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Kid-friendly fun at the Big Red Bash © Outback Queensland/Donovan Neil

Big Red Bash: The world's most remote music festival

Leanne West boogies into Birdsville for the Big Red Bash, the world’s most remote music festival.

The dusk sky above the Simpson Desert is mesmerising. It’s morphing from blue to pink to starry black as headline act John Farnham belts out his anthemic ‘You’re the Voice’. Behind Farnham rises Big Red, the towering dune that looks over the concert site like a giant sand sphinx.

We’re at the world’s most remote music festival. Every July school holidays, a convoy of canvas and caravans rolls onto a huge organic cattle station around 40 kilometres from Birdsville in far western Queensland. For three days, the station becomes ‘Bashville’, home of the Big Red Bash. It’s a temporary mini-city that holds around 9,000 campers for an all-ages celebration of music, adventure and the great outdoors.

Best seat in the house © Patrick O’Kane – Eye See Images

Birdsville beckons

Just getting here was an experience in itself. We drove from Sydney via Broken Hill and South Australia. In the Flinders Ranges we walked Wilpena Pound and marvelled at the fabulous vistas of the Bunyeroo Gorge drive. Heading further north, we ate from the pop-up bakery in the outback ghost town of Farina. We laughed at the crazy racing camels at the Marree Camel Cup. We camped beside the legendary Birdsville Track, the desert peace rudely broken by the roar of an early evening road train.

At Birdsville, we met up with our Big Red Bash companions, a group ranging in age from eight to 68. The night before the Bash, we free-camped together on the Birdsville town common along with thousands of others. It was a chance to refill the camper trailer tanks with fresh water, have a beer at the iconic Birdsville Hotel and even grab a quick shower in town.

If you’re travelling as part of a group, you need to arrive together at Bashville in order to camp together. So, we rose before dawn to form a convoy for the drive in. The queue moved quickly, and soon we were setting up camp in the shadow of Big Red.

‘Bashville’ in full swing © Matt Williams Photography

Party outback

The kids disappeared not long after we arrived, and over the next three days we didn’t see a lot of them. There was just too much to explore. They were ‘surfing’ Big Red on boogie boards, or playing ‘beach’ volleyball, or just making new friends. Sporadic Wi-Fi and mobile phone coverage offered a welcome break from screen time.

The grown-ups also made the most of their surroundings. Every day started with a cold desert sunrise, and ended with a sunset to the sound of great Australian music. The performances finish early enough for precious family time by the campfire.

There’s plenty to do before the shows start. We’d climb to the top of Big Red to take in the view, have a walk in the desert or check out the camping set-ups. And for those so inclined, there are camel and helicopter rides.

We met people from all walks of life and all corners of the country, but we all had one thing in common: the feel-good vibe that comes with travelling thousands of dusty kilometres for a truly unique experience.

When showtime arrived, we’d load our drinks and snacks into the esky and stroll up to the concert area. Most people watched the gigs on their camping chairs, but there’s a family-friendly mosh pit below the stage for the more energetic. There was even an area for spectators with dogs.

And that brings us back to ‘The Voice’. Between songs, John Farnham shared his amazement at the desert setting. He wasn’t the only one. It was an astounding place for music, set under the biggest of skies. As we walked back to our campsite after his show, we vowed we’d be back.

Little musos rocking out © Big Red Bash

This article originally appeared in volume 59 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

Information

When 16–18 July 2019
Line-up Midnight Oil • Kasey Chambers • The Living End • Busby Marou • Richard Clapton • Bjorn Again • 1927 • Wendy Matthews • Eurogliders • Chocolate Starfish • Steve Kilbey • The Chantoozies • Neil Murray • Mark Williams • Steve Balbi • Dale Ryder

Getting there

You can reach Birdsville by road via the Birdsville Track from South Australia, from the east via Windorah, and from the north via Bedourie. Most people get to the Bash in 4WDs, but Birdsville is accessible in 2WD vehicles. The route in from the north involves the least amount of dirt road travel. Kangaroo Bus Lines offers a Big Red Bash rock and roll road trip from Brisbane with packages for adults and children. There are also tag-along 4WD tours to the Bash, and Rex flies to Birdsville from Brisbane via Toowoomba , Charleville, Quilpie and Windorah.

Eat

The event is BYO food and drink. We found a good range of reasonably priced fast food on site.

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