Inside the world’s most remote music festival: 10,000 revellers descend on the Outback to let loose at the Big Red Bash -Australia’s biggest concert since Covid struck
- Ten thousand revellers have descended on a pop-up desert city to attend the world’s remote music festival
- ‘Bashville’ rose from the sand to host the Big Red Bash, an outback concert headlined by Australian rock icons
- The three-day event near Birdsville, in Queensland’s far west, has drawn music lovers since launching in 2013
- Despite Covid, festival organiser Greg Donovan said 2021 has seen the biggest crowd in the event’s history
A giddy crowd of 10,000 revellers descended on a makeshift city on the outskirts of the desert to attend the world’s most remote music festival on Tuesday afternoon.
In the midst of a scorched red landscape punctuated with tufts of bush grass and little else, ‘Bashville’ rose from the sand to play host to the Big Red Bash, an outback concert headlined by Australia’s rock legends since 2013.
Named for its nearest neighbour, a tiny town of 115 called Birdsville in Queensland’s far west, the three-day event in the shadow of the Simpson Desert’s largest and most impressive sand dune, Big Red, is a reminder of what life was like before the pandemic.
Before the gates opened, a four kilometre queue was already snaking its way along the only road in the area as record numbers flocked to the venue, which has no WiFi, running water or phone reception – except for on the top of the sand dune.
Festival founder Greg Donovan told Daily Mail Australia that 2021 has seen the biggest crowd in the event’s history, despite Covid restrictions locking many out of the Sunshine State amid rising cases in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.
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In the midst of a scorched red landscape punctuated with tufts of bush grass and little else, ‘Bashville’ rose from the sand to play host to the Big Red Bash, an outback concert headlined by Australia’s rock legends since 2013
Named for its nearest neighbour, a tiny town of 115 called Birdsville in Queensland’s far west, the three-day event (pictured) is a reminder of what life was like before the pandemic
Childhood friends Cherylle Hampton and Jan Miller from Gippsland (left) and Brisbane mum Choko Goff (right) let loose at the Big Red Bash, the world’s most remote music festival
Big Red Bash patrons join in the Nutbush Dance World Record attempt, which saw about 2,700 participants smash the previous record of 2,300
Festival founder Greg Donovan (left, with musician John Williamson) said he was ‘blown away’ by the droves of fans who made long journeys to the desert
‘To see 10,000 people arriving into Birdsville with all this going on, it just blew me away,’ Mr Donovan said.
He added: ‘Australia needs this stuff. It’s part of our culture and our people, and it’s just so important that we get back to having these events.’
The festival, which kicked off on July 6 with full support from Queensland Health despite half the population recently plunged into lockdown, is spread across a 1.3million square metre site with a concert area equivalent to nine football fields.
This allows between 6.3 square metres per person – ample room to meet social distancing guidelines while affording Covid-weary ticketholders the chance to bask in the magic of live music once again.
Mr Donovan is passionate that Australians need events like the Big Red Bash now more than ever, after almost 18 months of lockdowns has created a widening inter-state divide with Premiers playing blame games over the alleged mismanagement of quarantine hotels.
‘It’s important for people to come together and be Australians,’ he said.
‘Lately it just feels like we are eight separate countries in one land mass. To bring everyone together and say, “we’re all here and we’re all Australians”, it gives people hope that these things can still happen in 2021.’
The Bash appears to have done exactly that, with many calling it the best festival they have ever been to.
The Big Red Bash – also known as the world’s most remote music festival – takes place near Birdsville on the edge of the Simpson Desert, western Queensland.
The Simpson Desert is the world’s largest parallel sand dune desert covering more than 176,000sq km – an area larger than Belgium.
Reclining in camp chairs directly in front of the stage were Melbourne couple Michael and Melissa Anthony, both 54.
The Anthonys invited their friends Coralee, 47, and Chris Goedhart, 48, to join them from Brisbane to escape the drudgery of constant Covid updates.
‘It’s the experience of a lifetime,’ Ms Goedhart said.
‘I don’t think you could go back from this and explain it to anyone who hasn’t been here before,’ her husband added.
‘I think it’s the happiest place in Australia right now!’
A few metres away Choko Goff was beaming as she danced in the dust.
Ms Goff, 55, said she drove to the festival from Brisbane with her Dutch husband and their two sons, aged 14 and 15.
The family were due to go on holiday to Melbourne but decided to make the 17-hour trip into the desert when Queensland’s snap shutdown scuppered those plans.
‘Our friends had been and just raved about it, I’m so glad we came,’ Ms Goff said.
‘Where else do you get this kind of experience? It’s a real taste of Australia in the middle of the desert.’
To the right of the stage, Ben and Theresa Schlink were trying to keep track of their four young children playing nearby in the sand.
The couple, who have been travelling the country in a Jayco Expanda van with their brood and a boisterous Australian Shepherd-Kelpie cross since July 2019, said they essentially planned the last year of their trip around the Bash.
Patrons called the event the ‘best festival’ they have ever been to
Others called it the ‘happiest place in Australia right now’
Michael and Melissa Anthony (left) and Coralee and Chris Goedhart (right) soak up the atmosphere on day one of the festival
They were near Alice Springs when parts of the Northern Territory were plunged into a 72-hour lockdown last week, but thankfully found themselves 25 kilometres outside the shutdown zone.
‘Our last 15 or 16 months revolved around this week. We’d kind of given up on coming and then we found out we were allowed to at the eleventh hour, it’s been amazing,’ Mr Schlink said.
Childhood friends Cherylle Hampton and Jan Miller, both 51, made more of a last minute decision to drive 2,306km from Gippsland in country Victoria, but seemed to be enjoying the experience just as much as everyone else.
‘It’s surreal, I can’t believe this is in the middle of the desert,’ Ms Miller said.
Ms Hampton added: ‘We’ve been to festivals all over Victoria and New South Wales and this is by far the best one we’ve ever been to.’
Over at the campsite, Damian McGrath was pulling up to park his off-road motorbike.
The owner of Outback Motorcycle Adventure had just guided a group of 12 along the 1,193 kilometre route from Alice Springs to attend the event for the first time.
Clients Greg Geddes and Junior Davey were already raving about the set-up as they removed their helmets and prepared to head over to watch Aussie icon Paul Kelly entertain the crowd on Wednesday evening.
Lisa Martin, Alison Davis and Sharon Bowden from Newcastle (left) went for a classic plaid theme while ABBA super fans Michael and Renee Irwin and Lesley Christensen and Clint Boughen (right) dressed as the iconic Swedish band to hear the world’s top ABBA tribute band, Bjorn Again, play on July 8
Mr Donovan said he hopes the Bash (pictured) will serve as a blueprint for other Australian music festivals by showing the organisers that the improbable is achievable
The ‘Love Never Runs on Time’ hitmaker thanked the audience for coming out to support Australian music after what has been a period of unprecedented hardship for the entertainment industry.
Mr Donovan said live gigs are in need of public support now more than ever.
‘The music industry has been absolutely decimated [by Covid] and just when it’s starting to get going again, it’s been knocked to the floor,’ he said.
Mr Donovan said his team were forced to ‘pole vault through hoops’ in order to comply with ever-changing Covid-safe guidelines and requirements from different state governments.
Unexpected lockdowns in Sydney and Brisbane meant some of the original line-up were forced to cancel their performances, with the likes of Shannon Noll and Kate Ceberano replaced by Daryl Braithwaite at the final hour.
Despite the immense logistical difficulties, Mr Donovan said he hopes the Bash will serve as a blueprint for other Australian music festivals by showing the organisers that the improbable is achievable.
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