Festival Review: Groovin’ The Moo – Prince of Wales Showgrounds, Bendigo (30.04.16)

A distinct lack of mooing was made up for by a whole lot of groovin’, with Groovin’ The Moo rolling through the Prince of Wales Showground in Bendigo for another year. Punters were fairly low in numbers early in the day, with an 11am start leaving plenty of time for the heavens to potentially open up throughout the day, as many meteorologists had predicted it would.

As the first acts got underway there were light showers, leading many towards the shelter of the Moolin Rouge tent and the sounds of Ivan Ooze. The Melbourne based hip-hop soloist got the day off to a flying start, building the early hype with slick phrases and quick beats, all to a backdrop of spectacularly contrasting coloured lights thanks to the relative darkness that the tent provided.

Olympia and Tiny Little Houses opened up the Triple J and Channel V stages, respectively, drawing respectable but understandably small crowds given the earliness of their sets. I was admittedly more intrigued by the stupidly large slingshot ride off to the left of the stages that made me question A: why anyone would go on one in the first place, and B: why you’d you go on one at a music festival. I’m sure my fear of heights has nothing to do with my opinion that both of the aforementioned are just plain silly.

The first true crowd of the day assembled for singer/guitarist Harts, who is just about the closest thing to a modern day Jimi Hendrix you can find. Despite the slightly heavier rain threatening to derail his performance by damaging his keyboards, the virtuoso pressed on with easily one of the most impressive performances of the day. Backed by only a drummer and his instrumental backing tracks (sans guitar, of course), it was a one-man show filled with crazy solos and surprisingly strong vocals, capped off with a massive solo played with the guitar behind his head. Madness, I tell you!

It seemed that the middle section of the day was everyone’s designated chill out time before the big acts came out, however that’s not to suggest that the quality of performances was anything less than excellent, with Boo Seeka dropping an unexpected, but not unwelcome, Eurythmics cover, NGAIIRE bringing spectacular vocals to the Moolin Rouge tent, and Emma Louise keeping the Channel V stage crowd more than entertained. DZ Deathrays’ heavier punk edge seemed out of place on a lineup that leaned heavily towards alternative and electronic artists, however the Aussie duo’s set undoubtedly went off, especially when combined with a cover of Blur’s classic “Song 2”.

Heading into Drapht’s set, I have to admit I didn’t know a single song, however I quickly discovered that song knowledge was not a pre-requisite for having a seriously good time. The combination of hip-hop with live brass and woodwind worked flawlessly, highlighted by a huge rendition of “Jimmy Recard”. Those waiting for SAFIA on the Channel V stage were treated to the sound of American alt-pop duo MS MR to their left, who didn’t seem to stop smiling for their entire set. The positive vibes didn’t stop at the stage edge however, with the singalong orchestrated to the title track from their latest record How Does It Feel heard all throughout the showgrounds.

With the sun beginning to set over Bendigo, SAFIA took the stage for a strong set the featured hits “Counting Sheep”, “Make Them Wheels Roll”, and “Embracing Me”. Although frontman Ben Woolner was technically strong, the innate lack of projection in his falsettos did make him difficult to hear at times, an issue given high vocals are a key part of the dynamic range of many of the group’s tracks. This became a non-issue come “Take Me Over”, the Peking Duk track that SAFIA featured on in 2014. It’s fair to say that more than a few people knew the lyrics to this one, bringing on some very impressive crowd vocals.

While Jarryd James’ brand of slower, more relaxed music didn’t resonate as well with the audience as most would have hoped, the same cannot be said for Twenty One Pilots. Arguably one of the biggest groups in international music, the duo took to the stage as the sun began to set over Bendigo, leading with the lightning-fast opening track from their sophomore album Blurryface, “Heavydirtysoul”. “Stressed Out” was an obligatory inclusion given its status as the (statistically) most popular song of the entire festival, however long-term fans were still treated to “Holding On To You”, “Car Radio”, and “Guns For Hands” from 2013’s Vessel. The usual assortment of tricks were also on display from the duo, featuring a backflip off a piano and drum sections on the crowd. Yes, actually on the crowd.

As darkness descended across the showgrounds it was The Rubens, Danny Brown, and Boy and Bear taking to the main stages, with notably incredible lighting design a constant across the trio of artists. I must admit that I was surprised when I discovered that Alison Wonderland was to headline the festival, however it became clear quickly that her set simply wouldn’t have worked during the daylight. The lighting display for the Aussie beatmaker was as huge as the drops in her mixes which included a remix of Duke Dumont’s “Ocean Drive”, as well as her own “Take It To Reality” and “I Want U”.

The festival as a whole has to be credited for keeping the downtime in music across the stages to an absolute minimum, however for a festival called Groovin’ The Moo there was a disappointing lack of cowbell. Such is the fantastic vibe of the event that if the lineup is anywhere near as good as this year’s, I’ll certainly be back in 2017.