Festival Review: Groovin’ the Moo – University of Canberra (24.04.16)

The last time I had the pleasure of having a bit of a groove in the moo was in Maitland, 2012, when the likes of Public Enemy, City and Colour, Kimbra, The Maccabees, Kaiser Chiefs and Andrew WK headlined, amongst a plethora of other guns. Even looking back on the line up now, I wish I could go back and revisit it, harbouring a newfound appreciation for many of the artists.

Though this was only four years ago, the experience I underwent at Groovin’ this year was substantially different, producing a festival that has changed its market as the years have gone by. Thus, I present to you: how I, a twenty-three year old, realised that I was too old for Groovin’ The Moo.

As I walked through the front gates, I was met with a flurry of young people. This is one of the greatest things about Groovin’; being underage and living in a regional area must be two of the most inconvenient truths in Australia – but the festival tackles this notion head on, offering a refuge where they can experience the joys of music in a realm that is easily accessible. That’s always been the biggest strength of the festival – its celebration of regional Australia, putting forth the notion that music festivals shouldn’t simply be for those who are old enough to drink.

But, the mechanics of operating a music festival with an inherently young crowd inherently poses some problems. It’s of little debate that Triple J has undergone a distinct change in market these past few years; with the introduction of Double J to appease the more seasoned Triple J listeners, the station has been given the freedom to play noticeably more electronic dance music.

This sentiment has clearly been echoed onto the Groovin’ The Moo line up (which is supported primarily by Triple J and Channel V), curating a set of bands that don’t seem to fit into any one box. Melbourne indie rock heads British India played alongside the markedly different Vallis Alps, whilst Aussie folksters Boy & Bear lead directly into EDM queen Alison Wonderland.

One minute you would find yourself lying on the grass, soaking in some sweet melodies – the next moment, surrounded by dancing bindi-sporting girls who may or may not have been under the influence of illicit substances. The eclectic hotpot of bands provided an interesting experience as far as the range of punters, but for this writer, it made the festival slightly confusing.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to climb aboard a musical high-horse, trolling on about the ‘old days’. Instead, I’m here to argue that Groovin’ The Moo is at its strongest when it showcases unique bands that blend these two, seemingly unrelated musical arenas together.

Take Canberra’s SAFIA for instance. From the moment that they stepped on stage, the audience was hypnotised by them. There was a definitive energy that was being radiated by them – being back in their hometown had brought with it a new confidence, giving them the complete ability to command a crowd of thousands. We were their slaves. Their careful mix of heavy bass lines, clever electronic production, and a voice that could make angels weep flourished in the festival environment, making it almost impossible to not get up off our asses and break down in little numbers that should have really been reserved for Dancing With The Stars – because in that moment, we were all stars.

By the time the warm afternoon sun had settled on our backs, crowds flooded into the Moolin Rouge tent for one of the most unique bands grown out of modern day Australia – Client Liaison. It’s difficult to encapsulate the raw energy that flows out of this band – every little miniscule of their live show is meticulously thought out; from oversized water coolers and office ferns on the stage, to the perfectly matching sequined outfits they donned (with coordinated dance moves too, of course).

They’re a band that is out to prove a point – that  early 90s style synth pop can be cool (and even then, cool would be a gross understatement). As they pumped out tracks such as “Queen”, “End of the Earth”, “Feed The Rhythm”, and even a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Black and White”, young punters came rushing to the front, desperate to get closer to the enigmatic frontman Monte Morgan. Working the crowd in the palm of his hand, the live performance of Client Liaison far succeeds any expectations I held. It’s of little doubt that this was the act of the day.

As the sun went to bed and the day was coming to a close, I eagerly awaited perhaps one of my most anticipated acts of the day – RATATAT. After seeing them last year at Fairgrounds Festival, I was blown away. RATATAT are up there as one of the most innovative and breathtaking live shows I’ve ever come to experience – and I’ve experienced a lot.

I had great expectations for their set at Groovin’, yet a little doubt in my mind – there was no way they could possibly live up to their other live show, surely? Well, you guessed it – I was wrong. From the moment they walked on stage with their guitars in hand, the duo captivated audiences, leading some audience members to even climb up as high as tent could take them. I’m not one for advocating stupid behaviour, but this clearly exemplified the energy in the air – where else can it go but up?

Though there were a few acts that just didn’t do it for me (I still struggle to understand Alison Wonderland), what Groovin’ The Moo did succeed at was its curation of a range of artists that blend electronica and indie-rock, successfully filling the gap that laid between festival punters of the day. If they can keep this up and find artists that manage to satisfy both parties, they could create something really special, igniting the festival scene once again.

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