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, January 31, at the Coors Light Birds Nest.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Burke says. “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, January 29; G-Eazy and special guest on Thursday, January 30; and Kygo and special guest on Saturday, February 1.
“There’s a lot of pride around our event,” says 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 attended the Birds Nest for 20 years and watched the event evolve.
“On the tournament side, it’s a bigger and better venue,” he says, “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 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 says. “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.”
“I’ve really just come to terms with the fact that I’m not from the south,” Burke says. “I’m not a country boy from the south. I’m a country boy from Arizona.
“I want to stand out and be different. I take a lot of pride in being from Arizona. I’ve been writing a lot of songs about my home state. I want to own that West Coast influence that made me who I am as an artist.”
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 says. “I’ll be singing that song and just lots of new songs I sang in Gilbert the night before Thanksgiving.”
The songs include “Roots,” his spin on “Friends in Low Places” and “Blame It on My Roots.”
“Everyone in Arizona loved it when I played it in Gilbert,” Burke says. “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.”
Coors Light Birds Nest
Miranda Lambert and Cody Johnson on Wednesday, January 29; G-Eazy and special guest on Thursday, January 30; Dierks Bentley and Austin Burke on Friday, January 31; and Kygo with special guest on Saturday, February 1.
Gates open at 3:30 p.m. daily; headliners take the stage at 8:30.
The venue is across from the Waste Management Phoenix Open Tournament entrance at 82nd Street and Bell Road.
Tickets start at $75; coorslightbirdsnest.com.