Gig Reviews

Groovin’ The Moo, Maitland Showgrounds – 12/5/2012

I wish I could give you an accurate figure, but there is unfortunately no way for me to determine the exact amount of moo that was grooved at the Maitland Showgrounds yesterday. I know, I know. I’m as disappointed in myself as you are. A fancy music website sends you a hundred and sixty kilometres out of Sydney on a research project, and you can’t even quantify the ratio of groove to moo when you get there? Lame.

If you can put your discontent to the side, there are some things that I can tell you. As it turns out, a bloody shitload of people had a fair dinkum ripsnorter of a time yesterday. Here’s why, mate:

I arrived in enough time to catch the back half of San Cisco’s set on the Maitland mainstage. Essentially, they played the same set as they played at The Standard in Sydney on Wednesday night, and I assume for the rest of their headlining Australian tour. The only difference was the way the band reacted to the crowd en masse. I don’t know how many eighteen-year-olds would welcome the idea of playing to thousands of punters at a packed music festival, but the Perth quartet took the challenge head-on and, in spite of a few small rough moments, came out wholly on top.

I don’t know how to say that Matt Corby is a really pretty man without bringing my heterosexuality into question. He just is. The Shire’s least offensive export played nine songs nobody knew the words to and then the one song that everybody wanted him to play. The rest of his set was fine, but nothing in the rest of his catalogue compares to the immediacy of Brother. Regardless, he’s got a pretty good set of pipes, so if things don’t work out for him as a solo artist this year, I reckon he’s a shoo-in for Joel Madden’s team on The Voice in 2013.

The Maccabees were a big highlight for me, even after catching them at The Metro last week. That performance was to a core five hundred fans, so it was always going to be a success. Their set at GTM established the band, at least in my mind, as premier touring artists. They worked a large crowd into a frenzy, mixing up older and newer material. Given its heavy radio presence, the material from their most recent effort, Given To The Wild, was best received. Hopefully, new fans will revisit their back-catalogue as well, because there are some definite gems.

How good were Mutemath? Let me put it this way: they went crowd surfing on blow-up air mattresses. Like the Maccabees, the material from Odd Soul, their 2011 release that found its way to radio rotation, was received the best by the crowd. There wasn’t a whole lot that rivalled the New Orleans four-piece in terms of sheer intensity for the rest of the day. Why they were jettisoned to what ostensibly was the B-Team stage is beyond my comprehension.

I’ve gone on record before to say that Brisbane’s Ball Park Music are the best young touring band in the country, and yesterday’s set did nothing but confirm my sentiment. My suspicion is that they get better and more boisterous as the crowds get bigger and bigger. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of seeing thousands of people scream ‘I only have sex with myself!’ in triumphant unison, and I imagine the band won’t either. If you’re the kind of person who can’t enjoy their live set, you may as well concede to the fact that you’re also a big fat stick in the mud.

Even though I thought recent LP Little Hell was a bit of a snooze-fest, I was probably most excited to see City and Colour out of all of the bands on the bill. What I was interested in were the full-band arrangements of the tracks on his first two releases, Sometimes and Bring Me Your Love, which featured a lone acoustic guitar and Dallas Green’s dulcet vocals most prominently. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome, although I will say that the band were tighter as a unit playing the songs from Little Hell that they didn’t have to invent arrangements for. Also, If you were wondering, yes, it’s a safe bet that the heart of every woman in existence was melted during their set.

The hardest choice I had to make all day was what to have for dinner. There was such a variety of food on offer. Most of it, I’m sure, was likely to induce vomiting at some point over the next few days, but there was no way that was going to stop me from investing seven dollars in a fried bread / boiled egg /chilli concoction from one of the vendors. So far, so good.

I think Bluejuice got a bit of a bum deal having to share an overlapping playing time with Melbourne’s Kimbra. I got over to see a bit of both acts, and it’s fair to say that the crowd was swayed to the woman with the infinite wardrobe. I’ll say right now that my opinions about her set, which I think was pretty great, are probably influenced by my desire to sit her down by candlelight and say nice things to her. Gorgeous.

Bluejuice, on the other hand, are a consistent bundle of fun, and the eager punters dancing along to Act yr Age, Broken Leg and Vitriol would no doubt agree. I think the problem in this case is that as Australian music festival stalwarts, there’s a strong chance that you’ve seen Bluejuice before, as I have many times. Kimbra has been much more elusive, which I think accounts for her lopsided audience attendance.

Next came Hilltop Hoods. This meant it was time for me to escape the nosebleed section to make room for every muscly, obnoxious drunk within a ten-kilometre radius. It’s a shame too, because they put on a really good set that covered their entire discography. It seems like the band are veering away from producing party bangers in favour of more experimental territory with each new album, but that didn’t stop the South Australian emcees from inciting mayhem as they rolled out some of their biggest hits.

Last up were the Kaiser Chiefs, arguably the least talked-about festival headliner in recent memory. Think about it: did you know they were headlining? Have you seen any press or heard any interviews? Me neither. Still, the band did what every good festival headliner should do: play the hits. (NB: If you’re reading this, Mr. Corgan, take explicit note – we want ‘1979’, not whatever this 2012 bullshit you’re coming out with is.) In that way, it kind of didn’t matter that there wasn’t a whole lot of hype surrounding the Chiefs’ performance. Everyone knew every word (even if that word is ‘Ruby’, fifteen hundred times in a row) to every song, and it was a pretty alright way to end proceedings. I wasn’t blown-the-fuck-away, but I was satiated.

But, you’re right, we still haven’t answered the big, lingering question: exactly how much moo was grooved? I’m sad to say that I still don’t know. HOWEVER, I have re-enrolled to study next semester, and at that time I hope to be able to provide you with the answer. My institution of choice? Bovine University. (You didn’t honestly think you were going to make it through twelve hundred words of text without a single cow pun OR Simpsons reference, did you?)

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