When Austin Burke was a child, he remembers his parents not allowing him to go to the Birds Nest. An established national anthem singer by elementary school, Burke instead stayed at home while his parents attended the Phoenix Open-sponsored concerts.
This year, he jokes, he’s getting a babysitter for his parents so he can open for Dierks Bentley on Friday, Jan. 31, at the Coors Light Birds Nest.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Burke said. “It’s my first-ever hometown show. I know I played Country Thunder, but I never played my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s really surreal for me.
“Obviously, I grew up going to the Waste Management Phoenix Open and spent so much time there as a kid watching the golfers.”
Bentley and Burke are on the bill along with Miranda Lambert and Cody Johnson on Wednesday, Jan. 29; G-Eazy and special guest on Thursday, Jan. 30; and Kygo and special guest on Saturday, Feb. 1.
“There’s a lot of pride around our event,” said David Baum, Birds Nest chairman. “To be able to see these acts like Dierks, Kygo, G-Eazy and Miranda Lambert in a small, intimate setting is incredible.
“The acts are attracted to that, too, because sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to play to these smaller venues.”
Baum has been attending the Birds Nest for 20 years and has seen the event evolve.
“On the tournament side, it’s a bigger and better venue,” he said, “The Birds Nest is right there with that. In the last five years, we’ve grown even more with the large, national-scale acts performing.”
This year, the VIP experience has been upgraded, according to Baum. The main tent will be split in half – one for general admission and the other for VIP.
“It will no longer have a platform viewing the performance,” he said. “There’s a lot more surface area and an upgraded bar area and food experience for the guests in VIP. Additionally, we’ve added cabanas over the VIP section. We’ve traveled around and taken best practices from other concert venues and other festivals around the country to incorporate what we can do.”
Now living in Nashville, Burke is looking forward to opening for Bentley, who helped him propose to his then-girlfriend, Lexi. The couple married on New Year’s Eve in Tennessee.
On the day of the show, Burke will release his new single “Desert Child.”
Another new song will make its way on the setlist, “Young Love,” which was written by Thomas Rhett. The country star coproduced the song.
“He’s been super involved in the process and the fact that he wants me to sing it is so special,” he said. “I’ll be singing that song and just lots of new songs I sang in Gilbert the night before Thanksgiving.”
“Everyone in Arizona loved it when I played it in Gilbert,” Burke said. “I’m really owning being from Arizona. I’m a fifth-generation native. I will always have a special place in my heart for Arizona, and to get to go back and play it with Dierks is going to be so special.”