Groovin the Moo @ Hay Park, Bunbury
Saturday, May 12, 2018
The last leg of Groovin The Moo hit Bunbury last Saturday replacing the rain, mud, wellies and animal onesies of yore with unsolicited arse cheeks and sunshine… glorious sunshine. With a diverse line up offering something for everyone there was more of a communal anticipation for the event itself as opposed to a focus on top-heavy headliners, as thousands descended upon the south west city bringing all the noise, frivolity and questionable fashion that came with it.
The day began with some of WA’s finest local acts getting their chance to shine on the big stages. As the first crowds trickled in Demon Days, Arno Faraji and Sydnee Carter christened their respective stages with impressive sets. Possibly the finest of the year’s ‘fresh produce’ was Carla Geneve, who tore through a passionate set in the welcome shade of the Moolin Rouge tent closing with popular recent single Greg’s Discount Chemist.
Baker Boy is certainly one of the acts that has risen to new heights even since the Groovin the Moo line up was announced. The Northern Territory rapper is something we could all do with more of, proudly representing his Arnhem Land bloodlines by rapping in his own Yolngu Matha language. It was great to see the 21 year old own the occasion with such confidence as he belted through recent Triple J hits like Mr La Di Da Di and breakthrough single Marryuna.
Mallrat played a nice chilled out set in the Moolin Rouge tent with her inimitable voice on full on display. People are generally accepting that the more electronically produced acts rely on backing tracks for their live performances, but a recording of rapper Allday’s part in her hit song UFO felt artificial. Having said that, leaving it out altogether probably would have been worse and her joyous delivery was infectious.
The anticipation leading up to the next performance was thick in the air as the audience began to press in towards the Moolin Rouge stage. Fortunately, Killing Heidi’s Ella Hooper was owning on the decks with plenty of rock and R&B favourites getting the crowds, err, groovin in the interim. She featured in multiple appearances throughout the day, moving like a boss and generally looking like she was having a better time than just about anyone.
When Vera Blue strode onstage wearing tinted glasses and a flowing red dress it was possibly the first time on the day you noticed people getting visibly starstruck. Despite a clearly well plotted stage performance she was never too restricted to break from script, with warm crowd interaction and the odd passionate shriek through hits like Private and Regular Touch.
Out on the Triple J stage Ocean Alley greeted the crowd with The Comedown anchoring the vibes firmly in their epic crashing riffs. Frontman Baden Donegal’s soulful growl had a vital energy that dialled up the atmosphere as the band performed predominantly tracks off their most recent LP Chiaroscuro. To the delight of all who tune into Triple J’s Like A Version on Friday mornings, the band played their irresistibly charming rendition of 70’s classic Baby Come Back, bringing a slow burn of sexy groove to their set. Closing with their absolute killer tune Confidence their reggae grooves and spacious jams gave a prime kick start into an awesome evening to come.
Byron Bay legends Skegss brought their gritty, rough as guts rock and roll to tear up an intense set with a side of crowd banter. Even if you’re unfamiliar with their music, their surf rock vibes were contagious enough to have anyone within earshot drawn to their wild sweaty mess. A killer example of Australia’s most jagged and raw garage rock, the boys powered through a unique and memorable set for the afternoon with their quirky cartoon artwork in the backdrop. Highlights included their #39 entry to the Hottest 100 Got On My Skateboard and of course their head banging 2016 delight Spring Has Sprung.
Carrying the momentum over to the neighbouring stage, Alex Lahey fleshed out her lyrical genius while simultaneously hammering down on some intense guitar riffs. Each song was delivered with raw energy reeking with emotion to give that good old-fashioned teenage angst it’s time to shine for the all-ages event.
Public Service Broadcasting had cemented themselves as the ‘music nerd’ band of the day and in that sense they really didn’t disappoint. With multiple Nord synths, pedals galore and guitars switching from Rickenbackers to Fenders and beyond each track, the Moolin Rouge tent was tone central at mid afternoon. At some points the musicianship was next level, with keyboard lines being played at the same time as guitars (by the one musician). Crackled AM radio copy often coloured the largely instrumental affair and as impressive as it was, without real live vocals happening most of the time there wasn’t all that much to sink your teeth into.
Out in the open air Dean Lewis offered a breezy respite from some of his more raucous precedents. The Sydney singer-songwriter had the crowd swaying and swooning throughout his impressive tracklist, none more-so than last year’s multi-platinum single Waves.
Alaskan act Portugal The Man entered the stage following a curious but amusing introduction via a recording of Beavis and Butthead. They played enough of their indie and psych favourites from earlier days to keep their old school fans happy, but the undeniable highlight was their recent Grammy winning single Feel It Still. A cover of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick on the Wall was certainly accessible but possibly unnecessary for a group with such a strong back catalogue.
While some bands have one or two of those good-times singalongs that all the fans love, it seems like Winston Surfshirt don’t do anything else. With a set made up of Be About You, Get To Know and Same Same there wasn’t a dull moment in sight.
The Mootown stage was a smaller set up catering for DJs and the odd hip hop act. There was hardly a better moment under that marquee on Saturday than when one of Perth’s finest rappers Mathas paced around barefoot onstage and out onto the grass, letting his flow glow with killer tracks like White Sugar and Stone Cold Sober.
Grinning from ear to ear the radiant Tkay Maidza brought an absolute onslaught of rapid-fire bangers and searing hot beats. The rapper out of Adelaide hit hard and heavy with the bounding tune Brontosaurous commanding the crowd to stomp their feet. Spitting fire lyrics down the mic she soon became out of breath towards the end of her set however her confidence and stage presence remained undeniably strong throughout.
Sampa the Great was a surprise package that blew everyone away in the Moolin Rouge tent. With a stage decorated in flowers and moves to burn, her sheer passion and energy was barely surpassed at GTM 2018. Her homage to Lauryn Hill’s Doo Woop (That Thing) was outstanding and so were her originals, as she combined hip hop, gospel and world music with electric energy and glorious snarl.
Cutting through the assortment of groovy dance tunes that propelled the evening, from the pits of their stomachs The Amity Affliction brought the fire. Instantly transforming the crowd into a wave of bodies, the set was certainly an adrenaline spike for punters as the band belted out an epic set. Their performance heralded head splitting screams from the audience led by hardcore singalong choruses that oozed emotion. Everything they offered was authentic, meaningful and hugely enjoyable, particularly their massive opener I Bring The Weather With Me.
Just as the natural light began to wane no one could have could been more perfectly placed to kick things up a notch than Aussie rock legends Grinspoon. They didn’t skimp on the hits at all, instead rolling them out like a red carpet for their regal riffs with Ready 1, Hard Act to Follow and Just Ace setting the crowd into raptures. Despite firing on all cylinders as a four-piece, it was impossible to take your eyes off frontman Phil Jameson as he riled up the audience with his stage antics, especially on the perennial favourite Champion.
Speaking of champions, there was no other individual that held quite the same level of esteem and universal appreciation on Saturday that Paul Kelly did. It’s often a revelation to encounter how many of his songs you actually know all the words to without necessarily realising they were written by him. From Little Things Big Things Grow had the crowd swaying in submission from the onset, while Before Too Long and the sizzling organ riffs throughout drew the masses to the Triple J stage like moths to a lamp. Icon that he is, Paul Kelly has never been one to make his live shows all about him, and with such amazing musicians and vocalists by his side it’s no surprise. When backing singer Vika Bull belted out the lead to Sweet Guy it felt like the crowning moment of the festival. Moments later the opening piano line for To Her Door kicked in and it was clear even a performance like that could go to even greater heights.
From there the night hit a welcome West Coast hip hop bracket with Oregon rapper Amine prompting everyone to turn their phone lights on for his hit song Spice Girl (after playing Wannabe as an intro) while Californian DUCKWRTH showcased his blend of rap, soul and funk on the Triple J stage.
The Moolin Rouge tent was heaving from the start to finish of Duke Dumont’s slick set, jam-packed with relentless beats and infectious vocals. Overflowing from all angles as far as the eye could see there were punters eager to feel the bass of his pumping tunes that flowed so smoothly from one to the next. The man knows how to work the crowd and provided the nostalgic sing-alongs he knew we were craving. Dumont killed it with a commanding performance highlighted by his hit track Ocean Drive which dropped with an intoxicating intensity as confetti exploded over an electric crowd.
Royal Blood certainly claimed the prize for loudest band. With nightfall well and truly set in the blistering riffs of Figure It Out and Out of the Black were somehow made to seem even bigger with a mesmerising light show behind it.
Closing the Moolin Rouge stage with high spirits and heart warming ballads, Ball Park Music glowed in their quirky brilliance. Kicking off with She Only Loves Me When I’m There the infectious, grating guitar got the crowd dancing as the band moved on through a satisfying blend of their older classics and newer material spanning all five of their albums. Exactly How You Are rained down with a massive response from the audience as the beloved Brisbane band brought strangers together in swaying synchronicity. Giant beach balls bounced above the crowds heads and confetti burst from the stage while front man Sam Cromack delivered heartfelt thanks to their fans.
Flight Facilities closed the main stages with a set that eased the crowds into post-festival existence. Their blend of very human song writing and slick electronic production hit the spot perfectly as the crowd swayed through hit after hit. Finishing it up with Crave You they requested everyone got on someone’s shoulders, tentatively asking whether security would be “cool with that?” It appeared they were as by now a massive day of highlights had even sapped the will to not have a good time out of them like it had everyone else.
GTM 2018 offered multiple highlights across the day – from fresh new acts rising to the occasion to acclaimed veterans showing everyone how it’s done. While it may be as much about logistics as it is about art, nothing truly beats experiencing the big acts on the big stages towards the end of a massive day when the sun is down and everyone’s letting their hair down a bit. In that sense the likes of Grinspoon, Paul Kelly, Royal Blood and Ball Park Music were the cream that rose to the top, but as the crowd spewed out onto Bussell Highway as the clock approached midnight it seemed no one was going home with anything less than awesome memories and experiences for the day – even though no two festival experiences are exactly, or even remotely, alike.
SARAH DAY & BRAYDEN EDWARDS
Photos by Owen Gregory