Festival Review: Groovin The Moo – Adelaide Showgrounds (28.04.17)

Groovin The Moo kicked off in Adelaide on Friday, with the sold-out festival returning hard and fast with another stellar line-up of national and international acts, plus a very controversial petting zoo and an even more scandalous venue change. The day promised drizzling showers and some of the coldest temperatures Adelaide had experienced all year, but as always, the mere elements were nothing against the live-music, festival lovers of this fine city.

With previous years nestling GTM amidst the rugged hills Oakbank, it seemed everyone was ‘angry reacting’ the festival’s Facebook announcement of the location change to The Wayville Showgrounds. A much less rural venue to say the least, and people were shook. The very concept that founded this festival was based on bringing revenue and live music to country towns that would otherwise miss out. Plus, there’s obviously no cows at Wayville- not till The Royal Adelaide Show comes back around at least, but I digress.

On arrival, it was clear the overall vibe was going to be slightly different. The air wasn’t as fresh and the gentle odour of cow poo was nowhere to smelt. However, the journey to the site was a far shorter, more pleasurable one. The grounds inside followed a similar format to previous years, hosting two main stages, a smaller DJ tent and an array of food stalls around the back. Additionally, it was pleasing to see GTM’s (perhaps) bid to keep the “rural atmosphere” alive via a petting zoo (who decided drunk people and animals mix and moreover, what would a music festival gain in having a petting zoo in the first place?) was nowhere to be seen thanks to the online uproar from anyone with a brain.

My initial scope of the site was guided by festival opener, singer/songwriter Tom West. West and his band have been putting out some charming, whimsical folk music for a couple years now that made for a gentle start to the following 12 hours while waking up the humble crowd of early arrivals.

An 11:50am start may well have been one of the earliest time slots local boys Horror My Friend have had the pleasure of playing, yet their noisy shoe-gaze went down a treat in the overcast late morning. Summoning their committed fan-base who moshed passionately through the developing rain, set closer “Pb Remains” transformed the crowd into a blur of bodies similar to what you’d find for a gig at The Exeter beer garden. These early sets at festivals are in my opinion, often some of the best. You’re not fighting for a square metre of space close enough to actually see the act, and the number of disorderly dickheads are minimal. Definitely worth hustling up the squad to make it in a few hours earlier than they were expecting for sets like this, and the following one from Adelaide duo Heaps Good Friends.

The energy from these guys was alive straight off the bat. Locals Nick O’Connor and Emma Fradd were genuinely psyched to be playing what would have been their biggest crowd yet, who were as equally excited to be watching them play (for many, including myself, this would be the first time). For me, this sneaky band kind of came out of nowhere, with a surprisingly polished indie-pop sound. This generated hype for HGF pretty fast, resulting in an impressive turn out for duo who cleverly opened and closed with crowd favourite “Let’s Hug Longer”. These two are definitely going to be doing fun things in the future.

During their set, both L-Fresh The Lion and Jesse Davidson (respectively) battled for punters who seemed to only have eyes for Heaps Good Friends, which is a credit to the newcomers.

Next up was the band the masses came in to start their day with- Methyl Ethel. These days the Perth band don’t need much of an introduction, especially after releasing their slinky, art-pop debut LP Everything Is Forgotten earlier this year. We heard big tracks from the album, including “No.28” and massive sing-a-long “Ubu”, before treating us to a throwback of their 2015 breakthrough single, “Twilight Driving”.

By this time of the day, the festival was in full swing. The oval and its bleachers were now swarming with Gorman rain jackets, creating at times an engulfing, albeit colourful sensation. The bar lines were the longest I’ve seen for GTM, while the food trucks struggled to keep up as well. However, the festival organisers should be commended on their environmentally-friendly initiatives, encouraging those eager to collect cans in return for cheaper drinks at the bar, resulting in beautifully pristine showgrounds if only for the first half of the day.

Making our way back under the Moulin Rouge tent to catch Amy Shark, it shouldn’t have been surprising that we had to struggle to even get in. Riding the glamorous wave that is making #2 in the Triple J Hottest 100 of last year, the nation has well and truly fallen for this Gold Coast singer/songwriter. And she owned it, donning an Adidas tracksuit on stage channelling some DMA’s vibes, but with a lot more on-stage dancing.

Meanwhile, young women from across the grounds flocked to get a flick of sweat from Melbourne indie rapper Allday, who entertained the crowd with an immersive stage presence that had him bouncing from end to end, hunching towards the phones-always-at-the-ready front row. We heard one of his more recent favourites “Switch Sides” as well as throwbacks to his older work, reaffirming Tom Gaynor as a consistent, refreshingly-candid rapper here to stay for the long-run.

Next up was our first international act for the day, K-Flay. Fresh from the states and making a name for herself here with her dark-pop bangers like “Blood in the Cut” and “FML”, she and her band made themselves a difficult act to compete with. If not for checking out an act visiting for the first time overseas, the infectious, dance-inducing set list was enough to attract the masses. Back under the Moulin Rouge tent, home-grown favourites Northeast Party House soldiered on with their iconic rock/pop tunes that remain timeless with every gig these guys play.

Shifting to a heavier gear in the late afternoon, American rockers Against Me! effortlessly dominated the Cattleyard Stage, offering a brimming set to all the punks in the crowd who could finally let loose. And let loose they did. This was a pivotal moment as an on-looker, observing how encompassing of a festival GTM is, when you get glitter-faced, indie-pop fans and crowd-surfing, hardcore lovers feeling comfortable enough to share a day of music with one other.

Architects navigated a similar vibe, adding some well-balanced metalcore to the afternoon events that left people sweaty and buzzing, while the rest of us observed with squinted eyes what would likely be the most intense, all-encompassing mosh-pit of the day.

With a voice as commanding as that of Montaigne’s, it was impossible not to be drawn to her wherever you were. Having established herself as one of the most electrifying female vocalists in the game right now, punters from all over were rocking up just to witness these pipes in action. The last time I caught Montaigne in Adelaide was in the poky little basement of Pirie & Co Social Club, where it was made clear she was destined for much larger stages and even bigger crowds. To say she has swiftly become an unstoppable and defining force since then would be an understatement.

We continued to keep spirits high with Aussie punk-rock legends The Smith Street Band. Violent Soho band members sent the crowd into premature chaos by kindly assisting the boys in bringing out the guitars, a true sign of Aussie band camaraderie. The mid-afternoon sun was punctuated by the honest and un-romantic lyrics of front-man Wil Wagner, each verse being screamed back by the crowd with as much emotion as it was delivered. In contrast to the usual beer-soaked and sweat-drenched pubs and venues that the band has come to call home, the showgrounds hosted a refreshing, open-air backdrop.

Perhaps the message behind “Death To The Lads” had finally sunk in because the crowd was surprisingly supportive. Girls and guys were dancing with one another and erupting in fist-pumping sing-a-longs to classics like “I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore” and “Sunshine and Technology”, as well as a generous selection of tracks from their 2017 LP More Scared of You Than You Are of Me.

Perth producers Slumberjack kept things bouncing with their frenetic, bubbling dance tracks that dipped and weaved through hip-hop and trap beats. The crowd was unsurprisingly committed to the duo, however the mood swiftly transitioned as newcomer Loyle Carner took over. This was probably one of the acts I was most psyched to see, after thoroughly fleshing out his debut LP Yesterday’s Gone which was released in January. His flow is eloquent and sombre, pairing perfectly with his J-Dilla inspired jazz beats. Making his debut appearance in Australia, the crowd was a mix of curious new listeners who unknowingly gravitated closer to the 21-year-old English rapper throughout the set. If you haven’t dived into this guy’s world of elegant hip-hop yet, now is definitely the time.

From under the tent, it was impossible not to hear the faint growl of Tash Sultana’s iconic guitar jams. Known for absolutely shredding it on stage, the self-taught singer/songwriter/eclectic-beat-maker injected a frantic energy into listeners. Her stage presence is always a stand-out as she manoeuvred herself in and around a number of instruments, while always holding her guitar close. Her hits “Jungle” and “Notion” still managed to cause a frenzy as Sultana continued to put on an insane vocal performance despite her laryngitis.

The Jungle Giants took over next, with their infectious indie-rock highlights “Kooky Eyes”, “I Am What You Want Me To Be” and new single “Feel The Way I Do” encouraging instant shoulder rides throughout a sea of fans. While one courageous boyfriend took the opportunity during Thundamentals‘ set in the Moulin Rouge tent to propose to his now future wife, Milky Chance charmed us away outside as the late afternoon sun melted away. This was my first time catching the German folk band, and I was pleasantly surprised how vocalist/guitarist Clemens Rehbein could conduct this sold-out (also now quite drunk) crowd with ease. Cuts from his new album Blossom were particularly infused with feel-good, big melodies, encouraging people to turn around and embrace their friends, boogying away the sunset.

As the evening settled in, the final part of the festival was upon us. George Maple’s slinky R’n’B set lured a tight crowd, while the masses undoubtedly flocked to catch our very own dance music heavyweights, PNAU. Having missed their last appearance in Adelaide, I was keen to hear the classic PNAU hits that have been essential to the dance scene over the last decade. From start to finish, this set was a visually and sonically mesmerising dance party, throwing in all the essentials; “Baby”, “Wild Strawberries”, “Embrace” and a song that defined the last Summer festival season, “Chameleon”.

While the entire showgrounds sung along to Snakehips’ breakthrough party anthem, “All My Friends”, made especially poignant considering all my friends were wasted, English rock royalty The Darkness reminded us why they were the headliners of the festival. Staying in the UK, The Wombats polished off another powerhouse set full of indie-pop classics. No strangers to festival appearances, these guys have a well-rehearsed, if not now predictable performance. Yet, the fans weren’t complaining.

Sydney’s Haydn James navigated through the night with his delectable beats, laying down synth-heavy soundscapes in time with an impressive light show. This is definitely one producer on the road to big things, packing his set with a string of huge tracks (“Embrace”, “Just A Lover”, “Permission To Love”) that are influencing the world of electronic music today. It was soulful, sexy and a little bit sweaty.

Electronic fans stuck around for a trap-heavy, bass-dropping set from Dillon Francis, while Violent Soho played one of their last shows before taking a break from performing live. At this stage, the crowds had slowed down to mostly head bobbing and swaying, many returning to the grassy hill to watch the last performances from afar.

The last 12 hours were taking their toll, yet we went out with a bang. With smoke machine fog seeping from under Francis’ tent, Soho fans yelled back every line with undying passion outside. The festival had come to a close, and punters quietly rejoiced that at least this year, it’s 10 degrees warmer and a much shorter trip home to our beds.