With the 2015 Groovin’ The Moo line up announcement just six days away I take you back to its inaugural show in Oakbank, South Australia which I had the pleasure of covering for AMH Network…
Groovin’ The Moo 2014 – Oakbank
Commencing in 2005, Australia’s only regional touring festival, Groovin’ The Moo (GTM) continued its expansion by including a new destination in 2014 – Oakbank, South Australia. And the people of South Australia welcomed GTM with welcome arms by selling out 48 hours prior to doors opening thus proving music festivals can sell out in the Festival State given the right circumstances.
With tickets selling for $99 plus booking fee, a price considered a bargain compared to all other Australian touring festivals, the circumstances initially looking right.
A good festival, a festival worthy of the price you pay for the ticket, is created by a myriad of elements, the primary one being the music. Having been established 9 years ago there is no flawing the music of GTM. The line up includes many artists and covers many genres.
Joining the Australian headliners The Presets were UK artists Dizzee Rascal and Disclosure and more than a handful of others stemming from Australia, USA, UK, New Zealand and Canada encompassing hip hop, dance, pop, alternative and metal genres, just to name a few.
Spread over 3 stages, Moolin Rouge and the Udder stage which itself was split into 2 side by side stages, there was no rhyme nor reason as to who played on what stage beyond the DJ’s being delegated the Moolin Rouge tent.
My day started later than expected with the final few songs of Kingswood’s set. The four piece from Melbourne produced a solid performance leaving me disappointed I did not get a chance to see their whole set. At its conclusion I moseyed on over to the Moolin Rouge tent to catch the end of Melbourne rapper Allday, but he too had finished. Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall from triple j was DJing as the afternoon host. This was the only time for the remainder of the festival that there was no live music playing at any given time.
Next on the bill was either Loon Lake under the tent or The Jungle Giants on the main stage. It was the crew from Brisbane who won out. Playing all the hits from their self titled debut EP, second EP She’s a Riot and their debut album Learn to Exist, their indie pop rock sound had the enthusiastic crowd bopping around and singing to their heart’s content. The performance was raw, uncomplicated and fun to watch.
Melbourne hip-hop artist Illy followed The Jungle Giants on the Udder Stage. He dropped hit after hit after hit including his triple j Like a Version AusMusic Month Medley and had the crowd on their feet the entire time creating a giant mosh pit in front of the stage. His was by far the loudest performance of the festival with the reverberation being felt through the ground over 200 metres away by the bars. My only disappointment with Illy, and a minor one at that, was that instead of having a female member of another band playing in the festival stand in for Owl Eyes in It Can Wait a recording was used. A missed opportunity.
As Melbourne singer-songwriter Vance Joy was due to come on the Udder Stage after Illy I headed back to Moolin Rouge to watch Byron Bay’s Parkway Drive. Walking up to the tent five minutes before they were due on stage all that could be seen was a sea of bodies. There were more people surrounding that stage then what the tent allowed. As the boys walked out on stage the roar of the crowd was deafening. It was simply a phenomenal experience as was the performance. Having never seen Parkway Drive live before, I was in a state of awe. Their stage presence was immense. Their crowd interaction served to enhance the excitement and their music was flawless. I left that stage only wondering why they were not performing on the main stage and Vance Joy was?
After an extended food and toilet break it was back down to the Udder Stage to see the well established indie popness of Architecture in Helsinki (AIH) against the backdrop of a grey sunset. The colourful and utterly delightful sounds of AIH were the perfect contrast for the bleakness of the day. Having landed the mid-point 5:30pm slot which usually sees people wanting to slow down and recoup before the night sets commence, AIH would not allow that to happen. In fact, it was impossible to sit still to them. While Thundamentals generated a huge crowd in the tent, AIH pulled a bigger crowd, one of the biggest of the night. It seemed as if everyone was up and dancing and singing to their gorgeous pop tunes from Hold Music and Contact High to their current single Dream a Little Crazy.
Highlighting the eclectic nature of GTM and the perfectly smooth and acceptable transition between pop and progressive rock, Karnivool was next on the list and another first for me. Being familiar with, and also no longer a fan of Ian Kenny’s other band, Birds of Tokyo I was quite excited to see what Karnivool had to offer and disappoint they did not. Their heavier, angsty rock sound paired with the impressive audio-visual backdrop created a solid and impeccable performance.
Still on the Udder Stage, New Zealand’s The Naked and Famous followed Karnivool having returned to Australian shores after their Big Day Out performances earlier in the year. With them they brought the first droplets of rain that had threatened to fall all day. Their set was virtually the same as it was at the Big Day Out so to those who had seen them 3 months earlier like I had it was all a bit repetitive. The Naked and Famous are an odd band with specific reference to their style. Their live performances are completely flawless each and every time so they cannot be faulted in that regard. However, their singles, the songs that they are most known for such as Punching In A Dream and Hearts Like Ours all sound similar, while their lesser known songs almost appear to be from an entirely different genre. Without taking any credit away from them, I found them to be boring.
Sydney four piece The Jezabels were next on the Udder Stage. In their 45 minute set they packed in all their singles from both of their albums pleasing the large crowd that had gathered to see them. At this stage of the night, knowing the headliners were still to come, a lot of people remained seated on the hill overlooking the stage. The rain also decided to pick up in strength slightly.
A lot of people had gathered around the main stages by the conclusion of The Jezabels set in preparation for Dizzee Rascal. Rascal who had previously cancelled his 3 side shows in the eastern states came out 5 minutes later and simply blew everyone away. Generating the largest crowd of the evening thus far he also produced the biggest and most high energy performance of the night. Performing all his hits including Dance Wiv Me, Bonkers, Holiday, Bang Bang and You’ve Got the Dirtee Love with a recording of Florence + the Machine Rascal did not stop giving 100% even for a second. The crowd fed off of his performance and he in turn fed off them. It was a mutual showing of appreciation, amazing to watch and be a part of. Despite the rain, which was pouring down at this stage, the majority of the crowd stayed until the end of Rascal’s set in a testament to the man’s talent.
Over in Moolin Rouge, while Rascal was tearing it up on the main stage, was the duo from Sydney, What So Not. Consisting of Emoh Instead and Harley Strenton (Flume), What So Not had created a mini undercover nightclub as the rain poured down outside. The prelude to the final act of the night Disclosure, What So Not had the tent packed to the rim; a mass of sweating bodies, oblivious to what was happening beyond their dance infused world. Even when Rascal’s set had finished the majority of the people flocked to What So Not leaving the remaining half to witness The Presets close the Udder stage.
With such a huge backlog of tracks, Sydney electronic duo and GTM veterans The Presets were sure to create a sensational performance for fans. This they did. Starting off modestly with some of their ‘slower’ tracks for lack of a better word the set then picked up with the old school techno sounding Youth in Trouble. Whether it was due to the weather or the fact Disclosure was following What So Not in Moolin Rouge, The Presets did not generate a festival closing sized crowd. This was disappointing to see considering they put on a stellar performance as has come to be expected from them.
Overall, the music element of GTM was simply A class. All the acts gave 100% and produced immaculate performances. The dual main stage set up was also a stroke of genius for it allowed a smooth transition between acts with minimal waiting time especially towards the latter stages of the event when the bigger acts performed. My only criticism would be the distraction from the sound and lighting checks that were occurring on one side of the Udder Stage while an act was performing on the other. Whilst this is unavoidable given the set up, it did serve as a minor negative to an otherwise exceptional element of the festival.
Beyond the music a festival also consists of the venue and the overall set up of it. Given it was an inaugural event in Oakbank, a few teething problems were to be expected. Unfortunately, there were more than a few.
Oakbank Racecourse is located in the Adelaide Hills meaning there are only 2 different directions one can arrive to the town. I chose the quieter of the 2. In retrospect, I do not know if this was the best option. What would normally be a 45 minute drive to Oakbank turned into a 90 minute drive with bumper to bumper traffic on a one lane each direction road for the last 10 kilometres. This is why I was late and missed a myriad of bands and artists I had hoped to see. Note to self and others for future GTM festivals at Oakbank: leave earlier.
The racecourse grounds are quite large, however a big chunk was cordoned off for parking. This was great in one respect as there was free venue parking spitting distance to the venue. The downside was that the festival venue itself was subsequently quite small. The 2 stages were approximately 100 meters away from each other so there was a distinct clash of sounds if you were situated directly in between them. Then again, walking distances were short, but given it was a sold out event there were people absolutely everywhere. It was impossible to not run into someone when you walked anywhere.
Another downside to the small venue size was that there was limited food and drink’s areas. While the drink lines moved quickly, despite the use of the frustrating ticket method of purchase, the food lines did not, nor did the toilet lines. At the conclusion of Parkway Drive’s set I made the decision to get food. I waited in the line, and waited, and waited and finally received my hot chips only to realise I had missed Violent Soho and Cults. The level of frustration this generated from not just me was enormous.
Staging a festival at the end of April/start of May generally rules out any abnormally hot weather, but it does not rule out wet weather. While the onus is on the punter to prepare for this by wearing appropriate clothing some of the onus must also fall on the promoters in providing some shaded areas as a form of protection. Other than the Moulin Rouge tent which was packed to the rim 100% of the time and some marquees left up by departed food vans and carts late in the night, there was nothing on offer.
The extent of the teething problems could not be predicted until the festival concluded and on the whole they were not too bad. After all, long lines and weather are the bane of any festival goer’s experience and they certainly did not and do not detract from the music.
Overall Groovin The Moo at Oakbank was a total success. South Australians, and even interstaters as I found out throughout the course of the day, stepped up to the plate on Anzac Day. There was an eclectic mix of people of all ages who came to enjoy the show and enjoy it they definitely did.
Groovin The Moo continued in Maitland on 26 April then moves onto Canberra on 27 April, a sold out Bendigo on 3 May, Townsville on 4 May and concludes in Bunbury on 10 May.
4 / 5