Festival volunteers wear white hats to commemorate Steve
Festival volunteers wear white hats to commemorate Steve "the hat” Andrew. Andrew Pattinson / Vampp Photogr

Tribute to music festival legend

'BLUE on Blue' is a catchphrase that sums up Airlie Beach as much as defining the musician who wrote the song.

Kieran McCarthy has played thousands of gigs all over the town and been part of the Whitsunday music scene since the day it began.

He was also one of the first people Gavin Butlin enlisted five years ago to get the idea for a music festival off the ground.

"It's been a wonderful experience,” McCarthy said, on the eve of the 2017 Airlie Beach Festival of Music from November 10-12.

"I thought, 'alright, this is a brave thing to be taking on', but I believed in him and his drive and vision and I still do,” he said.

"Once he's made up his mind to do something he just does it, even if it costs him financially, which this has, and I admire that.”

McCarthy, who has played his iconic Airlie Beach signature tune at previous festivals with the likes of Shane Howard from Goanna, will this year be launching his latest album at the event.

Titled 'Once More with Feeling' it's a collaboration with fellow old timers Tony Fossey as producer and Damon Stone.

Describing it as "a collection of songs from a back catalogue over the years” McCarthy expected it would surprise his fans at the main stage launch on Saturday night.

Another musician who would have been taking to the main stage this year, was former volunteer ambassador coordinator Steve "the hat” Andrew.

Sadly, he passed away from cancer leaving a hole in the hearts of a community and its music scene.

Famous locally for his love of live music and his white trilby hat, Steve Andrew inadvertently stole the international limelight as the human face of Cyclone Debbie earlier this year.

Immortalised in the aftermath of the Category 4 storm by Courier Mail photographer Liam Kidston, losing the roof on his house wasn't to be the only struggle Mr Andrew faced.

"Steve was a big part of our festival and everyone knows he was one of Airlie's biggest music fans,” Mr Butlin said.

"Every year he ran the Battle of the Bands stage at Magnums and this year his sons are coming back to be guest ambassadors.

"The boys and all of our ambassadors will be wearing white hats as a tribute to Steve.”

Tim Griffin, the Townsville-based blues artist with whom Steve would have been playing harmonica on the main stage will dedicate his performance to "the hat”.

To see Tim Griffin, head to the Whitsunday Sailing Club at 2.30pm this Sunday, November 12.

For the full festival line-up and more info www.airliebeachfestivalofmusic.com.au, email airliebeachfestivalofmusic@gmail.com or phone 0408 062 816.

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