I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to Groovin The Moo. Or, for that matter, any major Australian music festival over the past 5 years that doesn’t rhyme with “pound cave”.
Until this weekend, that is.
Getting shuffled along by the throng of happy campers into the Maitland Showground for the sold out 11th instalment of the travelling regional music fest, I felt a bit like an extra terrestrial virgin. A Groovin greenhorn. A veritable n00b in the Moo.
It didn’t help that I must have missed the memo about the Woodstock-meets-grunge dress code. But upon closer inspection, I realised my creeping sense of alienation stemmed more from my own deep-seated prejudice than my malapropos King Parrot shirt.
Had a real preconceived idea about these types of music festivals, I did. You know, the types that attract controversially bindi-sporting selfie-stick toters and stringlet-wearing pinger-shelvers. People who don’t come to music festivals for the music, see, but to get munted, hook in, and take lots of duck-faced selfies.
And sure enough, there they were. The handful of requisite arseholes, going so heckas on eccas that they had to be wheeled off, or otherwise just making complete dicks of themselves surrounded by people just trying to enjoy some God damn music.
But that’s just this review’s disclaimer: yes, those people were there. But so too were a whole bunch of others, the vast majority of them music lovers, who seemed to be enjoying everything that the festival had to offer, in a variety of strange, wonderful and different ways.
This Soundwave diehard learned a thing or two from the Groovers in the Moo. Below are her findings.
1. Mooers Just Don’t Stop Dancing
OK, this might not exactly be news to those of you who attend these kinds of things on the reg, but it legitimately blew my mind. After easing into the day with the highly-moshable high-octane rock n’ roll stylings of Melbourne’s The Delta Riggs inside the pun-tastically named Moolin Rouge tent, I headed on over to check out Peace on the main stage.
The sight that met my eyes was both confronting and wondrous: a tribe of limb-flailing festivalgoers, stomping along to the UK alt-rockers’ psychedelic mid-tempo jams, like circling gorillas performing some kind of bizarre mating ritual.
“Everyone here is on drugs,” I exaggeratively mused. And perhaps they were, but this penchant to boogie down centre-pit was one displayed time and again throughout the day. And not just by fans of the dancier artists.
Granted, there was one particular phenomenon, which I can only describe as a “disco-stampede” to the Moolin Rouge tent when Carmada started playing, even before Charli XCX appeared onstage for an excellent surprise cameo. As the DJ duo fired things up by blasting a recording of the 20th Century Fox theme song, droves of fans literally dance-ran past me to join the throng already jam-packed in front of the stage. Instinct almost forced me to duck-and-cover from the vigorous grooves of the advancing horde.
— CHARLI XCX UPDATES🩸 (@FckyeahCharli) May 9, 2015
It must also be said that Ball Park Music gave Carmada a run for their money in the danceability stakes. The Brisbane indie rockers seemed to have every single member of the crowd cutting a rug with their rendition of the Friends theme song.
2. Non-Rock Genres Can Still Rock
And I don’t just mean Charli XCX going Van Halen on a giant inflatable guitar. UK rockers You Me At Six and Aussie riff monsters Wolfmother both turned in expectedly dynamite performances on the [V] stage, with hordes of fans screaming the words to their biggest hits. But Aussie hip-hop supergroup One Day rocked the showground just as hard. The seven-man collective, featuring members of Horrorshow, Jackie Onassis, Spit Syndicate and MC Joyride packed out the triple j stage and had the tightly-packed crowd jumping with so much fervour they looked like a multi-coloured wave pool. One of their set’s biggest high points occurred when the group busted out a cover of Scribe’s rhyme-spitting anthem Not Many, which they also recorded for Like A Version, just last month.
Gallery: Charli XCX – Groovin The Moo 2015, Maitland / Pics Maria Boyadgis
3. Patriotism Isn’t Always Bogan
Unlike the over the top, southern-cross-tattoo-flaunting, flag-draped punters who became synonymous with the Big Day Out up til its recent demise, Groovin The Moo’s brand of patriotism is both subtle and inspiring. First, its commitment to regional Australia is constantly on show via the festival’s surroundings. Nestled in the historic city of Maitland, this particular leg of the national event sets its massive, glamorously lit stages against a backdrop of grassy slopes, dusty gravel roads, heritage buildings and sprawling farmlands.
Secondly, there’s the commitment to local talent. Unlike other major national festivals, which usually slot in a few token local acts as filler among a larger bill of internationals, Groovin The Moo works the complete other way around. While it does include a few international drawcards, it is primarily a celebration of Australian talent, which is evidenced by the fact that its headlining act, hip-hop veterans Hilltop Hoods, are as Aussie as a Cosby Sweater (which you probably shouldn’t look up on Urban Dictionary). Their packed out GTM set was pure magic, with the crowd chanting the lyrics to the aforementioned tune’s chorus so loud, the ‘Hoods were almost drowned out.
Even Aussie talent celebrated other Aussie talent, with The Preatures breaking up their set of chilled, 70’s-style funk jams to perform a brilliant cover of The Angels’ classic Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? (“No way, get fucked, fuck off!”), mashed up with lyrics from The Divinyls’ Boys In Town, to prove that frontwoman Isabella Manfredi has some rock chops to be reckoned with.
Gallery: The Preatures – Groovin The Moo 2015, Maitland / Pics Maria Boyadgis
4. It’s Not Just About The Music
Unlike Soundwave, Groovin The Moo is about more than just the artists on the bill. GTM goes the extra mile to foster a real sense of community and ensure positive vibes all round. As well as the special Artist Signing Tent, which dismantles the proverbial barricade separating fans from their favourite acts, the festival also lines up a handful of extremely cool services on the side.
For instance, I found myself wondering why a group of dudes were spending their precious festival minutes picking up stray litter, which is how I discovered GTM’s environmentally-friendly initiative, which allows punters to save a dollar off their next drink by returning used cans. Let’s get drunk on sustainability, people!
To boot, a Headspace mental health tent was on site for those who found themselves needing someone to talk to, while the McGrath Foundation’s breast awareness caravan was also there to help educate young women about the risks of breast cancer. Cap that off with the roving Chuck Taylor sneaker portrait studio, where festivalgoers could go to take pro snaps of their sneakers, and it’s safe to say that Groovin The Moo was looking after their guests, mind, body and, uh, soul.
5. One Size Doesn’t Necessarily Fit All
The variety of artists on offer at GTM inspires punters to, basically, choose their own musical adventure. From the neck-breaking circle-pit mayhem of Sydney’s metalcore juggernauts, Northlane, to the fist-pumping dance grooves of Hot Dub Time Machine. A friend of mine even chose to nap peacefully on a grassy hill during the laid back, good-time vibes of Sticky Fingers’ set, while others, closer to the stage, opted instead to cheer and jump along with red jumpsuit-wearing frontman Dylan Frost. Altogether, the whole thing effectively shat on my prior misconception, that how much you reek of other people’s sweat at the end of the day is a direct measurement of how much fun was had.
6. Festivalgoers Really Seem To Care About Sun Safety
7. Music Really Does Bring People Together
OK, yeah, it’s a lame thing to say, and something you probably already believed, but Groovin The Moo Maitland really brought the message home this year. Mere weeks ago, Maitland copped the brunt of a freak weather event which caused millions of dollars worth of widespread property damage and even claimed lives. The historic Hunter city is still baring the scars of the lashing, with broken river banks and submerged cattle pastures flanking the road into the showground. But this overwhelmingly positive festival helped the local community forget about the nightmare and unite in a celebration of life and music, with Mayor Peter Blackmore even dubbing Groovin The Moo an important milestone in Maitland’s storm recovery effort.
“This gives a positive spin to Maitland,” he told the ABC. “It’s ability to be able to have festivals despite the events that have taken place over the last couple of weeks.”
The festival had previously assured punters it would go ahead, even if the weather took another turn for the worst. But luckily, this time, gumboots weren’t required and mother nature came through with a stunner. Despite a wintery nip in the air it was an otherwise gorgeous sunny day at a triumphant Groovin The Moo.
Would happily groove there again.
Gallery: Peaches – Groovin The Moo 2015, Maitland / Pics Maria Boyadgis