‘Something for everyone’: Aireys Inlet Music Festival is proving itself a staple for local music lovers around the region

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‘Something for everyone’: Aireys Inlet Music Festival is proving itself a staple for local music lovers around the region

The former Aireys Inlet Open Mic Festival.
Words by Alex Callan 

Returning for its 17th year, the Aireys Inlet Music Festival is set to take over this coastal town from Friday 17 – Sunday 19 March 2023, with Ella Hooper headlining another cracking lineup of homegrown talent.

For so many of us, there is no better feeling than getting together with a bunch of mates to go and check out some live music. And with our region consistently boasting incredibly healthy crops of up-and-comers, Victorian fans arguably have it the best out of all music fans nationwide. Not only do we have access to local gigs, events and boutique festivals almost every weekend of the year, but we also have events that provide a clear focus on fostering aspiring artists, making it easy for Victorian punters to show support for bands still in their infancy.

This is just one of the reasons why Aireys Inlet Music Festival has become such a staple for local music lovers around the region. 

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Having previously established a reputation for showcasing the best local acts around, as well as for booking large-scale surprise acts to close the weekend, this year’s event is being run a little bit differently. Having dropped both the ‘open mic’ aspect and the secret headliner schtick, Aireys 2023 leans more into the design of Queenscliff Music Festival, providing punters with an absolutely stacked three-day lineup presented across one main stage and many other pop-up stages around the township.  

Discussing changes to the festival’s layout and overall design, newly appointed festival director Patrick Donovan stated, “I love the idea of an open mic event, but as an open mic festival it means that artists were playing for free, which is a very outdated model.

“Musicians were hit harder than anyone during COVID, so we’re not letting anyone play for free. Instead, we will be paying for acts which obviously means this year there is a very modest door charge of $60 dollars that will cover you for the three days.”

Donovan, the former CEO of the state music peak body Music Victoria, who took over from the beloved Marty Maher as the festival’s director, also commented that when putting together this year’s event, “We didn’t have to look too far to source a great lineup.

“I don’t understand why festivals have to book American bands that no one’s necessarily heard of when there’s so much quality right under our noses,” Donovan says. 

“We really wanted to showcase that by focusing on the amazing local acts coming out of the south coast of Geelong, and the Great Ocean Road area.

“There aren’t many festivals that really focus on the local scene so we wanted to really hone in on that. But obviously, there are great acts from all around the state so we do have a few guests, but if they were being invited and they were from somewhere else, they had to be bloody amazing,” he laughs, “which we’ve done.”

And he’s not wrong, with 2020’s lineup showcasing the talents of Geelong rock icons Rocket Science, as well as the cream of the crop when it comes to up-and-coming acts. I’m talking, Bones and Jones, Belaire Lip Bombs, Foggy Notion, Zoe Fox and The Rocket Clocks; Watty Thompson and his band… and that’s just to name a few. 

Outside of the locals, the weekend will be headlined by revered Australian songstress Ella Hooper, previously of Killing Heidi fame; as well as alt-country sensation Andy Golledge, who will be performing alongside his full band arrangement. 

“He’s going to really blow everyone away,” states Donovan, “Andy is pretty much the rising star in the country world at the moment. He plays beautiful songs, but then will also get down to his undies and crowd surf,” he laughs. “I think it’ll be a closing act that people will really enjoy.

“But all in all, I think the lineup delivers something for everyone.”

Ella Hooper leads stacked Aireys Inlet Music Festival lineup for March

This sentiment is backed by Jasper Jolley, the lead singer of Music Victoria’s nominee for ‘Best Regional Act’ Bones and Jones, who will be wrapping up their regional tour with a set at Airey’s before heading over to Austin to take part in the revered SXSW (South By Southwest Festival).

“I’m hanging out for it,” remarks Jolley, “I feel like most of us on the lineup are already mates so it’ll be a really fun weekend. 

“We all cut our teeth playing at the Aireys Open Mic Festival when we were little kids so it’s pretty sick to be playing there again now that it’s a more scheduled event. It’s a really great lineup, close to home and the Aireys pub is a great place to have a beer, I can’t wait.”

Neither can Donovan, who’s already eagerly planning how the Aireys Inlet Music Festival can continue to grow over the coming years.

“There’s no reason that the Aireys pub couldn’t be like the Archies Creek pub. 20 people live on the main street of Archies Creek but yet bands constantly sell out shows there. That’s what I’d love to see for Aireys. And I think the festival is helping to keep music front and centre and keep locals interested in live music, so hopefully it can continue to grow from here.”

“And who knows, Aireys might even grow to the stage that it gets its own little tradition happening like people putting their boots in the air at Meredith. That would be really cool to see.”

Aireys Inlet Music Festival 2023 Lineup

Ella Hooper band  
Rocket Science  
Andy Golledge Band  
Bones and Jones  
Belaire Lip Bombs  
Foggy Notion  
Zoe Fox and the Rocket Clocks 
Forever Son  
Sin City  
Queen of Hearts  
Dear Buffalo  
De Porsal  
Matt Bourke and the Delusional Drunks
Watty Thompson

There’s plenty of weekend accomodation options available too, including BIG4 Aireys Inlet and Great Ocean Retreats

Tickets can be purchased for $60 for the weekend here or for $25 on the door each day (until capacity is reached). You can find out more at the festival website.