Review Nisa Ates
A forecast of grey clouds and crisp winds was not enough to dampen spirits on May 6th as enthusiastic punters made the pilgrimage to Bendigo for Groovin The Moo.
Being a Soundwave veteran, this would be my first GTM experience so it was safe to say I had no clue what to expect. With nothing but the line-up to judge by, I knew I had to go into this with an open mind – and so here I am, bringing to you, observations of Groovin The Moo through my unbiased eyes.
Arriving just before gates were due to open, a small crowd had already gathered around the main entry. Huddled together and trying to keep their minds of the harsh morning cold, fans chattered away with anticipation for good times ahead.
Walking through, I wasn’t sure if I had my timeliness to thank or not but the ease of getting through ID and bag checks was something new to me. Usually I find myself fumbling through for a good 10 minutes if not waiting in line for what feels like forever but the swift organisation behind the workers and volunteers ensured everyone got in smoothly.
The first thing I noticed walking around the showgrounds is how considerably smaller the space was compared to a giant like Soundwave. I could see all stages with one turn of the body and it would have been really difficult to get lost, which I think helps for a positive festival experience.
I made a beeline for the Triple J stage which I would find myself coming back to for the majority of the day. Hosting a whole range of artists alternating with next door’s Cattleyard stage, kicking things off was Bad Apples Music signee, Birdz. The NT raised MC channelled in the good vibes despite his early set time and soon enough had gathered a decent crowd around his stage, bobbing their heads along as he spat slick rhymes.
Following the hip hop act were Bendigo trio Tusk on the Triple J stage. As the band came into view, a crowd of fans bellowed behind me, exchanging jokes as the band set up for soundcheck. I’d never heard their music before but it was a nice contrast of twangy guitars and grunge style riffs compared to the politics-driven rap we heard just prior. While I was unfamiliar with their music, watching the trio play through a bunch of 70s inspired rock was a delight to witness, especially considering the alternative to pop ratio of the festival line-up.
Continuing with the diversity of genres and drawing the largest crowd of the day so far was Adelaide’s rising star, Allday. A swarm of fans pushed forward as the young rapper took to the stage, a piercing screech of screaming girls not far behind. It was my first time seeing Allday live and I have to say, he sure knows how to work a crowd. Darting from left to right and constantly on the move, there was no sign of slowing down for him or the fans as they fed off each other’s energy throughout the whole set; I couldn’t even hear him over excited fans around me loudly singing along to ‘In Motion’.
Up next on the Cattleyard stage, hailing from Illinois, was singer-songwriter K. Flay. I have to say her set was probably the one that took me by surprise the most. Having heard some of her music, I wasn’t too keen but hearing her perform live was a complete game changer. Delivering a set with such raw energy, her songs translate extremely well in a live setting. An eclectic mix of pop and gritty rock, her music delivered a unique combination of ‘can’t help but dance along’ vibes. The cold had settled a bit by this point, rays of sunshine warming us up and brightening the day – the whole crowd (including me) were left dancing and singing along to her hit song ‘Blood In The Cut’. Her set ended leaving me pumped, which worked really well considering Against Me! were about to take to the stage next door.
The beauty of Groovin The Moo is that because the line-up is so diverse in genres, it accounted for many ‘firsts’ for me. I probably would not have made the trek to Bendigo if certain acts weren’t due to play. One of those acts would be punk legends Against Me!. As Laura Jane Grace and co. came into view, the roar of fans behind me was truly a warm feeling at a festival like GTM. Jumping straight into it with ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’, the Florida band made sure to get each person in the crowd screaming along. Working their way through their huge catalogue of songs, the band graced fans with the likes of ‘Haunting, Haunted, Haunts’, ‘Unconditional Love’ and ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’, giving us a taste of a bit of everything. Sipping on what appears to be a juicebox (probably apple juice), Laura Jane Grace was all smiles in between songs, chatting away about the importance of identity and self-love. Bringing their set to an emotional close with ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’, the band wraps up their 40 minute set with one of their most authentic songs to date, bidding the crowd farewell and judging by the smile on the face of the girl next to me, leaving fans beaming after such a great set.
Leaving my spot at the barrier of the Triple J stage for the first time of the day, I rushed towards the Moolin Rouge tent to catch the second reason for my GTM attendance; Brighton heavy-hitters Architects. With still a few minutes to spare, straight off the bat, I knew the crowd already gathered were in for a surprise as to what comes next. Dancing away to music following a set from dance group Northeast Party House, the glitter-clad crowd probably weren’t anticipating the chaos that would ensue. As the metalcore band made their entrance, the surge of bodies left, right, back and forth left unsuspecting punters fearing for their safety. While I made sure to see that everyone was okay, I can’t lie when I say it was a little amusing seeing so many confused faces trying to leave the mosh as Architects roar in the background.
Breaking into their set with ‘Nihilist’, there was no need for warming up as the fast track got fans jumping around within seconds with no signs of slowing down. Playing loud and delivering their heaviest, the band work through ‘These Colours Don’t Run’, ’Phantom Fear’ and ‘Broken Cross’, an amass of bodies slamming into each other led to a hard elbow right in my face (it was totally worth it). It was great to see the band pull in such a large and enthusiastic crowd as vocalist Sam Carter gratefully says “We’re the heaviest fucking band on this festival and we couldn’t be prouder” before belting into ‘Downfall’.
One of the highlights of the set was one particularly enthusiastic fan climbing up one of the supporting tent poles, earning himself a better view as he moves his hips and sways his cap around to the beat, all while clinging onto the pole with one hand… not a bad effort, dude. Another bittersweet highlight of Architect’s battering set came in response to a moving speech by Sam Carter. As he dedicates the next song to the late Tom Searle, the crowd erupts into a roaring chant: “Tom! Tom! Tom!”. As Carter takes a step back, he embraces the chant and continues to explain what a beautiful impact Tom has left on each and every person he had encountered in his life. Bringing their set to an emotionally charged close with ‘A Match Made In Heaven’ and ‘Gone With The Wind’, the metalcore band leave the stage but not without making a defining mark for fans and onlookers alike.
Trudging back to the Triple J stage, I made it just in time to catch most of The Smith Street Band doing their thing. To say that the Melbourne band aren’t one of Australia’s most beloved acts would be a lie and the crowd gathered around their stage was a testament to that very fact. Their forty minute set consisted of mostly songs from their latest release More Scared of You than You Are of Me, with some older tracks thrown in for good measure. The band put on a tight set, playing through their songs with the biggest smiles. Lead man Wil Wagner seems nothing but pleased to be there, “There’s so many of you” he says in between chuckles. “Holy shit!”. One thing that’s for certain about The Smith Street Band is there undeniable warmth on the stage. The honesty of their music shines through with their stage presence as Wagner makes small talk in between songs. Emotional speeches seem to be the recurring theme for the day as Wagner goes on to talk about not being okay and that it’s okay to not be okay. Dedicating the next song to those going through the same thing, the band launch into ‘I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’ from their 2014 release. Creating one of the loudest sing-alongs of the day, the band close their set with ‘Death To The Lads’ and ‘Throw Me In The River’, punters are left with an endorphin rush high and most stay to ride out the buzz for Amy Shark.
Winner of the latest Triple J Hottest 100, Amy Shark has without a doubt become a household name in indie pop music. Donning her usual Adidas jacket (surely she must be sponsored!?) and black sunnies, the singer-songwriter was welcomed by an impressive crowd waiting to sing and sway along with her. Shark took place on the Cattleyard stage, stepping in for Tash Sultana who had to cancel her set due to vocal cord issues. Admitting her undying love for The Smith Street Band “despite being a married woman”, the Queensland artist was sure to connect with the crowd when she could, talking about how her songs came to be. Playing her hits ‘Weekends’ and ‘Adore’ to an enthusiastic cheer from punters, elevating the positive vibes of the day to a new level as everyone sang along with joy.
By this point in the day, the elbow-to-face incident during Architects’ set had come back to haunt me, nausea and a pounding headache taking over. Hoping the pain would subside before the next round of acts I wanted to see, I found myself sitting in a corner surrounded by punters with similar symptoms – except I wasn’t intoxicated. I made an executive decision to cut my time at Groovin The Moo short, as I had a 2-hour drive ahead of me and wellbeing took precedence.
While I was disappointed of my early end to the day, that doesn’t go to say I didn’t have a great time. Getting to watch a variety of acts across a range of genres and experiencing a festival on a completely different scale that I was used to was a delight in itself.
Bendigo, you will most definitely see me again next year.
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED MATT ALLAN PHOTOGRAPHY