Mooin and a Groovin In Bendigo

With a fast developing reputation as the one of the better days on the festival calendar, the Groovin The Moo regional juggernaut kicked things off in fine style in Bendigo. The teething problems of the early years are well and truly behind GTM, which provided one of the smoothest festival experiences of the summer.

With its most diverse and star studded lineup yet (hello, Public Enemy), the three hour round trip from Melbourne was nothing but a pleasure, at least until you get lost in the middle of town.

Our crew entered the gates in time for Hermitude, who shook the car ride induced cobwebs right out from under our knees, even without having had a beer. Showing off tracks from one of the most underrated albums in recent times, the duo warmed up the late morning crowd perfectly.

From one of the most underrated acts in the country to one of the most overrated as man of the moment Matt Corby took to the main stage. The air was full of teenage hormones and soulful (if incomprehensible) warbling, and Corby didn’t seem to disappoint his growing legion of young fans. However, as talented as he may be (and he is, I know that), Corby still lacks stage presence and relies too heavily on his famed voice rather than his songwriting. Early days yet, but he still has some work to do. I am happy to admit, though, that I am in a clear minority in my criticism of the hairy one.

The Maccabees were pretty much the opposite though. Still undersold in this country, they were a welcome addition to GTM and won over a lot of punters during their first show on Australian soil. Upbeat, energetic and bullshit-free, the Brits were everything we needed for those precious moments when the sun came out from behind the clouds. Gained many new fans.

Mid-afternoon brought with it the appearance of the undoubted star of GTM for probably all the wrong reasons. Andrew W.K is always in interesting proposition, loved by many, misunderstood by others, probably strongly disliked by many more. His Bendigo performance wouldn’t have helped sway the numbers. Possibly drunk and quite antagonistic, W.K in his solo guise had nowhere to hide when things didn’t quite go his way on stage. The bottles started flying early on as he staggered his way from his keyboard to the front of the stage to continually abuse those abusing him. I am sure most would say it was a shockingly bad set, but here’s the thing- I think it was almost everything you want from and Andrew W.K show. I mean, the guy is a cartoon character whose one goal in life is to ‘party’ and have a good time. And while it wasn’t Andrew W.K at his best, it was still Andrew W.K doing what he sets out to do, and that is have an impact.

I thought it was brilliant theatre.

Ball Park Music and Muscles did their respective things on their respective stages, Ball Park in particular impressive in what must have been one of their biggest shows.

Undoubtedly the most impressive band of the afternoon was probably also the most surprising for a lot of punters. Parkway Drive absolutely tore the shit out of the main stage in front of a crowd that grew with each song. Byron bay’s finest were on top form, their riotous brand of metalcore even winning over the Matt Corby/360 set in a flurry of dust, circle pits and bleeding throats. Highlight of the afternoon, and very close to the set of the day.

Dallas Green, aka City And Colour was the complete antithesis of Parkway. But in a good way. Steady airplay of Triple J has garnered Green a whole bunch of new fans in the past few months, and he didn’t disappoint them. As the sun set, the indie/folky/souly/soft rocky jams were the perfect respite from the blistering sounds of earlier, and Green (whether he meant to or not) threw down the gauntlet to Mr Corby in the unofficial ‘Who has the better voice’ competition that I envisioned in my head whilst watching them both. For what it’s worth, Green wins.

After a delay that stretched out for what seemed like an entire set, it was time for the true headliners of the day (sorry Kaiser Chiefs). Public Enemy are one of the most important hip hop acts of all time, a fact that have proved again and again throughout a 25 year career that has produced some of the genres greatest records. And in Bendigo they proved it again. With a fitting tribute to Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, Public Enemy were on song right from the start. The setlist drew from the entirety of their long history, their political venom has lost nothing, and Chuck D is still a force to be reckoned with. Simply awesome.

Adopted Aussie/actual Kiwi Kimbra told us she was excited to be playing a festival at night, and then set about proving exactly why she should do it. Incredible voice, excellent stage presence and some unique dance moves make for the perfect festival set. The songs gained an extra leg when performed live, and there is a musicality to them that just isn’t there on the recordings.

As much as Australia loves Hilltop Hoods, I felt there was the danger of an enormous let down after the experience that was Public Enemy. Thankfully, this never quite eventuated, thanks the sheer energy of their live show. Their new stuff lacks the edge of their earlier recordings, and it does feel as if they have been playing an identical set for several years now, but what they lack in the element of surprise they make up for with the will to entertain. Still, possibly the number one festival band in the country.

Closing out the day in true headliner style, Kaiser Chiefs were everything you wanted them to be. Big, brash, and fun, they (along with Public Enemy) managed to transform GTM from travelling regional circus to legitimate festival behemoth. It was (thankfully) a proper greatest hits set, from opener Every Day I Love You Less And Less, to crowd favourites Never Miss A Beat, Ruby, The Angry Mob and the festival ending Oh My God. The set had the true rockstar factor that had been slightly missing in previous years, punctuated by frontman Ricky Wilson’s festival-stealing performance that included joining the crowd for Everything Is Average Nowadays and jumping on the terrifying slingshot ride alongside the stage while never missing a note during Take My Temperature. This set was all class, and cemented this festival as a ‘big’ occasion on the festival calendar.

2012 was far and away the strongest Groovin The Moo yet.  It is exciting to see a festival come about and actually identify what they want to be, and then go out and achieve it. Despite much doom and gloom about the future of Australian music festivals, this is one that has got it right, and will be around for a while yet.