Weddingapalooza: Wasteland Weekend

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This is one of the most “us” parts of our epic wedding tour: celebrating our nuptials at an immersive, post-apocalyptic festival in the Mojave desert! Here I’ll talk about my experiences at this incredible event, including our wonderful wedding party


Wasteland Weekend 2023 was the best event I’ve ever been to…

I’ve needed to take some time before writing about this, to really take it in and think about how to articulate my experiences. During my first day at the event, I asked my husband, a Wasteland veteran, why he hadn’t told me fully what the event was like. He replied: “Because you can’t describe it, can you!?” Well, that would be a pretty short blog post, so while I totally agree, I’ll give it my best shot!


Welcome to the post-apocalypse!


Wasteland Weekend 2023 was the best event I’ve ever been to. That’s a big claim, but to break it down: the quality of the immersion was unbelievable, the fellow attendees I met were very special people, the range of activities and entertainment was outstanding, I got to dress up in some of the most creative ways I’ve ever achieved, and most of all, the ethos of the event was spot on. 


What is Wasteland Weekend?


Before we dig deeper, let’s set the scene: Wasteland Weekend was started in 2010 by a group of around 350 creative people with a love for the world built by George Miller in his Mad Max film franchise. This world is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future after a catastrophic world war, where oil is a precious resource, V-8 engines are revered, and civilisation as we know it is gone, replaced by “Tribes” run by ferocious warlords. Tina Turner was cast as one such leader in the movies, to give you an idea of how powerful and intimidating these characters are! Tribes roam the desert (the “Wasteland”), violently scavenging for scarce resources to keep their groups alive. 


Desert-appropriate transport


Hardy movie fans decided to get together in the Mojave desert to celebrate the aesthetic and lifestyle of the post-apocalypse in full immersive style. Thirteen years later, over 4,000 people now attend the festival. To quote the official website, Wasteland Weekend is:

“A place where all factions, gangs, and fractured remnants of society come together on neutral ground to trade, barter, make new alliances, and PARTY!”


War Boys patrol the City walls


The festival is held on an area of land in the Mojave Desert owned by the event organisers. To get to the site, you must turn off the Highway onto a dirt track and travel for about 25 minutes along a very bumpy makeshift single-lane “road”. The centre of the event is Wasteland City, where certain Tribes are invited to set up unique camps. The City’s gated walls are patrolled by War Boys (characters from the films), just another one of the amazing details. Other Tribes, and lone wasteland wanderers, like me, set up camp outside of the walls in zones divided by roads to allow the custom vehicles a route to roam around the site causing havoc! 


The suitably post-apocalyptic desert site

What happens there?


While bands play live music in the evenings, this is much more than a music festival. As the quote above hints at, a lot goes on at Wasteland!  Activities include:

  • An annual Post-Apocalyptic Swimsuit Contest – this was so good, with contestants putting on a great show in their crafted creations

One of my favourites- ready for take-off!


  • A car show – to exhibit modified vehicles of all shapes and sizes (all of them NOISEY!) 
  • An official desert cruise – all the vehicles gather with their crews and ride in procession through the desert, into the City and around the encampment

Some incredibly inventive vehicles at Wasteland!


  • The Remote Control Car DEATH RACE! – contestants modify little cars (one had a red mohawk!), and power around a track, with lots of music, challenges, and crashing along the way

Modified vehicles, both big and small


  • Last Chance Casino – a camp hosting various gambling activities, using bottle caps as currency
  • Wasteland Weekend Film Festival – hosted in a tent showing a series of submitted short films 
  • Archery and axe throwing range – with time slots for those bringing their own kit, and times where loaner gear and instruction is available for beginners
  • Ad hoc LARP opportunities – while Wasteland is not an official LARP and it’s not necessary to participate, there is plenty to get involved in if desired, or simply watch as the craziness ensues! Some tribes have long-running “feuds” with other tribes and storylines can run over several years. Equally, many attendees will have earned nicknames through their adventures- a friend in our group acquired the name “Bad Idea”, which was just genius! 

The notice board listing other events


  • The Juggers of the Wasteland – a group “playing” a (very) full-contact sport, Jugger. The goal is for the team, armed with foam poles and foam balls on the end of a rope, to protect a “runner” carrying a ball while travelling across the pitch to the opposing side. The other team must prevent this and capture the ball. At Wasteland, this was basically people in scary homemade armour, battering one another with poles in the desert. Why not!?


Ready for action


  • The legendary, Thunderdome– more on this below, too…


My top 10 Experiences


Aside from all the activities I’ve already mentioned, there were some particularly awesome memories that I’ll now share:


1.Riding in a war rig

This was certainly one of my highlights of the entire year! We were admiring an amazing customised VW Beetle, complete with machine gun turret, snow plough front “teeth”, and spear bombs poking out of both sides. It really did look the part and you can tell a lot of hard work and skill had gone into the construction. 


Ready to ride!


The owner came over to chat and answer our many questions. Then, he very kindly asked if we’d like to get in and go for a DRIVE! Yes, please!! Our party of three boarded the car (me in the gun turret, obvs!), my husband driving, and his best man in the passenger seat.  We drove around the entire site, getting into character by generally yelling and offering passersby the “Wasteland Hello” (see point 10!).


My ride-or-die buddies!


2. Witnessing the Thunderdome!


One of the main draws of crowds in the evening is the epic, Thunderdome! Recreated from the 1985 film, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, this is a full-size metal dome structure, in which two opponents armed with foam-covered bats are strapped into harnesses, attached to bungee cables, hoisted upwards off the ground, and then released to fly towards one another and FIGHT! 


Pre-fight entertainment: opera on a trapeze, naturally


Points are won by bonks to the body, with hits to the bum akin to spanking, highly encouraged! The best tactic seemed to be to trap your opponent within a leg grip, flip them over, and commence the spanking. These contestants were often declared the winners!


There is much pomp around the set-up of the Thunderdome, even an opera and trapeze performance, then plenty of metal tunes and pyrotechnics while contestants fight. My favourite element was that, just like in the film, observers could climb up the structure and sit high up on the dome to watch the fighting. It was amazing! (check out my Insta for videos)


3. Wasteland Radio


My favourite part of the journey to the site was finding Wasteland Radio, 88.3 FM gradually come into focus as we got closer- we loved bopping to Ministry as we clattered along in our RV! 

“The last of the FM broadcasters!”

I broke out into a full Charleson in our little RV kitchenette at one point…

The music policy was perfect for my random collection of tastes: mostly Metal and Industrial, harkening to the Mad Max films, but they also played Swing and 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll before noon, inspired by the Fallout video games.  I listened on the RV radio every day as I did my hair and makeup. I broke out into a full Charleson in our little kitchenette at one point, as I loved the tune so much!


The shows are hosted live each afternoon and presenters read out weather reports (including helpful wind warnings in case camps need to be secured down), and the news from around the City, like updates on the ongoing political activities in the LARPs (I believe there was a union election being held in 2023, for example). We are also kept informed of the many events going on that day, both official and unofficial. 


Behind the scenes at Wasteland Radio- all mod cons


Between segments, the station played comedy jingles and adverts, which I found absolutely genius and hilarious! They included ads for gasoline (of course!), canned “chicken”, and many other things, some borrowed from Fallout, others recorded especially for the event. I wish I could listen all year round!


4. Our wedding party


An obvious highlight for me was our official wedding meet-up! The Wasteland Radio crew very kindly offered to host us in their camp, so we had an awesome venue secured. We invited a bunch of our friends, put a notice in the newspaper the day before, plus wrangled random lovely people we’d met, and waited to see who would turn up! 


I’ve never drunk champagne out of a tin can before, but I’d do it again…

Wasteland Weekend Weddingapalooza!

We dressed in our Wasteland wedding finery (more on this in my next post!) and dragged over our cooler filled with champagne, beer, and soft drinks to get the party kicking. I’ve never drunk champagne out of a tin can before, but I’d do it again!


We were touched to have so many friends and people we’d only just met turn up at the event to wish us well, including two other couples who had recently been married!


This is a sad note to write following the news of her passing in January 2024, but I was thrilled that one of my favourite models and performers, Masuimi Max, attended our meet-up. I’d been a fan of her work since discovering her on the pages of Skin Two magazine in the early 2000s, and loved how she came to embrace her more edgy, alternative, side in her recent work, including as a regular Wasteland attendee and performer.  She was absolutely lovely and offered some sweet words of support for our married lives. I feel so honoured to have had the chance to meet her and express my appreciation of her art. May she rest in power 🖤


5. Remembering the fallen


The festival site is flanked by a rocky outcrop to one side, upon which is constructed a remembrance wall for those Wasteland attendees who have passed. It is a peaceful place where friends and family can visit and take a moment on a little bench. There is also an official remembrance ceremony at the site each year. 


A special place for contemplation


I made the walk up the hill to pay my respects. I think this was a wonderful touch, and I think the fallen would be happy with the lovely view overlooking the entire site. The Wasteland crews feel like chosen families and this was a touching way to continue to celebrate their lives.

6. Live music


The music was held on an impressive open-air stage with dramatic views out over the desert behind the musicians. The stage has a “Wasteland” sign overhead and flame throwers flanking each side for added drama (when it wasn’t too windy!). 

The stage in action

In 2023, I particularly appreciated that they had several female-fronted bands, including, Militia Vox, who performed an incredible Tina Turner tribute (complete with fire-breathing saxophone), Élishia Sharie, who absolutely rocked a late-night slot, Old Blood, who was moody and tight, and the all-female supergroup, Xtine & The Reckless Hearts. I also enjoyed a very “classic rock” performance from Jason Charles Miller, a genre which I haven’t heard live that many times before, and obviously, I loved V2A and Fleischkrieg for their industrial sounds. 


7. Poutine night


Yes, we had poutine in the desert! Each camp has its own identity and at one, their special “thing” was to provide massive amounts of the Canadian delicacy, Poutine, on the final night of the event. This was extremely welcome after several days of pretty much surviving on instant noodles! 


The chips were lovely, the cheese curds were stringy, and the gravy was mouth-watering. They had even made Nanaimo bars for dessert, another niche Canadian goodie! This exemplified the generosity and eclectic nature of the event ethos.


8. The bar


It’s a relatively small detail, but I liked that the festival bar doesn’t take cash. Instead, at the start of the festival, you are encouraged to donate an offering (liquor and/or mixer), and then you simply turn up to the bar with your cup, tell them what you’d like, and they create something for you from what they’ve got.  We donated a large bottle of vodka, so I had no reservations about visiting the bar and enjoying a couple of random creations. A warning: they are generous with their measures!


This barter-type system (similar to the ethos at festivals like Burning Man), was evident elsewhere, too. There are many other bars in other camps, and at several, you used bottle caps as “currency” to exchange for a drink. Equally, there were clothing and equipment exchanges where you could barter and swap for cool elements to add to your outfits. This was lots of fun!


9. The attendees


I had the privilege of walking around what felt like Disneyland after something horrible had happened (in a cool way!), [this] was all down to the attendees

What impressed me most of all is that this event only exists because participants attend and put in so much effort to make it special for each other. All the camps in the City do not get paid to come and host. The fact that I had the privilege of walking around what felt like Disneyland after something horrible had happened (in a cool way!), was all down to the attendees’ generosity, creative spirit, and passion. 


It’s the people that made it special


Equally, while there is a requirement to dress appropriately for the apocalypse, there is no compulsion to go above and beyond, or modify a vehicle to drive around the site swearing at everyone (it’s the little things that made it), to create a LARP storyline for people to participate in, to produce a daily newspaper, or to construct a radio antenna and host a radio station.  But people come and create all of this, then tear it down a week later. 


The community behaved as if we were all part of a big family. We were in a survival situation, living in the desert, miles from anywhere for a week, so helping people out and cultivating a sense of cooperation became a “natural” way to behave.


10. Swearing at strangers


An odd one, but I fully embraced this part of the immersion! A traditional way to greet someone at Wasteland is to invite them to “go f**k” themselves and offer them your middle finger. Polite? Objectively, no. Hilarious when said in an upbeat tone? Absolutely, yes!


One could perhaps make a thesis about the evolution of language in a dystopic future, but I think this tradition is just for fun. I would hear this and return the sentiment so many times a day that it was actually difficult to snap out of it when we left and returned to normal society. Sorry, to the kids of San Diego!


I’m so grateful for all the fantastic experiences at Wasteland Weekend! I really want to go back and get more involved in the event now I understand the ethos and the range of activities more fully.  Maybe I’ll even earn a nickname!? The event was also extremely “good value” for me because, while we were only there for four days, I spent almost a year in advance preparing my outfits, hair, and makeup- something I absolutely love doing! My next post will talk in more detail about this and feature making-of and outfit progress pics- check back here soon!


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