Groovin The Moo @ UC Meadows, Canberra (08/05/2011)

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When Groovin the Moo came to the nation’s capital for the first time in 2010, residents knew not whether to be insulted by the city’s assessment as ‘regional Australia’ or pleased that something worth going to was actually happening in Canberra.

One year on, townsfolk have accepted our status as peripheral to the rest of the nation and gleefully embraced a GTM line-up packed with esteemed local and international acts. So alluring was the assemblage of artists that no less than 15,000 patrons left their mums behind to spend Mother’s Day alone, taking to the University of Canberra grounds for a day of excess that would appal those from whose wombs we once slid.

The action started bright and early – local acts Fun Machine and Raw City Rukus getting things going at 11am (I didn’t know such an hour existed on a Sunday!) and in what can only be described as the worst festival timetabling like, ever, The Jezabels took to the stage at the devastatingly early time of 12:30pm.

Now, I woke up at 8am to dress and binge drink in time to make this ridiculous time slot, but despite dedicatedly squeezing the consumption of a bottle of champagne into just 45 minutes, I still managed to arrive at the gates only in time to hear only the last strains of Hayley Mary’s inimitable vocals playing off in the distance. Oh, the heartbreak!

But the show, of course, went on – and I did arrive in time to see indie-darlings Darwin Deez, whose performance was fun enough to (temporarily) alleviate the pain of missing The Jezabels, especially during the 3 minutes and 9 seconds of pure joy that was Radar Detector. Some may be above cheesy hipster pop, I am not.

Next up at the Udder Stage, one of the two side-by-side alternating main stages, was Datarock, the Norwegian electro-rock band evidently still riding on the success of their one hit Computer Camp Love. More exciting was Brisbane spawn Washington, whose performance of tracks like Sunday Best and Rich Kids proved her bellowing vocals are not of the Autotuned variety – though I was forced to depart mid-set to catch the end of alt-dance sextet The Go! Team, whom electrified the Moolin Rouge in true British fashion.

Unfortunately, however, the constant traversing between the two stages entailed navigating a maze of gates designed to keep underage wannabe-drunks away from the booze, and irritatingly patrons had to forfeit their alcohol altogether to get to the Moolin Rouge tent. I tried to smuggle a can of Strongbow out in my undies, and while I was technically successful in my deception, in reality just ended up with a cider-soaked crotch.

Come late afternoon, the object of many attendees fevered anticipation, House of Pain, lived up to the hype, jetting in straight from the ‘90s to smash the nostalgia-saturated hit Jump Around. The Moolin Rouge tent also played host to the infinitely likeable Architecture in Helsinki, who proved to be one of the most enjoyable acts of the day – especially come set closers That Beep and Contact High. The Aston Shuffle was another clear crowd favourite, and The Drums, too, put on a danceable set that unsurprisingly peaked with everyone’s super-fave song Let’s Go Surfing.

By the time favourites Art vs. Science took the stage, doing dance-devotees proud with a superb rendition of Magic Fountain, the sun had set and a new chapter of the festival was ushered in: that in which it was so cold one could be tempted to wee their pants just to feel that burst of warmth for a few seconds. While AC Slater and The Wombats took turns crooning to the crowd from the main-stages, I tried to focus on the music but found myself distracted by the fact that my face was completely numb. On the bright side, at least I was warmer than the, no doubt hypothermic, topless girl who’d painted her chest to look like a cow (yes, real udders and all).

In search of body heat, all there was to do was to head back once more to the Moolin Rogue tent to catch UK legends UNKLE, huddling as close to the front as possible for warmth. Thankfully, UNKLE absolutely killed it – playing probably the best set of the day, complete with the mesmerising Spike Jonze-directed clip for Heaven projected onto the screen behind the band.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and in a profoundly stark contrast, the next act up was Bliss n Eso. I know that there exist, allegedly, fans of Australian hip-hop – but are there really enough of them to warrant awarding an act like this the penultimate time slot? Honestly, I would rather listen to a puppy be raped than even one stanza about Bliss n Eso chasing their dreams and rising from the ‘adversity’ of their first-world existences.

Moreover, is the inclusion of an overzealous set closing “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!” chant fit for the Cronulla riots really necessary? Big Day Out has already filled this year’s bogan festival quota, thank you.

Eventually, Cut Copy took over to close the night on a high – playing, as always, an excellent set including favourites Hearts on Fire, Where I’m Going and Need You Now.

So how did Groovin the Moo stack up overall? Attendees definitely milked the Moo for all it was worth, and the festival undeniably squeezed into one day a remarkable amount of quality acts – but a festival without a clear headliner lacks a focal point. As great as Cut Copy are, without an act as anticipated as last year’s headliner Vampire Weekend to motivate you to push through the bitter weather, the thought of going home early seemed rapidly more appealing with every act.

While festival organisers can hardly be blamed for the cold, it was truly so extreme that it really hindered the enjoyment of the night. But, of course, festival goers adapted – because really, who would pass up the opportunity to throw empty beer cans at Birds of Tokyo? Groovin’ The Moo 2011: uddlerly good stuff.

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