Festival Review: Groovin’ the Moo – Oakbank Racecourse (25.04.16)

Ah, Groovin’ the Moo. The one festival on the Australian live music calendar that offers city slickers an opportunity to ‘head regional’ (even if, in SA, this means a half hour drive up into the hills), underage music fans can thrive on copious amounts of Red Bull and whatever else for the day and everyone can enjoy an otherwise eclectic line up of artists, both local and international.

Heavy hitters including Alison WonderlandTwenty One PilotsMS MR and Illy had coveted spots on the bill, while artists we’ve seen impress and develop significantly as live performers over the past 12 months (SAFIAJarryd JamesREMI) came through strong on their own.

Photo: John Goodridge.
A.B. ORIGINAL (Photo: John Goodridge)

The bar was set high early on, with A.B. ORIGINAL storming the Moolin Rouge tent and riling up the crowd below with some fresh hip hop that captivated and held attention. Between Briggs and Trials, there exists a great dynamic – the two rappers support each other on stage and have a live presence exuding confidence, determination and an arresting charm. I can’t wait to hear more from the duo, the singles we’ve recently been gifted have shown great potential and this live show (having obviously been bolstered off the back of recent shows with the Hilltop Hoods) offered up more excitement for what lay ahead.

The Moolin Rouge Tent would continue to offer up the goods well into the afternoon; between NGAIIRE and REMI, there were some incredible moments where the crowd was bumping along in complete sync with the artists, a credit to both artists and their approach to sending shockwaves of joy from the stage, right into the hearts of fans and newcomers alike gathered to watch.

NGAIIRE. (Photo: John Goodridge)
NGAIIRE. (Photo: John Goodridge)

Out on the main stage, the headline-quality material was also continuing to ramp up, with MS MR and SAFIA going back to back in front of the masses. I hadn’t seen MS MR perform since I was in Germany last year and, to see both Lizzy and Max beaming out at the crowd as they powered through their set brought back great memories. Their music, particularly the material from How Does It Feel, has the ability to light up a crowd and regardless of the type of stage they’re on, the duo are electrifying to watch.

SAFIA too, were another band I hadn’t seen since being overseas and the trio stood out for me as a definite Groovin’ the Moo highlight. Latest single “Make Them Wheels Roll”, showed that they’re a force to be reckoned with live, HarryBen and Michael have continued to just get better.

The only disheartening part of being present for their set was that it felt like there was a slight disconnect between the artist and the crowd. By this point in the day, the temperature was getting cooler, punters were getting looser and it seemed less about craving some quality performances, as it was about hitting your umpteenth tin or letting the cheap pills do their thing. Perhaps I’m slightly more cynical these days and I’m in no way against partying or having a fun time, but it was still a bit of a let down to see things fall a bit flat.

In Hearts Wake and Twenty One Pilots drew particularly large crowds, with the latter standing out as being an obvious drawcard for many Groovin’ the Moo lovers in attendance. Their music isn’t my style, but I was drawn to their show purely because of Josh Dun‘s ridiculous drumming. For a duo with a live show that clearly has a lot of production planning poured into it, Twenty One Pilots were still able to demonstrate a rawness that had their fans going wild.

Client Liason-87
Client Liaison. (Photo: John Goodridge)

As the sun fully set over the Oakbank Racecourse and the nighttime acts took to both stages, it was clear that Groovin’ the Moo was only getting started. Client Liaison are a band who I’d never been able to catch before and I knew I had been missing out. Their new single “World of Our Love” has been one of my favourite recent releases and it goes so hard live – the band, bathed in purple and green hues, threw themselves into the theatrics their disco/funk-infused music evokes.

Watching Monte Morgan charm and slink his way around the stage, commanding the crowd give into the sensual and rhythmic grooves he and his bandmates were generating, it was hard not to feel it yourself. I know I was still feeling a bit down following the news of Prince‘s passing only days previous, but witnessing the frenzy Client Liaison were whipping up in the Moolin Rouge Tent that night, it made me feel better – funk, pop and everything glam, glittering and camp was embraced here and it was great.

The Rubens (Photo: John Goodridge)
The Rubens. (Photo: John Goodridge)

“Hoops” makers The Rubens took to the Main Stage ahead of Danny Brown as we approached the tail-end of the evening and it was clear that the Hottest 100 winners were the pièce de résistance for many here tonight. The following morning, the NSW band would announce a new Adelaide show tacked on to their upcoming national tour, a boost of confidence no doubt for their fans. Having both REMI and The Meeting Tree crash their set midway through to mix up their bluesy rock tones with some rapid raps and general chaos went down well with the young crowd, even if it may have seemed random and out of place for people watching on the other side of the barrier. Their Groovin’ the Moo set showed The Rubens as a clear festival favourite and indeed, a band who knows what formula works for them.

I would spend the final hours of Groovin’ the Moo darting between acts; Danny Brown’s set out on the Main Stage provided some final turn up jams for those who might have been peaking, but provided a direct contrast to both Boy & Bear and Alison Wonderland who would follow. An interesting bit of programming but by this stage in the game, it didn’t really matter who fell where on the line up – if you were starting to wind down but weren’t quite ready to call it quits, Boy & Bear were there to sing you all the way home. If your night was only just getting started and the sweaty confines of the festival’s after party at Fat Controller was your next port of call, Wonderland had your back.

Alison Wonderland-124
Alison Wonderland. (Photo: John Goodridge)

The Moolin Rouge Tent would send Oakbank fans home with a one-two punch of Aussie hip-hop courtesy of Illy and the electro-rock stylings of Brooklyn’s RATATAT. Again, two headline-capable artists performing to their strengths and demonstrating the festival’s penchant for pitting distinctively different styles up against one another and seeing how the crowd fares.

This year marked my third GTM, having been attending the Oakbank leg of the event since its inception back in 2014. The line up was definitely representative of the musical flavour triple j has been pushing over the past year and on paper, the festival had something for everyone.

For me, Groovin’ the Moo wasn’t necessarily about arriving and expecting to be swept off my feet, but to sink back and enjoy some of the best talent Australia’s been producing recently, catch some internationals I’d missed until now and to hopefully have some previously established perceptions and opinions changed.

Check, check and check.