BIRDSVILLE BIG RED BASH
“The concert is the bonus, not the reason…” Damian
After all the months of looking forward to this event, we are finally here. I’m amazed at the organisation of it all – well done to all involved. I am going to squish the entire event into one post so grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy the story and the images. As I write this, the headlining acts have just been announced for BRB 2016 and tickets will go on sale at 9am on 9 November. Whilst when you first look at the price of the tickets you may baulk, consider what you are getting for your money. Despite having an extra night’s entertainment for 2016, the prices have not increased so great value for your money. Read our story below and hear how much we enjoyed it.
Having arrived last evening, we basically set up camp, got to know the neighbours, got the camp fire going, cooked dinner and headed to bed. Be aware, the days are lovely and warm (26°) but the nights are still incredibly cold – down to 0° or below so come prepared. You do need to BYO wood for your campfire, so bring plenty of good, slow burning wood for the chilly nights.
We must admit that it’s nice to be able to stay in the one place for a few nights. Whilst we love travelling and seeing lots of different places, being able to set up for a few days is nice change. It was certainly lovely to be able to sit by a nice warm fire and have a leisurely cooked breakfast. Sharing with our neighbours is also a nice change. This morning we cooked a full on ‘fat boys’ breakfast – bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomato with toast for Damian and large mugs of tea/coffee. By the time we finished breakfast and thawed out a bit from the chill of the morning, the sun had started to warm the day and we could feel it’s heat on our backs. Bliss.
After breakfast, we left the fire to die down and decided it was time to do a little recce of the campground. It’s always a good chance to meet others and we first headed off to see a mate of ours – Kevin and his daughter – who were camped not too far away from us. A word of warning here: we were aiming to camp with Kevin but unless you’re travelling together, it’s hard for someone to ‘hold’ a spot at the BRB which is what Kevin was aiming to do. If you do want to stay together, my advice is to meet up in Birdsville and arrive in convoy at the BRB so you can camp in the same spot. Unless you’re a group of 10 or more and have pre-arranged with the organisers that you need a spot together, arriving in convoy is the only way to go.
So, we spent a good hour or more wandering around the campsite and came across some pretty amazing camper trailers and some pretty funny set ups. One guy had a mannequin on top of his vehicle complete with long scarf representing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He was camped near us and changed her clothes daily. You could see him over the whole camp.
As we’ve constantly said before, do your best to support the local towns as you go through. Get what you want at Birdsville, including all your alcohol supplies (there’s none on sale at the BRB).
Facilities at the BRB:
- BRB Merchandise Tent – here you can get all your merchandise (as the name suggests) and they even have a special edition Max Trax available at a pretty reasonable cost. When you purchase your tickets online, you can pre-order your merchandise too and I would suggest going down that route so that when you pick up your tickets, you pick up your merchandise at the same time. The obligatory t-shirt was bought and worn throughout the festival (almost everyone wears their t-shirts) and we bought a van sticker as well.
- RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) – Honestly, if you’ve got any empathy at all towards those in the outback, you will already know the good work that the RFDS does. Head over to this tent, grab a free sticker etc but please pop some coins into their donation box to help them continue their service. You never know when you might need their services when you’re travelling outback yourself.
- Birdsville Social Club Inc – run by the local social club (*doh*), this is where you can buy a burger, sausage in bread, soft drink, chips etc. Support the locals by grabbing a snack at this tent. Saves you cooking and you’re helping out the local people at the same time.
- Wood Fired Pizza – this place was certainly the most popular tent in the district. A word of warning – they get very busy so if you’re looking to do something else, order your pizza, go grab your coffee or whatever, then come back. Or, do as we did and just hang around and chat to others waiting for their pizza. Yes, the pizza was good 🙂
- Birdsville Bakery – this is where you can get your fix of sausage rolls, pies and pasties but I don’t remember them selling bread, so stock up on that in Birdsville.
- Coffee Van – yes, you can still have lovely coffee while you’re away (or hot chocolate). We saw plenty of people with coffee cups running around the venue – and they were open in time for breakfast 🙂
- Various companies were set up as well such as Red Arc, ARB and others so just wander around as they’re all in the same spot at the front near the other facilities.
- Portaloos – whilst there were portaloos available, in our opinion there were certainly not enough and they were not spread out enough around the venue. There was also nowhere to dump your grey water which wasn’t really a problem as we only used our own portaloos at night and only for the necessary and we caught our own grey water from washing up in drums which we then took back to Birdsville at the end of the event and dumping in the dumping point. Not really a problem. For 2016 however, the organisers are providing dumping points at the venue which will be cleaned daily. They are also proving more portaloos for next year so those few details appear to have been ironed out. Remember, this event is only 3 years old and it just gets bigger and bigger so the organisers are learning as they go.
- Fires – are allowed, as we’ve said previously, but you must BYO firewood.
- Dogs – are not allowed as the venue is privately owned. Head to the BRB website to get more info re this if you like. This page explains why pets aren’t allowed and also why you must have your own grey water tanks.
As well as these facilities there are a few options for other entertainment available:
- Big Red Camels – Tom, Dave and Kyrraly bought their team of camels in from Birdsville and you can ride these gorgeous creatures throughout the day. They were doing a roaring trade and they kindly allowed me to take a few photos
- Helicopter flights
- Scenic Flights from Birdsville
Take a boogie board for a piece of cardboard and let the kids go nuts running to the top of the dune and sliding down. Take a football and they’ll have a ball. What more could you want?
As we walked around the site taking in the amazing array of different types of vans, camper trailers, tents etc, it occurred to us that those out here were all different but all the same. There was every type of person here – mums and dads with small kids; lawyers, accountants etc; teachers; grey nomads; young guys just enjoying the vibe; teenagers with their families – you name it, they were here. But, there was never any hint of trouble, never any hint of an argument or fight amongst any of these people. Everyone was here to enjoy themselves and personally, I put this down to alcohol NOT being on sale at the venue. Yes, you can go into Birdsville to get more (but it’s a good 30min drive into Birdsville) but it just seemed to go so well without the sale of alcohol. Call me a wowser, that’s ok. Also, everyone here is of similar mind – they all like the outback and they all like to travel with caravans or camper trailers or tents. So they like getting away from it all – and that could account for the lack of agro and trouble that music festivals usually have.
Everyone was here to enjoy the festival, the desert, the vibe, the stars in the sky, the campfires, the camaraderie and the ability to enjoy this great country of ours.
There are over 3000 people here but it doesn’t seem like it. We aren’t camped on top of each other and there’s plenty of room.
A walk to the top of Big Red should definitely be on your agenda. Most people wait til it’s near sunset before heading up there and if you’re a photographer, this is not the best time to be getting those gorgeous photos unfortunately. Too many people up there to get a decent shot but it’s still worth the experience. The light is pretty amazing up there and while I waiting for the perfect light, Damian headed back down to order a pizza. By the time I’d got my ‘shot’ (such that it was), the pizza was ready (that was a good hour) and we headed back to camp to settle in for the evening.
I walked to the top of Big Red (basically my first real foray into exercise since major shoulder surgery only 6 weeks earlier) and shot this iPhone video for you all. Click on the link and enjoy.
How exactly did the BRB first start?
This is the story we heard at the BRB this year. 3 years ago, a bloke decided that after running ultra marathons across deserts around the world, that it was time that Australia had it’s own ultra marathon across the Simpson Desert (as you do). He organised the first ultra marathon – The Big Red Run – and decided to raise funds for Type 1 Diabetes at the same time. They had a sing-a-long around a campfire and the rest is history and leads us to the event we see now – only 3 years on from that first one. They raised $220K this year and have raised over $600K since inception.
If you want a free ticket to BRB, it’s easy. All you need to do is run in the Big Red Run – a 250km multi day race across the desert. Or, you can take the easy way out and buy a ticket – which is what we did.
The entertainment starts about 2:30 each afternoon and you can hear the music all over the grounds. There is a fenced off area where you can go. Take your eskies (not too large) and your chairs and set yourself up for the afternoon and evening. You aren’t allowed to ‘hold’ a spot so you have to line up to get into the area. Most diehard fans will want to be right at the front but honestly, we never felt the need to even go into the fenced area. We were content to stay at our camping area and listen to a lot of the concert. Even when it came to Jimmy Barnes (which was what we were really there for), we didn’t go into the fenced area. We found ourselves a great position right behind the fence on a little hill and we could see his performance perfectly well. Reminder: it’s pretty cold at night watching the concert, so be prepared with layers of clothes.
The concerts over all were pretty damned good and each night concluded with a laser light show on Big Red. Crowd participation was great and the energy levels were definitely high. A good vibe for the entire 3 days.
The three days camping here was one of the best experiences we had. Meeting new friends and hearing other’s stories and experiences is definitely a highlight. Seeing Jimmy Barnes in concert was amazing and seeing him against the backdrop of Big Red was something we will never forget.
We were planning to attend the 2016 concert even before we’d left the 2015 BRB but unfortunately, we’ve just found out that Damian will be away on exercises during the 2016 dates and we will be unable to attend. What a great shame because the amazing PAUL KELLY is one of the headline acts. What more could you want than to see iconic Aussie singers and bands against one of Australia’s most iconic backdrops? If you are considering doing this, then, as Nike says, Just Do It! I promise you won’t regret it. Can’t take the dogs? Please don’t allow this to stop you. We love our dogs as much as anyone but there are times when you just can’t take them. Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face. This is an amazing event and you will absolutely love it.
What would we like to see at the next concert?
Given that this is such an iconic place with an incredible indigenous history, we were sad that, whilst there was a ‘Welcome to Country’ of sorts (really, it was only a small 1 minute speech by an elder), we would like to see a traditional ‘Welcome to Country’ on the stage complete with indigenous dancers and the whole 9 yards. Not only would this be an amazing spectacle set against Big Red, we feel it is the right thing to do.
Secondly, we would like to see at least 1 indigenous performer at this event – be it a secondary act or someone like Dan Sultan who would be an amazing headline act.
In our next post, we start the journey home but are going a different way just to change it up. We do need to go back to Cooper’s Creek near Windorah and from there we head to Charleville and home via St George and our favourite spot, the Nindigully Pub.
Follow the Sapper
Damian and Vanessa