For the second year running, we made the hike up to Bendigo for Groovin’ the Moo. The organisers have put a fair bit of effort into growing the festival, as well as trying to distinguish it from other Australian festivals. Unlike other day festivals, such as Big Day Out, Laneway and Soundwave, Groovin’ the Moo is held in regional centres around Australia, instead of Capital Cities, and falls in Autumn, an awkward time for the outdoors. If we were to compare GTM to the other major Melbourne festivals I’ve attended this year (BDO and Laneway), these differences are vital, as in GTM would have been my third preference, had they all been at the same time.
This was going to be my fifth festival of the year (sixth if you include Pyramid over New Years) and after the amazingness of Golden Plains, and the excitement of upcoming Splendour, I had a general feeling of apathy towards this festival. I hardly listened to any of the bands in the weeks leading up, and by the time the day arrived, I was under-prepared for almost all bands, except for The Wombats and Cut Copy. With no desperation to see any bands before 1pm, and the memory of the line difficulties of last year, reached the entrance at 11.30 and walked straight in. The problem with this was now we had an hour to kill before Darwin Deez, and with the bar not serving full strength alcohol until 12, an awkward wait ensued. I’m never a fan of buying drinks at these day festivals, with a single can being $9 (or $8 with a $1 container deposit, which would be refunded on return of the can) and knowing full well I had a goon bag in the car, but with a good group of mates around, I figured why not.
But as was bound to happen by arriving early, we wandered over to the main stage to hear The Jezabels. Now, we’re not trying to make any enemies, but Dec and I have always had an indifference towards the Jezabels. Speaking for myself (as I’m sure Dec will make his case at some point), I don’t hate them, but I don’t understand the excitement that every second person seems to feel about them. Basically, there is someone down at Triple J who has a obsessive crush on them, and as well all know, Triple J dictates the underground scene in Australia. With a lack of depth to their sound, I failed to even notice when they started playing the one song of there’s I actually like, Mace Spray. The highlight of the set was definitely the argument between Dec and this girl in front that went something like this:
Dec: “This may be misogynistic, but I don’t think I like any female singers.”
Girl: “That’s sexist!”
Dec: “Yes. Do you KNOW what misogynistic means?”
Girl: “Yes, but you’re being sexist”
*Girl walks off*
*Confused looks are exchanged between our party*
I’ve heard Jezabels are better indoors, but they really did nothing to make me want to pay and see them yesterday.
Throughout the Jezabels set, Darwin Deez was out on the neighbouring stage preparing. It’s not very often you see an artist do their own grunt work, but Darwin had shunned off his roadies and was doing it himself. The man more-or-less personifies “hipster” such to an extent where I’m now questioning if it is just an on-stage persona. While the set was entertaining, I was frustrated at myself for not listening to more of his songs. The pre-rehearsed dance moves pulled off the by band we’re humourous, in a good way, and Radar Detector was certainly a crowd favourite, but I was still disappointed he did not play Constellations.
After a mostly disappointing start to the festival, the next act were to finally pick up my mood. I had never consciously listened to Datarock before, but the performance the Norwegian act put on was certainly the highlight of my day. Sporting matching red jumpsuits and sunglasses, the band put on a dance-rock set complete with red beach-balls and an endeavour to make the crowd “party”, which they succeeded in doing. I can’t really remember too many particular songs from the set, except for opener Give It Up and later Grease-inspired Computer Camp Love, but such was the intencity of the performance, I did not need to be a huge fan to have an awesome time.
We took a rest as the Yoko Ono of Australian music played her set (Megan Washington and her relationship with the band Yves Klein Blue for those playing at home) but returned to the mainstage about halfway through House of Pain. Of course, everyone only wanted to hear one song, and when Jump Around was finally played, the crowd went nuts. Not being the most fit person on the earth, jumping around is very tiresome work, but it was well worth the three minutes of exercise. Conversation would alter turn to starting a festival where only one-hit-wonder bans would perform their single hits. House of Pain, The Knack, Chumbawamba, and the Baha Men for example. Any other suggestions?
After a quick rush to the other stage, we arrived just in time for Architecture in Helsinki. Despite seeing them twice before, this would be the first time seeing them sober. Unlike a lot of people around at the moment, I’m not a huge fan of the band. I like a few of their songs, mainly the ones everyone likes (Heart It Races, Hold Music, That Beep, Contact High) and apart from these songs the set was a bit repetitive. Unless you are a fan of the band, most songs will blur together, without a considerable difference between them. But altogether, the band scraped a pass, mainly due to their sheer unbridled enthusiasm.
In the break before The Drums, we found the rest of our entourage, only to split up again as people headed to different positions for the next few hours. With The Drums and Birds of Tokyo on one stage, I ended up in front of the other main stage, in prime position for Gotye, and The Wombats. The Drums are an interesting band. Dec described them in a tweet the other day as “if Joy Division’s Ian Curtis had gotten a surfboard instead of Albert Camus’ The Outsider for his 11th birthday,” which was exactly how they sounded. It is my deepest regret of the week leading up not to have fully appreciated The Drums, because there were pretty cool. As lead singer Jonathan Pierce danced around stage with moves reminiscent of a young Peter Garrett, the band enthralled the largish audience that had gathered before them. Considering I was standing in a area mostly dominated by Gotye/Wombats fans, songs like Let’s Go Surfing and Down by the Water were sung along with great gusto. A very entertaining hour, and one that did not let me down.
Back at Laneway, Gotye, !!!, and Cut Copy all clashed. Whereas at GTM, Gotye and Art vs Science clashed. I elected to see Gotye, just to hold a prime position for The Wombats. There is something about a Gotye performance which is just so enchanting. It wasn’t a huge mosh, or much dancing going on, but the whole crowd was fixated on the man on stage playing with his expensive toys. And I don’t think I will ever get sick of Heart’s a Mess. That song is hauntingly beautiful. But after standing for what seems like hours, feet were sore and the crowd needed something to jump to.
Birds of Tokyo are a divisive band at the best of times. So there set was watched by three sets of people; the new fans in front of the left stage, those that heard Plans and Circles on Fox and loved them; the Wombats fans in front of the right stage, who reluctantly watched Birds, while waiting for The Wombats; and the old fans scattered between the two like myself and the cute chick in the hat in front of me, who just wanted to hear Broken Bones. As the band started with White Witch and followed with Wild Eyed Boy, we shouted our heads off and head-banged like there was no tomorrow, despite the disapproval of the Wombats fans. At the risk of losing any sort of indie appeal, I thoroughly enjoyed Birds of Tokyo, complete with Broken Bones and Silhouettic but you must question Ian Kenny’s attempt to start a singalong to Silhouettic, which failed miserably. It’s a shame I didn’t enjoy their new album. I want to go back in time and see old Birds again.
Of course, every festival has an act that everyone wants to see and this one’s was The Wombats. Despite the initial difficulties with their back-drop (a shape had come loose, ruining their computer imaging which had to be re-formatted) they played a kick-ass set, with a really good mix of new songs and classics. But the best part was the crowd, which had been building since The Drums. It’s always amazing fun being in the front-centre with a smash-pit developing around you, and this is what was happening here. It’s hard to really fault the set, apart from the set-backs at the start except for the shortness of it, with a mere 10 songs played. Of course this did include personal favourites Kill the Director (probably my highlight), Moving to New York, Techno Fan and Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves). If they were playing their sideshow anywhere but the Palais, I would seriously consider going.
What followed after was a little weird in my opinion. The “headliner” had played,and such there was little expectation placed on the last act I saw on the night. With most of the crowd seemingly headed off to Drapht, a small group of us stayed for a dance to Cut Copy. If the Wombats were Kate Middleton, Cut Copy were certainly her sister Phillipa. Yes, Kate is beautiful and all over the media, but CHECK OUT HER! As they played through their highly regarded new album Zonoscope, including my current favourite song Need You Know and included classics like Hearts on Fire and Lights & Music, it was a perfect end to the festival.
It was a mixed festival in the end. Some bands let me down, and a lot of my feelings towards the festival last night were of disappointment, especially after the two hour drive home. I don’t now if I will attend again next year, as it depends on the line-up, but at this point the general inconvenience of Bendigo is pointing towards a no. But we’ll wait and see.