I’m still recovering and still basking in the musical afterglow of an extraordinary weekend at Aireys Inlet. A combination of both relaxing time-out away from the family with girlfriends, combined with pumping action at the Aireys Inlet Pub – the hub of the local music festival.
Driving along the Great Ocean Road, the coastal town of Aireys Inlet seems pretty quiet and sedate. Houses are dotted sporadically through the bush and there’s still a rural feel with plenty of dirt roads, squawking cockatoos and the crash of the ocean in the distance.
Even the General Store, with its petrol pumps out front, harks back to a bygone era. But last weekend, if you’d crossed the road to the Aireys Inlet Pub, it was another world altogether – a bustling, thumping hive of creativity and musical passion.
The car park was rammed as visitors from all over Australia and some international guests, joined locals for the annual Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival.
Even Geelong’s community radio station The Pulse came along for an on-the-spot broadcasting opportunity.
It’s an eclectic festival featuring more than 160 acts, which all donate their time and energy. What’s extraordinary about this event, is the wonderful community feel. It seems like everyone is the area has contributed on some level. Families turn up with toddlers and grandparents, while teenagers rock out up front, close to the stage.
The local school kids painted designs over cardboard cutouts of guitars, which are plastered all over venues about town. Plus, this wonderful event is actually FREE. Guests are only asked to contribute cash to buckets at performances, with what they feel the festival has been worth to them. Wow. That’s unheard of!
And the food at the Aireys Inlet Pub is sensational! I was reluctantly talked into ordering a Thai Green Chicken Curry for main course, as mostly Asian food in rural areas tends to disappoint… Not so here. In fact, I think I’d be hard-pressed to think of a Melbourne restaurant that does one better. DELICIOUS. As for the chicken parmigiana, my girlfriend Vanessa couldn’t even eat half, the serving was so huge.
I was even impressed with the wine list. GOOD CHARDONNAY!! Yay – my favourite, a local wine, Scotchman’s Hill completed my overwhelming satisfaction with the evening. They’re pretty good at hospitality, these folk at the Aireys Inlet Pub.
And what a small world. Another girlfriend, Melanie, ran into a former school pal and her daughter in the crowd.
After dinner, we braved the testing weather to head outside, but soon forgot about the cold when local band Altitude turned up the volume. These guys are one of the festival’s youngest, coolest and most popular bands – being veterans who’ve performed here for the past six years.
Here’s a clearer but less colourful shot. My camera was playing up in the weather… Lead singer and band manager Liam Brennan describes their sound as ‘garage rock’. He says like most rock bands, they’re hoping for fame and glory, all the while writing good music and having fun.
The guys have just left school and plan to focus on writing a heap more music while at uni before looking for serious professional management. They are super talented, so I’d advise anyone in management to take a look and get in line.
It wasn’t too hard to head home at the end of the night. As much as I’d LOVED the music and the vibe at the pub, I knew I was heading back to Number 8 Beach Road. Luckily, just stumbling distance up the road…
I gave you a sneak peak on Saturday at the main living area with the vast kitchen, benches and stunning view.
There’s also a comfy lounge-room, complete with open fireplace. We were too tired after the festival to light one up, but I was impressed there was chopped wood ready and waiting by the back door if we’d wanted one.
Earlier in the day, I’d caught up with Lili Biderman, from Great Ocean Retreats, who told me how she’d had the business for seven years, and couldn’t think of a better job. She says they have several properties, catering to both ends of the market – those on the budget end and high-end. And just to make you feel at home, they can also organise catering or car hire if needed. Now that’s service…
I want to tell you more about the mystery guest who performed at the festival on Sunday, plus the 11-year-old girl who stole my heart with her singing… but I’ve rambled on for long enough, so you’ll have to wait till tomorrow to hear that.
But one more thing before I go, if you would like to stay in the wonderful Number 8 Beach Road in Aireys Inlet, just get in touch with Great Ocean Retreats. This is their website, plus the rates for the property. Get in quick though. I’m seriously thinking about booking for next summer…