It was around 11 in the morning last Sunday when the halo around the sun appeared at the Airlie Beach Music Festival. I've never seen anything like it before, and nor had anyone else I spoke to. It was like a scene from Independence Day. People looked up at the sky, and the sun was obscured, a massive ring around it, the edges shimmering in the heat. I texted the festival organiser, Gavin Butlin: "How much did you pay for this?" He replied: "We have contacts..." Obviously in very high places indeed. I was about to do my last gig at the festival with Wanita and her Honky Tonk Bar Dwellers at Nomads. The whole weekend had been an absolute blast. All the gigs with Rockabilly Blues Express had been great, and the gigs with Wanita were great fun, with great musicians.
This is probably my favourite photo from the festival. It was taken by Paully Roxson (as was the one above), in the marquee on the Saturday evening. As I now realised was the norm with Wanita, we didn't have a clue what songs she was going to do, the running order, nothing. I guess it's a good sign when you've a band with that sort of confidence. Again, with Buddy Knox on guitar, Eddie Fisher on drums and Jason Tyler on keys, there's not a lot to actually be too worried about. I was especially happy that Gordon Sheard joined us on guitar, and played a blinder. So nice to see smiles all round when he and Buddy swapped solos even though they'd never played together before. And Wanita was just Wanita. she had the audience in the palm of her hand from the word go.
Earlier that afternoon Rockabilly Blues Express had a great gig too. It was at Club Crocodile, where the rockabilly fans turned out in force, especially the girls from Mackay. We had a blast. Leanne was in fine form, Bill Chambers came along and played some awesome guitar with Gordon, and Rod Collins tap-danced his way through Willy Brown Blues. The crowd loved it, and we did too. Thanks to Margarita Perez for this photo. This festival is going to run and run. The organisation was truly excellent, the crowds were as friendly as you'll ever get, and there seriously was music everywhere you went. Book me in for next year please Gavin Butlin. You're a legend.