Groovin The Moo @ Prince of Wales Showground, Bendigo (30/04/2011)

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There is always a cavalcade of music festivals that stampede through the nation, jostling and bumping one another to get to the front of the herd, claiming to be bigger and better than the last. Groovin The Moo can certainly muster enough muscle to impel itself through the dust and hustle bustle of the other festivals, but it has something unique, which means it really doesn’t even have to.

With the inception of this regional roving show back in 2005, it has certainly shown that it has a set of horns (even if much smaller and further away) that can be paired against those of the major capital city festivals.

Initially focusing on local talent from regional centres around Australia – including the current list of Bendigo, Townsville, Maitland, Canberra and Bunbury – Groovin the Moo has grown to include many superstar international acts, as well as still focusing strongly on local Australian acts.

Of course, let’s not forget the country punters that this festival had in its thoughts when it was first created. Now, city and regional punters alike make the trip to this endearing festival, for the sheer talent bestowed in its line-up, and for the fact that it offers up something exciting and adventurous that us city folk crave.

It was an easy and pain-free ride into Bendigo, for the very first sold-out instalment of Groovin the Moo for 2011. Excitedly walking into the Prince of Wales Showground as the sun was shining, the first act I could hear was The Jezabels on Udder Stage (I’m still quietly impressed by this play on words).

Lead singer Hayley Mary’s sweet yet powerful vocals were enough to draw in the majority of the large crowd that had gathered in the early afternoon sunshine, and hit song Hurt Me caused quite the kafuffle in front of the two main stages, as people tried to navigate their way into the Licensed Area (via only one entrance mind you, not exactly ideal), as others stopped to take in the sight of The Jezabels.

Locating the VIP tent, I managed to score a somewhat front row seat facing the two main stages. With feet up, drink in hand and sunshine radiating down, this was fast becoming one of the most chilled-out, fun festivals I have had the pleasure of experiencing. With at least a decade of music festivals under my now sweaty and dusty belt, Groovin the Moo offered up something that was exciting, entertaining and enjoyable, as much as it was relaxing and chilled out.

No rushing off from one side of a Racecourse-sized venue to the other to catch the arse end of a band, the mass crowds, and the toilet and drink lines. Groovin the Moo was under control by means of organisation (although infrastructure and layout of entrances and exits could have been thought through a little more thoroughly), but off the hook in terms of punter enjoyment. Even the bands seemed carefree and relaxed, yet utterly elated to be playing.

One such band was quirky New Yorkers, Darwin Deez. They had insanely over-played choreographed moves that had everyone laughing as much as they were dancing (think Fat Boy Slim, Praise You film clip, but to Enya’s Orinoco Flow instead). With cutesy and catchy track Radar Detector they were a brilliant and lively choice for the first international act of the day.

Following in their energetic footsteps were the Norwegian electro rock band Datarock. Decked out in matching red tracksuits, they incorporated the meaning of their band name (derived from the Norwegian word for computer and rock music) into their set, by synchronising their video for track Give It Up via lyrics and dance moves. And they were spot on. This was a keen display, for me, of just how disciplined and talented Datarock are in their performances, whilst also being fun and involving the crowd. An onslaught of massive red bouncing balls then proceeded to be thrown from the stage out into the crowd, further heightening Datarock’s innate ability to bring the fun along with the noise.

Next door at the triple j stage (no cow puns here), Miss Megan Washington was dressed casually in a striped t-shirt and navy jeans. Standing in front of her beloved keyboard (Washington was actually the back-up vocals and keyboardist for Ben Lee and Old Man River back in the day), Washington continues to shine in any forum. Dishing out tunes such as Sunday Best, How To Tame Lions, The Hardest Part and Clementine, Washington’s sassy talent radiated across the Moo.

Los Angeles hip hop threesome House of Pain came onto the Udder Stage with their Californian rap style, to the elation of the crowd. Everyone was up and off their feet, (no, I will not make a coy reference to ‘Jumping Around’ in this sentence) getting down to the tunes of this group’s chart topping hit, of course. Having formed in 1991 and broken up by 1996, the group re-formed 14 years later, just in time for the Moo it would seem.

Keeping with the American flavour, Brooklyn-based band The Drums were up. Rocking double denim and a blonde bowl haircut, front man Jonathan Pierce was taking hipster nerd to new levels, but still managed to own an energetic presence on stage. With their pop rock songs filtering through the crowd as the sun made its descent, Let’s Go Surfing was met with rapturous applause.

One of my all-time favourite Australian artists is the innovative and wonderful Melbournian Gotye. Otherwise known by his family and friends as Wally De Backer, he manages to masterfully twist music to his every whim. Using his talents on the drums, keyboard and something reminiscent of a xylophone, not to mention his idiosyncratic vocals, Gotye is a unique and endearing performer. Playing Heart’s A Mess, Learnalilgivinanlovin, Thanks For Your Time and newbie Eyes Wide Open, Gotye was again a highlight.

The spectacular artists continued with the sensational Perth boys Birds of Tokyo absolutely owning the stage and powering out their hits Plans and The Saddest Thing I Know, whilst their older tracks Broken Bones, Wild Eyed Boy and Silhouettic went off as the crowd chanted each and every chorus.

The third highlight of my evening came in the form of a wombat – of the English band variety that is. The Wombats frontman Matthew Murphy looks like the rock star version of Dylan Moran’s Bernard character from Black Books. There is something sublimely cool about The Wombats and I’m quite happy that they have found commercial success, as I remembered them back in 2007 when they released their debut album and the indie rock track Moving to New York. That song, alongside Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves), Techno Fan and the crowd pleaser Jump Into the Fog had not only the skinny jeans brigade shoulder shaking, but everyone was involved in cheering on this cheeky British band.

Bliss n Eso were undoubtedly one of the most sought after acts of the day and kudos to the organisers of the Moo that they placed Aussie acts in the final slots. The Sydneysiders blew up their set with Addicted, The Sea Is Rising and Down By the River getting the reaction they deserve, with the arms raised high and the yelling of “Hey, yo!” that go hand in hand with a Bliss n Eso performance.

And wrapping up the day and night’s festivities was Melbourne synth-pop foursome Cut Copy, whilst Perth native Drapht was booming out his hip hop beats in the Moolin Rouge Tent. And this was all while I was grabbing the best burger in the known universe from Beatbox Kitchen. Now that was another great move by organisers…

All in all, I definitely grooved at the Moo, as did many others in attendance. This little-festival-that-could really worked its way into my heart. Or maybe it was just the Bendigo air. Either way, I look forward to the next episode and hope the organisers continue to promote Aussie talent.

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