Co-written by Co-Director of Cultural Journalism, Paul Waxman and Radio Monash member Maria Dunne. Photography by Maria Dunne and Paul Waxman
The usually busy and crowded Caulfield Station was mostly empty, excluding other backpack toting, festival goers. Pulling up into Southern Cross Station, the vastly sized station was just as unusually desolate save the glitter covered and confused Groovin attendees who were looking for the correct train to Bendigo. As everyone was finally on the correct train, at the crack of dawn mind you, the train was filled with excitement for what seemed like an exciting lineup of music and an incredible day of partying and fun.
TUSK – triple J stage
Not too far from the bustling and crowded Groovin the Moo entrance stood two gigantic stages, the triple J stage and the Cattleyard stage, which would, later in the evening, host some of the biggest names in modern music. Before the droves of punters swarmed the stage, interested attendants gathered for the loud, raucous and violent three-piece Tusk. Tusk had an invasive sound and every riff penetrated listener’s ear drums as if their music was a call to the Gods of rock music. Inspired by the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, their short but sweet set had early punters head-banging and dancing. The band did Bendigo proud by providing the initial headbangers for the early crowd. Although one may question whether their music was too early for festival goers, it still acted as a sort of wake up call for attendants who may have gotten up too early. With a shirtless drummer hammering away at his drum kit, and a bassist dressed in a Nirvana shirt, Tusk were an entertaining rock band, that I hope to see more of in future. The beats awoke the spirit of the festival, that was hard to waver for the rest of the event.
METHYL ETHEL – Cattleyard stage
Straight after the furious and fiery set from Tusk, their almost complete antithesis, Methyl Ethel set up to play. Flying through hits from their two fantastic albums ‘Oh Inhuman Spectacle’, and the recently released ‘Everything Is Forgotten’, the band’s usual charm was more so apparent on the Groovin stage. With an adorable kind of child-like wonder, lead-man Jake Webb thanked and thanked the enticed Bendigo crowd as they performed crowd favourites ‘Ubu’, and ‘Twilight Driving’. Other new hits such as ‘No. 28’, ‘Drink Wine’ and ‘L’Heure des Sorcières’ all went down a treat as the sun bore down and the afternoon began.
Amongst these two main stages, there were also two other in-door stages, the excruciatingly punny in-door tent Moolin Rouge and the large The Plot. Both stages hosted intense DJ sets that had people cutting shapes and loudly singing along. The latter, Moolin Rouge, hosted interim DJ sets to warm up crowds for some fantastic artists one of the best of which was L-Fresh the Lion.
L-FRESH THE LION – Moolin Rouge
L-Fresh the Lion performed with a lovely passion and strength at the Moolin Rouge Stage. The stage was under a circus-like tent. It was dark which made the colours stand out. L-Fresh incorporates sounds from his Indian identity as well as his Australian Identity. This is seen in his use of Indian Pop Music and using the sounds of the tumbi. He has a powerful force in his words and was able to make the audience feel like a community. It is amazing watching him spit verses as he seems completely entranced in his lyrics. His work is also strongly influenced by oral traditions which made his performance take the audience on a journey. He bounced off the audience’s feedback which created this beautiful relationship. His rhymes about social justice were incredibly impactful. Due to an absence from the renowned and beloved Tash Sultana, set times were quickly shifted around, so luckily enough for us the lovely Alex Lahey had a later set in the crowded Moolin Rouge tent.
ALEX LAHEY – Moolin Rouge
After an incredible year of releasing her massive EP ‘B Grade University’ and reaching number 97 in the Hottest 100 of 2016 with ‘You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me’, Lahey attracted a large and committed audience who laughed at her hilarious jokes and danced along to her rock-tinged riffs. All of the lyrics to Triple J favourites ‘Ivy League’ and ‘Let’s Go Out’ were known to the energetic audience members who sang along en masse. The crowd also loved the before mentioned ‘You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me’ and the sweet ‘L-L-L Leave Me Alone’ also had fans bopping and singing along. Announcing an album for October with the hilariously titled ‘Perth-Traumatic Stress Disorder’, I am incredibly excited to see what Lahey can do on a full-length album as her musical abilities were clear in spades in her delightful Groovin set.
K.FLAY (US) – Cattleyard stage
K.Flay’s set followed her usual protocol. The so-called indie “suburban rap queen” spat out her usual sharp verses. Her attire seemed similar to that of an ex-emo chick; ripped black jeans, long baggy jumper and jet black hair that continued to bang from side to side. Her set felt a little off. She seemed in her own world for the most part, like a teenager jamming to themselves in their bedroom, it felt like nothing you couldn’t get if you had just listened to her album. Her set was not for audience members unfamiliar with her work as she was completely engrossed in her music. Nevertheless, the inner mosh pit of die-hard fans was a good atmosphere that made the set a communal experience. On the other side of the grounds, another set was starting, and it was becoming difficult to pick which band to see as clashes become harsher and harsher.
NORTHEAST PARTY HOUSE – Moolin Rouge
As Montaigne had cancelled, whispers began circulating the festival about the Melbourne group of Northeast Party House. Their set was packed with the circus tent filled from both sides. Their boy band vibes soon came off to reveal epic synth dance ballads. These guys thrive on live performances and you could tell. The white lighting streamed out to the audience. The audience was absorbed in the music. Any band that has a Tamborine being played within the song almost always gets the crowd rowdy and NPH successfully achieved rowdiness. Back on the two main stages, sets were still into full swing.
AGAINST ME! (US) – triple J stage
In the aftermath of a lively, danceable set from one US artist, K. Flay, another US band took the stage. Against Me!, the US punk band, has seven LP’s under their belts having only recently released ‘Shape Shift With Me’. With the charisma and the stage confidence of what can only be described as an “American punk band”, the US punks flew through hits and fan favourites. ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ was a blazingly fun set opener and had fans reciting the anti-establishment lyrics. The band’s bassist, Inge Johansson had a punk-fuelled energy that saw him kick jumping to their songs’ numerous breakdowns. Being one of the first international acts of the day, the band injected a new sort of energy into the festival’s atmosphere that would stay there well into the night.
It should be said that a festival set is very different from the usual indoor gig. Having the ability to go from act to act and taste test varying bands is a great way to discover differing acts, and it’s fantastic that a touring festival like Groovin’ the Moo allows music fans all over the nation to see such amazing bands. Sonically, the grounds also enhanced the sounds of many bands, as acoustics carry very differently in open air than inside. It should also be said that this type of atmosphere enhanced the bass tones from bands like Against Me!, which carried so much more weight, and felt punchier than usual.
This location also helps enhance dulcet tones, which made Alice Ivy‘s set even more enjoyable. Acting as a stand in for changes made due to Tash Sultana’s illness, Ivy confidently performed beautiful and wonderful electronic hits that had audience members grooving. Another fantastic band playing at this time was the UK metalcore band Architects. Screaming through many raging and passionate riffs, the band drew in a large crowd, with many other funny punters ironically cutting shapes to the music. Almost acting in tandem in a rain dance with Against Me! the loud and scorching riffs from both bands brought cloudier weather, and spitting rain brought fears of a rainstorm, but all of that thankfully subsided in time for the Smith Street Band‘s set.
THE SMITH STREET BAND – triple J Stage
The Smith Street Band is seemingly the most prized possession of the Victorian audience. The size and level of love from the Triple J stage crowd was enormous. The mosh pit grew tighter which caused worries as drunk young adults attempted to crowd surf to the front of the stage. After one too many falls they decided it was easy enough to be lifted on the legs of other patrons. The sound was punched out, it was fully supported by the audience that they gave a completely energised performance.
Recently releasing their gargantuan, and popular LP ‘More Afraid Of You, Than You Are Of Me’, an ocean of Smith Street Band beanies went wild for the Melbourne boys. Wil Wagner has a larger than life presence on stage, and it’s comforting to not only hear but see his adoration for fans and the music he performs. Surprisingly, with such self-deprecating lyrics in his music, Wagner strutted around the stage confidently, and had an assured stage presence that made it clear that he knew the ranging impact his music has on his fans. With many Melbourne-based bands dominating the stages, it was time for more of the Queensland-based powerhouses to take stage, and taking Tash Sultana’s place, Amy Shark drew a huge crowd to perform some of her acoustic, electronic-tinged tunes.
AMY SHARK – Cattleyard stage
Having absolutely dominated the Hottest 100, landing herself the second best song of the year with the lovely ‘Adore’, it was no wonder fans were crowding to see her perform. Having freshly released an EP, ‘Night Thinker’, the Gold Coast local performed crowd favourites like ‘Adore’ and ‘Weekends’. Showing off her songwriting ability, Shark also performed a cover, perhaps of a questionable Eminem hit ‘Superman’, which ultimately was performed with class and poise. An abundance of people in Amy Shark sweaters passionately yelled her massive hit ‘Adore’ which was fantastic to witness. Her more laid-back and serene music coincided with a cold change in temperature as the sun slowly began to set. As temperatures dropped, a need for dancing and movement steadily became more apparent, and luckily, the chiefs of danceable indie-pop, The Jungle Giants, arrived on stage to help us all warm up.
THE JUNGLE GIANTS – triple J Stage
The Brisbane overlords of funky and groovy tunes induced an ever growing pack of fans into a dancing hypnosis as they flew through many of their enormous hits. Opening with favourite ‘I Am What You Want Me To Be’, fans grooved along to other huge hits such as ‘She’s A Riot’, ‘Mr. Polite’ and ‘Anywhere Else’. A more solemn moment came when the band performed an older song from their ‘She’s A Riot’ EP, ‘You’ve Got Something’, a heart-breaking, shoegaze-like ballad which acted as a beautiful backdrop to watch the sun finally set on the other side of the grounds. Performing other massive hits from their more recent LP, ‘Speakerzoid’ like ‘Every Kind of Way’ and ‘Kooky Eyes’, the audience’s vast knowledge was put to good use as the band constantly told those attending to fill in the lyrical gaps they left. Teasing a potential new album, the band played a new song they’d only played a small amount of times, and very recent hit ‘Feel the Way I Do’ which fans already knew like the back of their hands. As bands’ sets were becoming longer, and afternoon became evening, a stampede-like crowd was now present in the grounds, and the crowd had no intention of leaving as the German outfit Milky Chance were about to arrive on stage.
THUNDAMENTALS – Moolin Rouge
Meanwhile, the Groovin crowd was finally cursed with the toughest of choices, it was going to be hip-hop favourites Thundamentals, or the German folkers Milky Chance. To many the decision was obvious, to others internal conflict made it a horrible decision to come to. Either way, the Thundamentals’ set was great. They created a set that mixed aggression and welcoming, funky beats. The lighting designer had a field day with this one. Lights brightened in conjunction with the bass. They had personality on stage, they told you what was what and how to party. Thundamentals got everyone in a good mood for the night sets that were to come.
MILKY CHANCE (GERMANY) – Cattleyard stage
The moment of the day came where the international line-up came on stage and men and women alike were packed like Sardines awaiting to take the perfect pic of their favourite band. Milky Chance was the first of these. The folk singers strutted on with an acoustic guitar and plenty of space for the two of them. Their set delved into their old stuff as well as the crowd’s favourites. Their stage presence was charming and relaxed which contrasted with the tight restrictive space everyone was crammed into. As the laid-back folk tunes from Milky Chance ended, another total musical contrast manned the stage.
PNAU – triple J stage
The electronic powerhouse Pnau surprised fans when they released their massive single, ‘Chameleon’ late last year. Despite it’s sudden and late release, the song became enormously popular, earning it the sixth best song of the year in the Hottest 100. Having not released an LP since 2011, the outfit are clearly abundantly popular as the crowd the duo created stretched far beyond the front of the stage. Loudly blazing through older tunes ‘Baby’, and ‘Wild Strawberries’, the entirety of the grounds danced in unison to the gargantuan song that is ‘Chameleon’. With live performances from the band, and feature artist Kira Divine (an ex-back up singer for Lauryn Hill) bangers were brought to life and the band, as well as Divine danced across the stage. Closing with the universal sing-along ‘Embrace’ the audience went wild for the thumping and brash electronic bangers. As stages swapped once more in the pitch black night, one of the most absurd follow-ups to a band like Pnau set up for what would be one of the best sets of the entire night.
THE DARKNESS (UK) – Cattleyard stage
The power rock group took to the stage, and as those looking for bangers left, those looking for larger than life guitar riffs pushed closer and closer to the stage’s barrier. With it’s leadman, Justin Hawkins, clad in a bright navy leotard suit, fans went animalistic for the loud and brazen band. The sheer amount of commitment fans had to singing along to the vocal aerobics Hawkins performed was superseded by their commitment to sing along to the flashy guitar riffs and solos. The chaos that ensued when the band started ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ is indescribable as fans from every age group imaginable leaped up and down to the song’s unstoppable beat. The show included, acrobatics, guitar tricks, a cow bell and the spirit of rock and roll. Ironically, the best way to describe the band’s set is “indescribable”, seeing such an energetic and dynamic rock band in 2017 is absolutely unreal, and feels like Groovin the Moo, unbeknownst to us, transported us back 30 years in time. As Hawkins, in a final gargantuan solo, was royally carried through the audience on the shoulders of two security guards. He came less than 10cm away from audience members. This led to some close-up photos and creepy hands moments. The Darkness was hands down one of the best bands present at the festival and the vocals caught many surprised, including fans as Justin Hawkins’ ability to hit those high was amazing. As the band warmed audience members up from what was now a windy, freezing autumnal night, it was time for the last two massive acts to perform.
Indie-rock kings The Wombats (UK) and punky, heavy-rock Gods Violent Soho finished the Bendigo run of Groovin’ the Moo off on an energetic and spirited note. Being the main draw for most festival punters, the crowd could finally see the two brilliant bands end the night.
With the grounds unrecognizable from what they were at the beginning of the day, festival attendants started the forlorn journey back to the city. With many people using train seats for make-shift beds and using space blankets to fend off the cold, tired and pooped out festival goers slept soundly on the adventure home.
In its twelfth year, Groovin the Moo gave us an interesting line-up; from rap artists to glam rock, from international metal groups to domestic indie singers. It was a festival that had the regalia of Coachella warped into a festival that played a range of musical acts. Bendigo was the perfect place to host this event, from the security guards to the train conductors everyone was so welcoming and helpful. Although one would think a swarming of young people to a country town would be considered repulsive, many were on board. As you left the festival by train, locals from the Rotary Club handed out sausages and cold drinks.
Groovin’ the Moo was a terrific collection of varying artists. Touring festivals are an important part of music culture, especially as displaying these artists in such a way unifies fans, and shows the variability of music but also the similarities of music. Experiencing such a ranging plethora of bands was a delight, and Groovin’ the Moo can’t be recommended enough to music fans.