rock­ing the simp­son Desert


Let me kick this off by say­ing, if you haven’t been to the Big Red Bash yet, you are dead-set miss­ing out on the time of your life. Se­ri­ously, this event is ab­so­lutely in­sane! Imag­ine more than 7000 peo­ple all gath­ered to­gether in the re­mote, and need I say usu­ally sleepy, town of Birdsville, Qld, to raise money for Type 1 di­a­betes. Oh yeah, and did I men­tion some of the best coun­try mu­sic and rock artists in the world show up to rock your socks off un­der a chan­de­lier of stars? Yep, when it comes to out­back events, this one takes the cake and eats it, too! Peo­ple from ev­ery state of the coun­try drive far and wide to make it to this spec­ta­cle, so tales of epic ad­ven­tures and mirac­u­lous fails are found around ev­ery camp­fire in the district. But with some of the most spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets in the world used as festival light­ing, it’s no won­der this event re­ally lives up to all the hype.

Now, this year’s event came with its fair share of dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions to make for event of­fi­cials. Not that a bit of wa­ter was ever go­ing to stop this shindig from hap­pen­ing but, be­lieve it or not, the Big Red Bash event had a last minute change of lo­ca­tion. You’d think of all places the flam­ing desert would be safe from a rain out, eh? Orig­i­nally the event was to take place at the base of the largest sand dune of the Simp­son Desert. Yes that’s right; the big­gest dune of the desert is usu­ally the back­drop of one of the coolest stages in the world! This year, how­ever, Mother Na­ture

had other plans. The com­bi­na­tion of a heck of a lot of wa­ter on the main dirt road out there and no less than 4000-5000 ve­hi­cles prompted the show to be moved to Birdsville it­self, which is about a 30km shuf­fle.


I men­tioned that some of the best coun­try mu­sic and rock artists took the stage at this event, but I feel like this needs to be elab­o­rated on just a tad. You see, Jimmy Barnes was the head­line act, and, boy, did he get the crowd revving! Play­ing hits like Khe Sanh, Work­ing Class Man and Driv­ing Wheels just to name a few. There was some­thing re­ally spe­cial about that per­for­mance on the clos­ing night, I mean it’s ex­actly what ev­ery­body drove thou­sands of kilo­me­tres out into the desert to be a part of af­ter all, and crickey did he de­liver!

But Jimmy Barnes wasn’t the only artist to rock the stage. The An­gels were dead-set on fire, Adam Brand and the Out­laws kicked more goals than An­drew Johns did in his en­tire ca­reer and trust me when I say Paul Kelly is ev­ery bit as good as they say he is; he had the crowd eat­ing out of the palm of his hand! Troy Cas­sar-Daley and Chris­tine Anu took the stage in full flight, plus Adam Har­vey and Rus­sell Mor­ris were def­i­nitely crowd pleasers, too!

Funny man Wil­bur Wilde brought along his comedic rou­tine as he pre­sented the event, and there were no short­age of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert cos­tumes get­ting around, which left me scratch­ing my head till I learned that blokes in drag were com­pet­ing in the very first Bashville Drags and Fash­ions to raise funds for the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice. The event raised more than $5000 so don’t be sur­prised if you see me rock­ing a bit of glit­ter next year, too, eh?


Be­ing si­t­u­ated back in town meant the Birdsville Pub was in full swing! If you haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced a true out­back pub, then it’s time to chuck on your best jeans and check this place out. Drinks were flow­ing, tall tales were be­ing drib­bled ev­ery­where and the en­tire pub turned into a 1980s choir when­ever Khe Sanh or Ea­gle Rock came on!

With more than 7000 peo­ple at the event, it’s no sur­prise the camp­sites were a home-is-where-you-park-it kind of deal. And by that I mean both sides of the road on the east­ern side of town be­come a town of festival-go­ers. Camp­fires were plen­ti­ful, new friends and life­long mates were made and I think a few new mu­si­cal notes were dis­cov­ered when old mate next door de­cided to sing along af­ter one or two too many pots of courage. One of things that re­ally stood out was the fact that this was not just a festival full of drunk id­iots. Nope, it was a friendly at­mos­phere full of peo­ple just hav­ing an ab­so­lute ball.


While most peo­ple at Birdsville were there for the concert, there were a bunch of mad bug­gers who de­cided to take a leisurely run across the desert. I’m not talk­ing about a drive in a com­fort­able 4WD ei­ther, I’m talk­ing about dust­ing off the old jog­ging shoes and em­bark­ing on six day 250km run across cen­tral Aus­tralia sand. Yep, you heard that right, these folks were dead-keen to con­quer the Simp­son Desert on foot! They’ve got the back up of the event or­gan­is­ers ev­ery step of the way, and as you can imag­ine it’s all for a good cause. In fact, they’ve man­aged to raise a pretty penny too! The aim is to raise funds and aware­ness for di­a­betes and de­pres­sion, with run­ning and improved fit­ness and ac­tiv­ity lev­els go­ing hand in hand to help im­prove suf­fer­ers well be­ing. These guys and girls take chal­leng­ing your­self to the next level, but in re­turn they get per­haps one of the most per­sonal and grat­i­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences out of every­one at the event. Se­ri­ously, imag­ine run­ning up those dunes, cross­ing gib­ber plains by foot and camp­ing out un­der the stars each night with a cosy fire and a bunch of like-minded peo­ple to share a tale or two with... for a week straight! In all hon­esty I don’t know how they do it, I mean it was hard enough work driv­ing some of those dunes let alone run­ning them on foot. I take my hat off to them, well done guys!


Like I said at the start of this lit­tle yarn, if you haven’t been to the Big Red Bash, you re­ally are miss­ing out! I know while I’ve fi­nally man­aged to tick the Big Red Bash off the bucket list there’s a higher than av­er­age chance that I’ll be back out there next year strut­ting my stuff now that I know what it’s all about and how good it re­ally is. Truth be told, the event is only half the fun, the rest of the smiles can be found in the ad­ven­ture of just get­ting out there and back in your 4WD. I mean the Simp­son Desert is right at your door’s step, so you’d be mad not to camp a few nights in the heart of the desert, right?

It’s the sim­ple things like wit­ness­ing those spec­tac­u­lar out­back sun­sets as your camp­fire just be­gins to take cen­tre stage, or wak­ing up to a crisp foggy morn­ing with mob of kan­ga­roos or emus hang­ing around camp. Com­bine all of these things into one big trip and it’s pretty clear in my eyes; this ex­pe­ri­ence could just be the pin­na­cle of 4WD tour­ing events!

Adam Har­vey broke from his Har­vey’s Bar Aussie tour to per­form for crowds at the Big Red Bash.

CloCk­wISE fRom top lEft: A change in plans did lit­tle to thwart the ex­cite­ment at the event; Festival go­ers an­nexed both sides of the road on the side of town; Troy Cas­sarDa­ley rocked the crowds into the night.

top: Birdsville Ho­tel han­dled the in­flux with her usual grace. Above: Event-go­ers try their hands at Big Red, 30km from Birdsville.

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