Gig Review: Groovin’ the Moo, Maitland

Why the fuck would a city slicker, who thrives off polluted air and skyscrapers, want to spend a day in the country? Why on earth would I want to go to Maitland? Because of the opening day of the famous regional festival Groovin the Moo, that’s fucking why. It featured some standout sets, some surprising energy and a massive disappointment….ooo, suspense.

After a 2 and a half hour bus ride up to Maitland, population 69, 646, I needed some live music to rest my grumpiness. Luckily, first up for the day was Sydney’s own Fishing. As usual, the offered up a delicacy of live soft electro, like the Aussie SBTRKT, but less serious. The two kids on stage were bopping like Tweedledee and Tweedledum on stage, offering the surprisingly big crowd (for that early a set) a great soothing start to the festival. Some of the highlights, were ‘Choy Lin’ and ‘OOOO’, however, the whole set was a mix of earthy electro goodness, not too intimidating, but not too lowly and boring either.

Following Fishing, was Tuka and Ellesquire, of which I sat through about a minute before faced with the decision to either throw up or leave. So I took my ass to the Udder Stage, where Triple J favourites Last Dinosaurs were about to start their set. After an excellent EP and last year’s ‘In A Million Years’, the band had garnered quite an audience, with frontman Sean Caskey doting ‘it was the biggest audience they’d played since…ever!’. Alas, that quote was perhaps the most excited the band came throughout the entire set. They were stiff and neurotic, the audience lapping up the music with puppy dog excitement, moreover from their Triple J airplay recognition rather than any effort on stage from the band. They were about as exciting as watching someone grate cheese, and their songs lacked emotion and fervour. For an indie-pop band, they were devoid of any pop-ness. In comparison, Hungry Kids of Hungary were a festival highlight. They played rather the exact same sort of music as Last Dinosaurs, and were Triple J favourites, but played it with the expansive joy and energy that their genre warranted. Their set was a tambourine-clad mushy love pit, like a jungle party. It would be fair to say that recent single ‘Sharp Shooter’,  or old favourites ‘Scattered Diamonds’ and ‘Coming Around’ were more indulgent and exciting individually than Last Dinosaurs entire set. Hungry Kids played fantastically, and there wasn’t a fault in their set, definite crowd pleasers. Even when two overt fans climbed one of the supports in the Moolin Rouge tent, and the band were forced to stop their set until they got down, not a moment of pleasure was wasted.

After Hungry Kids of Hungary finished their stellar set, I pushed my way to the front for my personal standout band on the lineup, hardcore punk kings The Bronx. That show involved a lot of firsts for me. I’ve never split (not to be confused with shit) my pants at a show before. I’ve never caressed a lead singers bald, sweaty head with my open palm before. And I’ve never sounded like a 60 year old smoker after a gig before. In other words, it was a fantastically violent gig. Everything about The Bronx is no-bullshit, from the way lead man Matt Caughthran stomped around stage, and his terrifying screams. They blasted through a set of crowd favourites, storming each with a ferocity that is incomparable. ‘Shitty Future’, ‘Knifeman’ and recent hit ‘Ribcage’ were all blasts of pure energy, blowing minds and necks with their headbanging goodness. ‘White Guilt’ was the only point in the set in which things weren’t pushed to the absolute maximum, and that’s because it’s a ‘slow song’, the closest The Bronx have ever come to making a ballad. Finally, ‘Heart Attack American’ was a whole other story, unleashing a hellish nightmare fury that hadn’t been seen since Black Flag fucked shit up in ’81. It was pants splittingly good. Like the bread  sandwiching the beef on a really good burger, DZ Deathrays DJ’d 90’s alternative rock hits side of stage before and after The Bronx’s set, featuring songs from greats like Refused and The Offspring (before they got shit), and not one, but two, Beastie Boys tracks! They also spun a remix of their awesome track ‘Cops Capacity’. Clad in 80’s mullets and sleeveless shirts, the DZ boys were the picture of perfection, and you could see they loved it. Good stuff DZ!

Next up was indie wonders Alpine. Like Last Dinosaurs, they had only released an EP and last years ‘A is for Alpine’, and graced the same left hand side of the Udder Stage, however they kicked absolute ass. They twirled through delicate pieces of masterful pieces of indie, placing slightly more on the folkie side, but still maintaining exuberance and a bold form. ‘Gasoline‘ had the crowd enchanted, and ‘Hands’ was a class act of chanting goddesses, executed by lead singer Phoebe Baker. It was a fantastic set of twinkling delight, Alpine have cemented themselves as masters of live indie music, a genre that is harder to pull off in a live setting than pants when you’re drunk. Definitely recommend getting their EP and LP, both are beautiful and stunning. Next, were Scottish lads Frightened Rabbit, and although they didn’t play to an enormous crowd, they played damn well. Unfortunately, their sound cut off for a few moments twice, but the band persevered and showed to be a well worn. ‘Old Old Fashioned’ is a nice little, Mumford and Sons country crooner, and ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ can only be described as gorgeous. It was an absolute joy to see this band in action, and I only wish I could have been front and centre for the set closer of ‘The Loneliness’. What a bunch of perfect gentlemen. Alas, I had to keep my front row spot for Regurgitator. The Mighty ‘Gurge absolutely killed, with a best -of set spanning their entire career. From the soaring heights of game changing debut ‘Tu-Plang’ and sophomore ‘Unit’, to the highly underrated ‘…Art’, the unashamed rap-rock of their 2000’s mainstay, and finally their latest album and return to form of ‘SuperHappyFuntimesFriends’. You want ‘Bong in My Eye’? No worries. ‘I Wanna Be A Nudist’? ‘I Will Like Your Arsehole’? No dramas. How about the 30 second Bill-Paxton fury ode of ‘Game Over Dude’? Sure. All this was peppered with their biggest self deprecating singles, like ‘Black Bugs’, ‘Kong Foo Sing’, ‘Fat Cop’ (hilariously introduced by ‘Ladies and Gentleman, Val Kilmer’ followed by slow motion shots of Val Kilmer getting shot and Al Pacino running, from ‘Heat’), ‘Blubber Boy’, ‘Polyster Girl’ and of course, ‘! (The Song Formerly Known As) (which was done with live instrumentation, rather than the electronica on the album). Although Regurgitator where almost the perfect live band, energetic, thrilling and electrifying, screaming every lyric into the audience’s face, the front row didn’t seem to be as into it as the small clan of followers in the mosh. It was disappointing that such a great and fundamental Australian band like Regurgitator could only pry such a small following. Imagine if the same thing happened to The Scientists. Fucking blasphemy. ‘All Fake Everything‘ should be this country’s fucking national anthem.

Anyway, the next band I watched was Tame Impala. Their fame is a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s great that such a fantastic band, that have rekindled psych music is getting recognised the world over. However, as GTM proved, their music is perhaps not suited to the absolutely enormous crowd that flocked to see them. I feel sorry for Midnight Juggernauts, who played at the same time as Tame. It seemed as if the whole festival was packed in to see Tame Impala rock out. Regardless of the squished atmosphere, Tame Impala blew off everyone’s chops. It was a great, smooth show. Not as great as their past Enmore shows, but it certainly had vibrancy and seemed fuller and compact, in a good way. ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, ‘Solitude is Bliss’ and ‘Elephant’ were all balls out amazing, masterpieces of the highest class, and sent the crowd into a dancing frenzy. It was a pleasure to be able to experience their live show. Even if Kevin Parker’s voice wasn’t up to it, his ‘impromptu’ idea of getting the crowd to sing the over-the-top falsetto of ‘It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ was blissful. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Tame concert without ‘Half Full Glass of Wine’ as the closer. Everyone in attendance (quite a few had jumped ship to get a better seat at Flume)  where stunned by the obviously amazing jam that has made it’s way as a stable of the Tame Impala set. Extending for a good 10 or so minutes, it was shorter but seemed just as full as when they played it at the Enmore. Very great stuff.

Likewise to Tame Impala, Flume was the other act on everyone’s to see list. Tegan and Sara must’ve played to an audience of about ten people. The entire enormous Moolin Rouge tent was completely packed out, and people were easily spilling out into the grass section at the back of the tent. Armed with his armada of tunes from his self-titled debut and his new, very impressive live show, Flume shocked and awed for the better half of an hour. He skilfully swam through a whole shit load of tunes, blowing minds throughout. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in the sweaty mosh of that tent, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the back end, with room to dance (if it could be called that) and express yaself (ya ya Diplo, muthafuckas). Although the Laneway show was more intimate, and I probably enjoyed it more, the GTM show was still fantastic, and everything that his sound relied on, from the subtle but extensive bass, and his warping, spaced out synths, everything was awesome. ‘Insane’, ‘On Top’, and ‘Holdin On’ were all bombastic talents in his near flawless and well received show.

Now, for the next band, I need to clarify something. I fucking hate The Kooks. I hate them. They are awful. Everything they put down on record is disgraceful. I would rather chew off a finger than listen to a whole Kooks record. That being said…great live band. Damn good. They had the crowd in the palms of their hand, and Luke Pritchard was, dare I say it, a rock god. They played the show in tiny Maitland, rural NSW as if it were a stadium, flashing lights and mesmerising backgrounds a backdrop for their relentless energy. Last Dinosaurs could take a few tips from The Kooks. Although their music is da-da-da-derivative as hell (‘Always Where I Need to Be’), The Kooks were a fun band to see, no use lying about it. They played their set well, and set highlights like ‘Seaside’ and ‘Sway’ were sung back to the band by the crowd with overwhelming enthusiams. No wonder they keep coming back to Australia, they have rabid fucking fans, and the destroyed it up there.

To close out the night were Australian favourites The Temper Trap, and by fuck, they were a rapturous bunch. Again, not being a huge fan, and thinking of their music as a little bit ‘soppy’, I didn’t know what to expect. I was completely taken aback, as my neighbours will attest to, with my constant exclamations of ‘fuck man, this is good shit’, and ‘fuck, this is a great band’. Starting the set with the four most well known songs ‘Love Lost‘, ‘Fader’, ‘This Isn’t Happiness’ and ‘Rabbit Hole’ they sealed the crowd, but I was left wondering if they could keep the momentum. The sure fucking could, and followed with some lesser-known but equally boggling tracks, and ‘Science of Fear’. Soulful, endearing and permeated, they were a holy other being, elevating themselves to something godly. Their records are quite amazing bodies of work, but the live show takes it to another level, something I didn’t think would translate at all. They also proved their instrumental chops, busting out a psychedelic 15 minute jam, with Dougy Mandagi, the lead vocalist and guitarist, absolutely smashing the shit out a tom tom, whilst bassist Jonathane Aherne pirouetted on stage, probably oblivious to the fact he was playing to a crowd. It was a mesmerising and electrifying performance, complete with dazzling lights and blinding displays. The Temper Trap proved that they are one of Australia’s favourite bands and exports, with a deafening finisher of everyone favourite breakup anthem ‘Sweet Disposition’. God bless them.

This has been over two thousand words, and still has barely covered the sights, sounds and glory of Groovin The Moo. It was a great festival, jam packed with local favourites and international acts that would otherwise never tour the rural district. In summary: The Bronx and Regurgitator rocked, Tame Impala and Flume continue their streak, Hungry Kids of Hungary, The Kooks and Temper Trap pleasantly surprised and Last Dinosaurs need to get their shit together.


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