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Wide Open Hearts

Wide Open Space Festival returns next month, bursting with experimental art, music and cultural workshops in the East MacDonnell Ranges – aka the East Macs – at Ross River Resort this May Day long weekend.

By Jenna Hoare

ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S most intimate desert music and cultural events, Wide Open Space (WOS) returns to its roots on Eastern Arrernte Country, 83 clicks from Mparntwe/Alice Springs. This year’s line-up brings together national and international headliners, alongside local musicians, in a celebration of the small festival vibes attendees have come to know and love over the years.

One band sure to get you dancing in the dust this year is Amaru Tribe from Naarm/Melbourne. The folktronic group blends traditional music from Latin America with contemporary electronic sound, exploring the intersection between cultures with beats, too easy to bust a groove to.

Partners in music and life Oscar Jimenez and Katherine Gailer formed Amaru Tribe together, and have played at major music festivals over the years, including WOMADelaide and Bluesfest in Byron Bay.

“Alice Springs brings back very beautiful memories in my life. I proposed to my partner Katherine in the MacDonnell Ranges eleven years ago. I’ve heard so many beautiful things about Wide Open Space Festival through friends, and I’ve always had a feeling of wanting to go back to perform,” Jimenez says.

The musician and music producer, born and raised in Colombia and now based in Australia, describes visiting the Red Centre as a place to connect to the region’s ancestral roots, a similar energy to his home.

“You feel the connection to Country, and you feel the connection to Indigenous culture in a way that makes you feel connected to the planet. And what we try [to do] with our live performance … is celebrate the culture and the connection that the power of music creates.”

Love for Country, love for art, culture and good times is at the heart of WOS. And if you love music, well, WOS Event Manager LJ Devlin says you’re in luck.

“We’ve announced Pookie, RONA., Angus Angus Angus, Redmond and Ashez as the headliners,” she says.

“We’re really excited about Pookie, a South Sudanese rapper from Perth. Angus Angus Angus is coming back for another year, and of course, there’s Ashez who is an international bass music producer from New Zealand.”

The infamous Garden Party is on again this year, and the dress-up theme drops this month so keep your eyes peeled on WOS socials for that one. Stay sun safe under the large shade structure during the day, as non-stop DJs crank tunes across the wide-open dance floor, smack-bang in front of the historical homestead.

“The solo DJ set with electronic producer and artist Christopher Coe, who runs a record label with Carl Cox, will be another highlight over the weekend. We’ve also curated arts and cultural workshops and kids’ activities as part of this year’s program, being a family-friendly event,” Devlin says.

The local game is strong with James Range Band, The Tamala Express, Katie Harder and the Artful Dodgers, The Wanted Gems, and more.

If you’re based in the desert, book those tickets, or if you’re a Top Ender, it’s time to round up your entourage and get planning on that road trip, because what could be better than a music and culture festival that you can also sleep at? Devlin says making the journey to WOS is a bucket list experience.

“It’s not just about coming to the festival – it’s about coming to the Centre itself. It’s a time of year that’s so vibrant at the start of the winter, and there’s so many places to experience and see,” she says.

“There’s the beautiful Trephina Gorge, John Hayes Rockhole, and Emily and Jessie Gaps. You can really experience a beautiful time of year before the main tourists arrive.”

For those arriving in town early, check out the pre-WOS events in the week leading into the festival at venues around town. If you can tack on some time post-festival – and because this crew literally thinks of everything – check out the WOS after-party the following Friday to keep the festival vibes a’rollin’. Devlin says WOS really is a festival for all.

“All ages. All abilities. All genders. All identities. Come and enjoy WOS and be part of the experience. It’s a big-hearted festival – it’s just a festival of love!”

Wide Open Space
COST $20-$740

Photos: Oliver Eclipse

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