a kerfuffle going on,” Clare remembers. 

“Wilbur and Pip grabbed me and said, ‘come up on stage and jam’.”

To say history was made when these very different performers from varied walks of life and musical genres got on stage together would be an understatement. 

ABFOM All Stars / Swamp House Photography

The crowd went wild, with festival fans describing the performance as one of the best they’d ever seen.

“Sportsmen say they go into a zone and that’s what happened to us,” he said. 

“It’s those occasions that are the reason you hang in the business and love performing – it’s one thing to do your rehearsed show but this is another thing altogether.” 

Happily, this wasn’t a one-off. 

Fans will have a chance to re-live history at the 2019 Airlie Beach Festival of Music with the announcement of the return of the Airlie Beach All Stars. 

Bustamento / Swamp House Photography

Gavin Butlin said Frankie J Holden, Wilbur Wilde, Nicky Bomba and Clare O’Meara had all been invited back. 

“Clare is playing fiddle for John Williamson, Frankie J and Wilbur will play their own set, Nicky will play with Bustamento and then they’ll all bring the house down together again as the Airlie Beach All Stars,” he said. 

ABFOM All Stars / Swamp House Photography

Mr Butlin said each of the individual sets would be amazing in their own right. 

“Clare is a former Airlie Beach musician and last year won Musician of the Year at the Golden Guitar Awards in Tamworth so to see her here on stage with John Williamson will be really special,” he said.  

“Bustamento are an awesome band guaranteed to get the crowd going and Frankie J Holden and Wilbur Wilde are two legends of Australian rock ‘n’ roll.

Bustamento / Swamp House Photography

“Top that off with a jam by the Airlie Beach All Stars and I think we’ve got the perfect finish to the festival this year.”

Bustamento, Frankie J Holden, Wilbur Wilde, and the ‘All Stars’, complete the Airlie Beach Festival of Music main stage line-up for 2019. 

ABFOM All Stars / Swamp House Photography

Joining them at the idyllic waterfront main tent setting are…

John Butler, John Williamson, Smokie, the Australian Rock Collective, Yothu Yindi and the Treaty Project, the Superjesus, Mahalia Barnes, Bon But Not Forgotten, Bob ‘Bongo’ Starkie’s Skyhooks featuring special guest Racey, George and Noriko, Stars, Tia Gostelow, Spy Vs Spy, 8 Ball Aitken and Chris Finnen, Wanita Queen of Honky Tonk, Pierce Brothers and Innocent Eve.

The remaining 54 acts, including well-known musicians like Mama Kin Spender, and winners of the festival’s national Passport to Airlie heats, will perform across a further 17 venues throughout Airlie Beach over three days from November 8-10.  

Tourism Whitsundays CEO, Tash Wheeler, said the Airlie Beach Festival of Music was the ultimate party in paradise and not just confined to one tent. 

“At any given time during the festival live music can be heard from a number of venues throughout Airlie Beach,” she said. 

“This festival is another great event on the Whitsundays’ calendar each year helping to cement the destination as an event mecca in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Tickets cost $300 for a three-day pass, $150 for a single day pass, $1000 for a full festival VIP pass and $350 for a single day VIP pass. 

Tickets are on sale via OzTix, BigTix, Whitsunday Tickets, The MECC and direct from

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