One day in 1983, a star man landed in a small, dusty and remote town and headed to the bar. After introducing himself, the patrons of the Carinda Hotel were left dumbfounded. Only the publican knew.
David Bowie had chosen their local watering hole for part of his song Let’s Dance music video as he was looking for a desert like environment.
Although the crew were only at the hotel filming for a day, the video has had a lasting impact, making Carinda a destination for David Bowie fans. The song was a worldwide hit, topping the charts and reaching number two in Australia.
We learned that Carinda was having a David Bowie festival via the ABC radio. We were only about 700kms from the event so we topped up the dual fuel tanks and the Engel fridge and headed west. The drive to Carinda passed a menagerie of fields growing cotton, barley, canola, wheat, cattle and sheep.
A keen eye was on the lookout for wildlife in anticipation of not taking one out with our Toyota Landcruiser ute. Kangaroos, emus, bearded dragons, shinglebacks and an abundance of birdlife was part of this exciting journey to Carinda, the last 60 odd k’s being dirt road along the Macquarie Marshes.
Upon arrival the showground proved a mixture of tents, swags, caravans, slide on campers and the odd motor home. A stage was being finalised not far from a shed decorated with hanging CD’s, a mannequins head painted to look like Ziggy Stardust and a bathtub ready to become the refrigerator for Saturday nights bar. A marquee sported red paint, glitter and other decorative crafty items if you were willing to paint your shoes red and dance the blues. Utes started pulling in from nearby towns towing food and coffee vans. By now I am noting how many country vehicles have dented doors, evidence of the roos we were determined not to hit.
Leading up to the main attraction, Rob with his steak and sausage sanga food van entertained all with his BYO juke box, luring the youth with the chance to sing karaoke. Andrew settled in beside with his barista set up. Bob Gammage, a nomadic artist, captured the overall scenes on canvas, to be successfully auctioned off later. Other stalls dotted the surrounds including a tarot card reader, but I didn’t need a fortune teller to tell me I was going to enjoy the weekend.
The night was a blast, with every visitor from near and far having absolute fun dancing on a bed of dust and burrs. Jeff Duff is arguably a most flamboyant and creative Australian entertainer, best described as a tall waif of a man with a strong voice. Whilst not attempting to imitate David Bowie’s looks, rather keeping with his own style, he sang with gusto and energy. My red shoes certainly got a work out, now looking orange from the dust settling on the synthetic uppers. A chorus of “we want more” erupted towards the finale and more is what us happy campers received. The bath tub bar had long been emptied, a backup band entered the stage and Rob with his juke box filled in any quiet time, partying with contagious energy.
The next morning Andrew from his Bogan coffee van was doing a roaring trade. Lucky the CWA were cooking up bacon and egg rolls for breakfast as Rob was certainly not going to surface any time soon.
After adding my red shoes to the homage wall, we headed for the Carinda Pub. Jeff Duff was to perform Let’s Dance against the iconic tiled wall Bowie had performed against over 30 years ago. Soon the pub was full and overflowed onto the street. There was no concern of being hit by a car, a lone horse with sulky being the only traffic.
Packed in like sardines with film crews filming from atop the bars, we opted to stand on chairs for a view. It is easy to dance on a chair, providing you don’t move your feet, and we wiggled and clapped and yahooed like true groupies as Jeff Duff’s musical performance paralleled the artistry of David Bowie with ease. Looking over a sea of heads, many with well worn Akubras on top, we watched as some punters couldn’t resist and managed to form a small dance floor whilst belting out the lyrics. Everyone was truly enjoying the moment.
So all in all, the October long weekend was a great weekend. When travelling it’s sometimes the unexpected that makes the memories, so be sure to check out what events are happening near your destination, and if you’re anywhere near Carinda come October, set up camp for free at the showground and embrace the fun.