The Colin Hay Band takes on Australia’s Big Red Bash

The Colin Hay Band takes on Australia’s Big Red Bash

by Colin Hay, July 5, 2024

Written by Andrew McMillen for The Australian
Photo by Matt Williams

Standing on the edge of the Simpson Desert atop the sand dune known as Big Red, Colin Hay turned toward the winter sun and cast his eyes across the pop-up outback city known as Bashville.

“I’ve never been to this exact
spot before,” said Hay, 71.

“It’s like nowhere else on the
planet, really. Most of Australia’s
like this, isn’t it? It makes me feel
really good to be here, and the air is
extraordinary; because there’s no
people, industry or cars, it’s very
pure and refreshing.”

Los Angeles-based Hay was among the star performers at the multi-day camping festival known as the Big Red Bash. Climbing the dune not long before showtime, he was a man at ease happy to stop for photos with festivalgoers and fans. There are few other places in the country that Hay’s signature song Down Under could possibly feel more apt, and the crowd of thousands happily sang its ­famous words back at the smiling Scottishborn singer on Tuesday afternoon. In pop-up desert delight, no one’s shy at Bashville

Situated 35km west of the desert outpost town of Birdsville, in far western Queensland, Bashville is an oddity in the Australian music festival market. Only a week ago, the festival site was practically bare, with little permanent infrastructure in place. Yet in recent days, thousands of four-wheel drives, caravans and campervans – perhaps including a few “fried-out Kombis”, as namechecked in the lyrics to Down Under – have arrived from farflung locales as adventurous music fans made new friends in the middle of nowhere.

Rainfall in recent days made the site a little muddy underfoot, but with blue skies overhead on Tuesday the puddles were drying fast as the music program began at
midday with a set from Goanna frontman Shane Howard. With three-day adult tickets priced at $729, and $49 for children aged five to 17, the Bash is at the upper end of the nation’s festival market, which has had a rocky year so far with the cancellation of major events such as Splendour in the Grass and regional touring festival Groovin the Moo. While the crowd of about 7500 is down from last year’s peak of about 11,000 campers, the Bash remains a strong lure in a region that
rarely attracts large crowds. Organisers say the Big Red Bash is the world’s most remote music festival, and Hay could only concur.

“I can’t think of anywhere that
would be more remote,” he said
with a smile.

“It could probably only happen
in this country, because for one
thing the geography is such that
everyone is hugging the coast.All
you’ve got to do is travel a couple
of thousand miles in and you’re already remote, so I’m not surprised
it’s the most remote festival in the

Accompanied by his multi­-national band of Cubans, Guatemalans and Peruvian musicians, Hay will conclude his tour this week with shows in Sydney (Friday), Newcastle (Saturday) and Thirroul (Sunday). Among other acts to take the stage on Tuesday were Diesel, MiSex and Baby Animals. On Wednesday, Tina Arena, Tim Finn and
Mark Seymour perform.

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