Airlie Beach's Secret Backyard Music Gigs

Backyard Sessions is a platform I founded for original artists to showcase their music in a relaxed and intimate setting. Airlie Beach has a really great music scene in the bars & pubs, but I felt it was really lacking in the ‘original’ department. Now don’t get me wrong I love a good pub classic tune, but there is only so many times we can hear Wonderwall - especially when we have SO much talent right on our doorstep. It was something I really missed from living in Perth, where I had been to a few backyard/warehouse gigs of some of my favourite upcoming artists and found it was such a special way to really connect with the artist and their music. ‍

Keeley Connolly, a friend of mine from Perth, was gigging along the East Coast after she dropped her EP in 2018 and I’d offered to host a backyard gig for her in Airlie Beach. We decked out the backyard with fairy lights, blankets and pillows and created a really special night, with me and another amazing musician & friend Megan Grace each playing an acoustic set to open for Keeley. I really had no idea how it was going to go but everyone loved it, and being such a small town, word spread pretty quickly about the ‘secret gig’. and It created a buzz of excitement and people kept asking when the next one was going to be held, which started the ball rolling for what is now Backyard Sessions.

The local backyard location remains a secret until the day of the event and changes every event, which means every Backyard Session has a really different feel, with a completely different set up and crowd size. Ticket holders receive an email with the location, what to bring & set times, and you never know what you’re going to get, which is special in itself. We’ve had musicians such as Megan Grace, Kelley Connolly, Lilia, Jack McCabe, Josiah, Adyn Kingi, Kaedan McCarthy, The Dazeychains, Jono Weinrich, Lotty De, Dylan Hammond, myself and Felix Colby play at these events, and interest from travelling musos in the works for the future.

One of my most special moments is from an event in my backyard with 3 local musicians, Kaedan McCarthy, Adyn Kingi & Josiah. I had a few really talented friends of mine fire twirl and juggle at an interval between musicians and it really turned into the most entertaining night that people were talking about for weeks. At the end of the night it turned into this impromptu reggae jam where the guys actually jammed out a ‘Backyard Sessions soundtrack’, which was unreal. People in the suburb who had heard the music had actually set up deck chairs in their backyards to drink wine and listen to what was unfolding.

What began as 45 people in my backyard for that first Backyard Sessions has now turned into a talked-about event around town. I have organised seven sold-out events so far, from 45 people all the way up to my largest event with over 250 people. I remember looking out over the crowd of blankets and pillows in a friend’s paddock, seeing excited groups of people from families to young musos, to groups of grey-haired nomad sailors, and it was a really humbling experience to have brought everyone together to appreciate good music and good conversation. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.‍

Ultimately for the future I’d like to keep the events small and intimate, but I would love to branch out to more travelling musicians as well as more locals to create a safe space for them to showcase their music. Everyone can attend, locals and travellers alike. I advertise through Facebook and Instagram and tickets can be purchased online through Eventbrite. It’s generally only $20 for a ticket and is BYO snacks and drinks, so it’s a good way to have a nice night out without being too expensive.

I couldn’t have done it on my own. I’ve got some AMAZING friends and supporters who have been absolutely unreal right from the start, and I am super excited for what the future brings for this little dream of mine.‍

Words and photos supplied by Kaylee West, Founder of Airlie Beach Backyard Sessions.

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