First-timers Guide to the Big Red Bash (and other bush music festivals)
Words and Images by Gary Tischer
The first time I went to the Big Red Bash (BRB) was 2018. It was the one where the line-up included The Hoodoo Gurus, The Angels, Kate Ceberano, Daryl Braithwaite and John Farnham, as well as Mal Leyland (of the Leyland Bros). There were plenty of people who had been there before and some knew secrets to having the best time possible.
BRING A TROLLEY
Days before the Bash, I started noticing vehicles with trolleys on their roof racks. These weren’t shopping trolleys. They were trolleys with large wheels suitable for off-pavement travel. It wasn’t until I was at the BRB when the penny dropped what they were. Your camp at the BRB will probably be more than a couple of hundred metres from the concert area, which means you’ll have to get your chairs, drinks and snacks there and back, every day. Trolleys make that journey easier and you can carry way more on a trolley than on your back. Some people even option their trolleys with a battery and fridge to keep their drinks cold – now that is a great idea.
CANS, NOT GLASS
Drinks need to be in cans as no glass can be taken into the performance area. Cans will probably last better on the outback roads too. They are easier to dispose of too as there are large bins to dispose of the cans on your way out of the concert area.
DON’T GO STRAIGHT TO THE PUB
If you plan to stay at the Birdsville Caravan Park prior or during the BRB you’ll need to book in advance. What a lot of people have done in the past when they get to Birdsville, is go straight to the Birdsville Pub. This then causes problems as everyone tries to get into the caravan park five minutes before the office closes. Sure, a cold beer on arrival at the iconic pub is great, but it is way more relaxing to check into the park, then walk across to the Birdsville Pub where you can stay for as long as you like.
GET FUEL EARLY OR WHEN YOU ARRIVE
At Windorah, there was a 4km line for the couple of fuel pumps on the way to the BRB. The local cop was on hand to direct traffic, but it takes time to fuel up, so bring your patience as you will need to queue up at some point. There are two fuel stations at Birdsville; I had no problem getting fuel as the queue lined up for the Roadhouse, while the other was easy to get into. First thing in the morning is probably the best time to get fuel or when you first arrive.
IF YOU WANT TO USE YOUR PHONE, CLIMB BIG RED
There was a local phone “tower” set up by Telstra at the BRB but I found it difficult to get a connection. The alternative was to climb Big Red and I got a phone connection every time. When you see photos of people on the top of Big Red, they are certainly enjoying the view but are probably also sending photos to their mates and telling them how great it is to be at the BRB. I know I did. Just be aware that you will need to walk up Big Red as it is closed to vehicles for the duration of the BRB.
BOOGIE BOARDS WORK JUST AS WELL IN THE DESERT
You might think that boogie boards in the desert is an odd thing, but they are perfect for surfing down Big Red. It’s not just the kids who enjoy the speed slide down, the adults do too. It’s just that the kids are generally better and are willing to run back up the dune to have another go. Just quietly, it’s a perfect way to tire the kids out so you can enjoy the concert later.
THEN THERE ARE THE DRAG RACES
If you are imagining the smell of burnt fuel and rubber, you’d be wrong – think the scent of perfume and hairspray instead. It’s all good fun and in aid of the RFDS. It is truly amazing the effort that some of the entrants put into costume preparation. Unfortunately, the race from the top of Big Red takes its toll on many of them as they head down the dune at break-neck speed to finish in the performance area.
WEAR THE SAME LOUD SHIRTS AS YOUR MATES
Seasoned music festival goers will know this one. It can be hard to spot your mates in a large crowd, so if your group all wear the same loud shirt, they’ll be much easier to find. Very simple, but effective.
WEAR A HAT
Loud shirts are one thing, but loud hats can be spotted even more easily. The added benefit of hats is they will keep your cooler when it’s hot and warmer when it’s cold. The BRB is staged in a desert where it is sunny most of the time so a good hat is essential.
IF YOU WANT A SHOWER, CAPTURE YOUR GREY WATER
The BRB is actually held on private property, which, for most of the year, is a working organic cattle station. For this reason, no grey water can be let run onto the ground. If you have a van, you may have a grey water tank which you will need to empty in town. For those without grey water tanks, buckets are the next best thing to capture washing up or shower grey water. There are large grey water collection points around the camping area so take your grey water to these. Trolleys can really help out here.
BRING YOUR BEST MATE
I’m talking dogs here, but you can certainly bring your human best mate too. There is a separate camping area for dog owners and there are a few rules regarding your canine fur babies. The big tip though, is to get your dog some shoes. This will help guard against prickles and hot sand for those not used to ruffing it.