Making the way up the F3 on what’s become an annual pilgrimage to the Maitland Showground for the 2016 edition of Groovin The Moo, the weather and travel gods weren’t playing too nice as the convoy of punters hit unneeded rain, traffic and in my case a near empty petrol tank.
As the only touring festival within Australia, GTM has tapped into the goldmine that is providing regional cities and towns with easily accessible live music and good times. Opening up the day to what was to be a sold out Maitland crowd, The Lulu Raes got things started on the main stage with their brand of funky indie-pop, while Future Classic legends World Champion eased a small crowd over at the Moolin Rouge tent into the day with their intelligent mix of dance music.
Sydney group Boo Seeka helped ease the young crowd into the day as the sun made an appearance and things started to heat up (both on stage and in temperature). Emma Louise graced the Channel V stage and smashed out a graceful and ethereal half hour set. Resplendent in green pantsuit, it was great to see Emma Louise encourage the crowd to embrace the use of sunscreen. As a fair skinned fellow myself, the “Jungle” singer definitely made me happy I’d applied earlier in the day.
Up next were DZ Deathrays. I’ll admit that I’ve never gone out of my way to listen to the act, but was pleasantly surprised by the number I tracks I either knew or recognised. With plenty of tracks from their 2014 album Black Rats, it was good to see the first cover of the day, a mad reworking of Blur’s “Song 2”.
With the tempo raised on the back of DZ Deathrays, Drapht made his entrance to the biggest and rowdiest crowd of the day thus far. Smashing through a greatest hits sets including “Jimmy Recard” and “Bali Party”, new tracks “Dancin’ John Doe” and “All Love” received just that: all love. An early stand out set of the day, it was going to be hard to top Drapht.
One thing about GTM is the varied and mixed crowd. Apart from being well and truly an all ages event, for many people, these festival stops are their only real opportunity to experience live music en masse. For many of the punters, this was their first festival, if not their first gig. I can’t help but feel the organisers’ public acknowledgement that they curate the festival to the younger Triple J demographic has almost certainly guaranteed the continued strength of the festival. It’s a pretty safe and smart business model if you ask me.
New York duo MS MR cruised through their mid afternoon set, as their enjoyable blend of synth-pop made my lunch on the hill a fair bit easier to ingest. Following on from MS MR were Canberra’s own Safia, with their own brand of downbeat dance music. The crowd loved “Counting Sheep”, “Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues” and their most recent effort “Make Them Wheels Roll”. As the sun started to descend through out the skies, resident party starters Client Liaison got the juices flowing over in the Moolin Rouge tent. Having seen them multiple times before, I knew exactly what to expect, but the group definitely went next level, as they tore through sleek versions of “Pretty Lovers”, “Feed The Rhythm”, “Queen”, new banger “World Of Our Love”, and a cheeky little cover of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”. Client Liaison are currently the peak party band you need to see live. You’re never not having a juicy time while they’re on.
Back over on the main stage, US rapper Danny Brown dipped and dived his way through the early night, doing his best to keep the crowd warm, as the cooling night set in. A slightly odd choice for the line up, the lacklustre response from the crowd didn’t real justify the effort he put into his raps.
With Boy & Bear effortlessly cruising through their alt-country set, I made my way over to Melbourne MC Illy. Promising new material from the get-go, Illy absolutely crushed the early stages of his set before mentioning that the vocal tracking on his new album was finished the day before. Treating the crowd to an upcoming single “Paper Cuts”, it was clear Illy has continued with the female guest vocalist trick that has always worked for him in the past (think Owl Eyes, Asta, Kristina Miltiadou), as Vera Blue makes an appearance on the track. Keep your ears peeled for this one; people are going to froth on it.
Having headlining duties over on the mainstage, Alison Wonderland left the punters wanting more, as she tore the Maitland showground a new one, with her remix of Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” as well as select cuts from her outstanding LP Run. Her rise to top billing is just rewards for an act I’ve loved seeing get better and better over the past few years.
As the first leg of Groovin The Moo 2016, the good people of Maitland were treated to a selection of choice cuts from the best of Australian music, with a sprinkling of international talent added on top. With the rest of the country still to come, the festival going public well and truly have a safe bet in GTM if they’re after a good time.