Big Red Bash 2016

By: Michael Borg, Photography by: Matt Fehlberg

It’s time to rock the Simpson Desert as Borgy gives us a first-hand tour of the 2016 Big Red Bash.

Big Red Bash 1

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.


Big Red Bash 2

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?


Big Red Bash 3

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!

not to be missed

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!

Check out the full feature in issue #105 August 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.