In July thousands of Australians from across the country, and some travellers from beyond (like this Canadian), journey to Bashville for a music festival in the desert. You won’t find Bashville on any Australian road map. Bashville is not a town where you can stock up on petrol, groceries, meat pies, or postcards. Bashville is not a point of interest featuring foundational remains to mark the harsh pioneering days of outback Queensland. Bashville exists because of the annual music festival Big Red Bash.
Every July for 3 days approximately 6000 concert goers rock out to Australian musicians in the desert. Once you include the hundreds of volunteers, food vendors, stage crew, emergency services, and musicians Bashville’s population is that of a healthy sized thriving town. What is a person who lives in Bashville called? No idea! Let's try Bashvillite...Basvillager...or Bashvillian?? Whatever Bashville citizen you desire to be for those 3 days definitely requires road warrior endurance.
Big Red Bash boasts the claim as The World’s Most Remote Music Festival. And it is. BRB is in the remotest corner of Queensland, 35 km from Birdsville, on the edge of the Simpson desert staged against the Big Red Dune, or Big Red. The road to Bashville is no easy drive. Unsealed, corrugated, dusty state highways with patches of bitumen await eager Bashville concert goers. Caravans, campers, and 4WDs of all makes and models arrive covered in the infamous red dirt from the outback. Arriving at the festival site is welcome after being shaken and stirred aggressively like an 007 martini.
You won’t find martinis at Big Red Bash but a well oiled camping music festival machine. As concert attendance has multiplied over the years (this year’s rumoured attendance was 9000 people) so has the mechanics that make BRB a family fun concert event. Hundreds of volunteers work the event and ensure the smooth roll in and roll out of over 600 vehicles, maintain clean port-a-loo facilities, empty trash and can recycling stations, provide emergency services, sell coveted merchandise, and shuttle concert goers to and from Birdsville. Food vendors are plentiful and well stocked for the event. Dune surfing, beach volleyball, helicopter and camel rides, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert inspired fashion parade are some of the other daily activities that BRB boasts. Even the Big Red Bash app is slick! It’s easy to use and full of information on the event and artists. Everything on the app can be accessed without data, including the interactive map. It takes a village to make the Big Red Bash happen.
With no international acts, BRB celebrates Australia's music talent with artists of local to international acclaim. This year's Big Red Bash headliner was Midnight Oil. In the decade of big hair and shoulder pads, Midnight Oil and INXS were my Aussie go to bands and I rocked out to their lyrics. When the opportunity to see The Oils in Australia presented itself we couldn’t pass up the chance! What could be a more Australian experience than seeing such an iconic band in the Simpson Desert! The experience was everything I hoped it would be! I may have even shed a tear when The Oils took the stage. I was even thrilled when Chocolate Starfish, Steve Balbi and a few others did a tribute to INXS. My 80s teen musical fix was well satisfied. Beyond the superficial reminiscence of my youth, I discovered Aussie musicians I've added to my playlists and found new relevance to Midnight Oil's lyrics in the desert sand.
If not for Midnight Oil headlining Big Red Bash we certainly would have passed on this music festival, perhaps not even heard of it. Our road trip would have taken on a different adventure in outback Queensland. Maybe we would have crossed the Simpson Desert or spent more time exploring Northern Territory. It’s hard to say what we would have done instead. If not for BRB we wouldn't have made friends with locals from Tasmania. If not for BRB we wouldn't have shared a campfire with locals from Bedourie who have been to every BRB since it’s humble beginnings and shared sobering stories about life in the outback. Midnight Oil drew me to the Big Red Bash, but I left with a much greater experience. The Australian outback has permanently inked its untamed red dirt heart into my wanderlust soul.
For 3 days I camped in the Simpson Desert. For 3 days I lived in a legendary village called Bashville. For 3 days we rocked the dune and danced in the desert with thousands of Australians under the stars and light of the full moon at the Big Red Bash. For 3 days I had a desert experience like no other.