Groovin The Moo @ Prince of Wales Showgrounds, Bendigo (05/05/2012)

Beefing up their line up for yet another year on the road, Groovin the Moo hit Bendigo in udderly fine style for its first of five shows. Staying true to its festival format of years past, it was the acts on show that brought in the new stuff, with local festival debuts, Australian debuts, plenty of song debuts and the show’s first ever performance from inside the Bungee Ball (yes!)

GTM stayed true to its cocktail of something for everyone, as well. Just looking at the timetable could prove that: on one stage the likes of The Maccabbees and Ball Park Music preceding Public Enemy, and on the other Andrew W.K. and City and Colour before the Kaiser Chiefs. Everyone was catered for and yet every act drew a significant crowd, proving that the people of Bendigo (and all those making the trip from Melbourne and around Victoria) have as diverse a musical taste as the people behind this festival.

As for the punters themselves, there were plenty of trends throughout the crowd, including more than enough cow onesies, a new obsession with pom pommed beanies (at least people were keeping warm) and plenty of your usual crazies who’d put together their best (or worst) dress ups. Thankfully (as far as I could tell), due to the temperature drop and hopefully a drop in interest, morph suits did not make an appearance. In fact, the tool ratio in the crowd was quite low and festival experience overall was highly enjoyable for that fact.

At around about midday, the music was well and truly underway, and the main stage and big top were providing some great choice for those wanting to catch some local favourites. In the Moolin Rouge, Gold Fields had drawn a sizeable early crowd and, assisted by the tent’s darkened stage, provided a rich performance – both visually in their light show and audibly in a plethora of sounds. They created a dance party for those wanting to get their blood moving early, which was appreciated by many given the day’s low temperature. Big Scary, on the other hand, were a little more chilled out on the main stage, with their nature slide show playing behind them, some smiley “doo doo doos” and eventually a festival appropriate Gladiator to seal the deal.

On the ‘Udder Stage’ next was Mr Dreamy himself, Matt Corby. Given the size of some country backyards, this could have been one of his garden gigs (albeit not so secret), and despite being completely new to the festival scene, Corby managed to draw one of the biggest early crowds of the day (bet you can’t guess why?) In rather a calm and slow start, Corby’s voice proved suitably stunning, though didn’t really gel with the size of proceedings. However, his signature track Brother was definitely festival worthy, with what had to be a record number of phones and cameras hitting the sky for its three minutes. Giving a fair summation of how it sounded was difficult, given it was hard to hear over the crowd’s collective voice, but the moment was pretty memorable.

In their first Australian show ever, South London’s The Maccabees followed once Corby’s crowd had herded off, to a more modest sized showing. A testament to GTM’s taste, this festival was an ideal spot to debut The Maccabees on our shores, and the sun even came out during their set to say so, too. Opening with tracks from their new album, the glorious sounding Child and Feel To Follow, there was little fanfare and just a terrific sound coming from the English indies. Putting on a show of positivity (the White brothers on guitars seemed genuinely thrilled to be there), The Maccabees left a great impression on many who may have never heard them before.

Where The Maccabees were smiles and sunshine, Andrew W.K. was seeing red. “How many people are not dead!?” was the lead in for the one man party, who started things in his usual, mentally euphoric party state, riling up a quick circle pit and subsequent dust storm in front of the stage. From there, things turned ugly for W.K., as he moved away from party-times and headed an attack on various members of the crowd, hurling abuse and urging them to throw stuff at him for the majority of his set (resulting in at least a couple of head shots). Whether it was entirely staged or not, the set felt like a bit of a train wreck; but it didn’t stop the circle pit from gaining size and momentum. A couple of bottles to the face, a new load of abuse and a comical countdown all the way from 96 rounded out the show; a bittersweet affair that felt far from W.K.’s best.

The Moolin Rouge was a mightily packed (and increasingly so) cattle house during Purple Sneaker DJs in the lead up to 360. Whilst squashing forward again and again doesn’t actually sound that appealing to a lot of people, 360’s popularity was serving a reprieve from dropping temperature of the late afternoon. Out he came, all attempts at hard arse guns blazing, with Killer, and he quickly had the tent moving vertically rather than horizontally. If the room had walls, they’d probably have split as more bodies tried to get in to catch him; and 360 worked the crowd, his buttering up techniques complete with the predictable “sexy crowd” exclamations. Where is immense popularity has stemmed from is good question, but for GTM this was a good choice, as the crowd lapped it up.

Making an exit from 360 about half way through had its rewards, though passing through the masses was one hell of a challenge. The reward came in the form of Ball Park Music, another from the same crop of new acts rising to the top ridiculously fast. “Are you in the moo?” asked their projection, as the band appeared and got people jumping and singing along to Literally Baby. “Our band is called One Direction,” announced Sam Cromack, who managed to crack as many smiles from his quips as the band did with their undeniably upbeat pop; he even managed to fool quite a lot of people with, “You’re the best Moo we’ve played to so far!” With stories about murdering ex-girlfriends and dedications to all those in high-visibility clothing, along with a swag of great tracks from their debut album, Ball Park Music provided one of the most amusing and buoyant sets of the day.

From bouncy to dreamy, City and Colour were met with a similarly high pitched cheer to Corby’s earlier in the day. By this time, the sun had set and Ball Park Music’s tunes seemed pre-emptive (why dance before it gets cold?). However, Dallas Green and his band had the job of convincing people that City and Colour’s tunes outweighed the need to stay warm. Green was largely successful in achieving this, garnering significant attention for quieter tracks (a real feat at a festival) and having people sing along upon request. The slower country stylings did seem a strange fit for the time slot, but Green deserved a pat on the back for winning Bendigo over, even with the neighbouring stage causing a racket in preparation. Green’s vocals glistened over a set standout, As Much As I Ever Could, which was completed with powerful guitar work, and Fragile Bird sounded immense too, before the slow jam out on Sorrowing Man ended things.

“Real hip hop is here, baby!” So was the announcement that Public Enemy were about to hit the stage. What followed the announcement was a considerably lengthy introduction, including a bizarre march and dance courtesy of the two military clad men, lots of long winded call and response with the crowd and an extended dedication to Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who had passed away the day before. “Can I get a yeah boy?” re-booted the smiles all round, and Public Enemy eventually got there – delivering their classic hip hop to rapturous response. “Chuck D, do me a favour and bring the noise for Bendigo!” asked Flavor Flav of his partner, and so they did, with Bring the Noise, Don’t Believe The Hype and Can’t Truss It all among the tracks powered through by the power pair of Chuck D and Flavor Flav, along with DJ Lord and their band. Flavor Flav majorly rocking out on the bass, DJ Lord’s scratch solos and a whole lot of weird choreography accompanied the classics, making for a highly memorable set overall.

From an act that’s been going for 25 years to one that’s only hit the public eye in the last two, Kimbra must by now realise what a big deal she’s become. Once shy and reserved, Kimbra’s come a long way and hit the stage with a bang, decked out in her technicoloured cloak, to the sample blend of Limbo. “I don’t think I’ve ever played a festival in the dark,” Kimbra admitted, which could have helped explain her minimal clothing in the cold (a reason to keep the cloak on) and showed how on the festival circuit she’s earned her stripes. Her set consisted of a lot of Vows material and frantic dancing, but what made things interesting were the new additions to the set, including a couple of new tracks and the live premier of her Mark Foster/A-Trak collaboration, Warrior, which was performed with serious energy and received accordingly. It was the new additions that made her set special, although favourites like Settle Down and the final Cameo Lover weren’t without flourish.

Hilltop Hoods have seemingly become the go to band for festivals needing an Australian headliner. They’ve put in serious mileage around the country and the result is a group that have a very polished live show. In a no bull approach to performing, Hilltop Hoods were all about entertainment following the sentimental introduction and party starter, Good For Nothing. With a fleshed out band complete with live drums and keys, Hilltop Hoods brought with them a bigger sound and a sea of hands to the sky met every track they delivered. State of the Art was an impressive addition to the set, with MC Pressure battling the drums to speed out the final verses in a very impressive fashion. Breaking up the hits and slowing things down a little was new track Last Confession, which was good in mixing up what could easily become a predictable set list. But all in all it was a set list of singles that made things moove, with final tracks I Love It and Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom both big hits; the latter complete with Suffa’s “clothes game”, where everyone removed an item of clothing to wave the air for the song (yes, it should henceforth be known as the Hoods’ laundry dance).

It couldn’t be a complete Groovin the Moo without cowbell, and when you need more cowbell, you can certainly rely on Kaiser Chiefs. With a greatest hits soon to find its place on the selves, the Kaiser Chiefs were out to demonstrate how many memorable tunes they’ve produced since dropping Employment in 2005. In a kind of summary fashion, each album was represented in the first four tracks by one of its “big ones” – Every Day I Love You Less and Less, Everything is Average Nowadays, Never Miss A Beat and Little Shocks all belted out with little time to recover in between. This was just grazing the surface of the set, though, as front man Ricky Wilson went full throttle to show how entertaining he can be. Microphone stand stunts abound, tambourine hacky sack, climbing the stage (and posing with a clock in ode to Flavor Flav) and sideways runs across the fall back speakers were all part of Wilson’s repertoire.

His finest moment came during Take My Temperature, when he departed the stage to hijack the Bungee Ball ride next door. Microphone in hand, Wilson didn’t flinch as he was launched sky high whilst belting out the old favourite. Back on stage in a couple of minutes (that ride is a rip off), Wilson and co. continued to plough through their catalogue, with every song played being a single released by the band in the last eight years (including their two newies, On the Run and Listen to Your Head). Their exhilaratingly fast set concluded within the hour, having not dropped in energy from the get go.

And so it was time to hoof it on out of there with the conclusion of yet another GTM. With a format that allows people to catch a considerable volume of sets in 12 hours and an ever expanding and impressive line up with each year it runs, not to mention remaining at a reasonable size despite Bendigo selling out so quickly, there’s no way GTM is losing any momentum. With another successful festival under its leather belt, here’s to next year and many more regional festivals to come.