After a decade in action, Groovin the Moo has become one of the highlights of the year and a rite of passage for young people, not just in its happy home of Bunbury, but right across the South West. Those behind the annual all-ages festival have always leant towards a youth-friendly lineup, typically stacked with plenty Hottest 100 placeholders from the past summer. But in keeping true to the ‘all ages’ mantra, they also haven’t been shy to rub in a little bit of intergenerational dirt with the likes of Grinspoon, The Darkness and Paul Kelly and more all featuring in the last few years. This year was largely built around the arrival of teenage pop megastar Billie Eilish and so it should be, but with 90s icons like Coolio and Regurgitator along for the ride, GTM 2019 was an intriguing prospect that promised something for everyone.
Like the last few years, lucky patrons were greeted with unseasonal sunshine, teenagers boiling over with enthusiasm and fashion so loud you were glad you bought your sunglasses. This year it seemed like a battle of who could wear less, with midriffs, make up, glitter and transparent attire the order of the day, while there were also plenty dressing up true to theme as cows, or more curiously as Spongebob Squarepants, and various other creatures.
It was noticeable from early on that GTM this year had sold itself well, with a healthy herd of punters already on the paddock for local openers like Dulcie, The Southern River Band (pictured at top and below), Great Gable and triple j unearthed winner Grace Armstrong getting deservedly healthy turnouts even in the AMs.
Angie McMahon was the highlight of the early afternoon on the Cattleyard Stage, delivering hits like Slow Mover and Pasta with her powerful voice and terrific live band. There’s simply something that draws you into McMahon and the world she spins you into with her stories, and you can’t help thinking about how cool it would be to be her friend.
Fellow Victorian G Flip followed on the triple j stage with a voice over intro that rang through the fields in the style of a boxing heavyweight championship and she kicked off the set drumming along to a few fun tunes like Fat Boy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now and The Merrymen’s Hot Hot Hot. She then made way on the drums as her band joined her as she bounced around the stage for fresh hits Killing My Time and I Am Not Afraid.
Down in the shade of the Moolin Rouge tent, Haiku Hands got the crowd involved with some very danceable hip-pop. It was reminiscent of the Beastie Boys (or in this case Beastie Girls) with a bit of Missy Elliot sass rubbed in. On the Cattleyard Stage ASAP Twelvyy bought more hip hop sounds to the outdoors in a set that was just as punchy.
One of Brisbane’s finest talents Thelma Plum followed up in the afternoon sunshine with heartfelt hits I’m Not Angry Anymore and Clumsy Love demonstrating her penchant for passionate folk-pop and vocal prowess. Newcastle lads Trophy Eyes provided something a little harder and hits such as Friday Forever and had the crowd in full voice.
Wafia gave the crowd an endearingly personable set and a tribute to her influences with a cover of Lost by Frank Ocean, sharing her joy of being there and saying how “not long ago she was singing cafes and weddings and anywhere that would take me.” She also played Better Not, the Louis the Child song on which she features and her own classic Better, and everyone was feeling… better.
Holy Holy brought widescreen soundscapes and a barrage of hits to the triple j stage. You noticed shades of The War on Drugs on singles like Teach Me About Dying but there was plenty of localised depth to them as well, often in the folk-pop strain of Boy and Bear. The band has so many more hits than you realise when you encounter a full set with Long Time Leaving and closer True Lovers among the highlights.
Sydney singer-songwriter Jack River was up next, belting out a cover of Tal Bachman’s quintessential 90s singalong She’s So High and strumming along tentatively to draw everyone to a hush in the tender moments of her irresistible single Fool’s Gold.
Back in the shadows of the Moolin Rouge tent Norwegian sensation, Aurora shone like a star, showing off her otherworldly voice on songs like Queendom and Animal with her silhouette moving starkly across a pristine intergalactic backdrop.
DMA‘s provided a welcome breather in the late afternoon sending a hush through the crowd with singalong anthems like Delete and Lay Down. With music of every kind coming from every angle throughout the day it was refreshing to hear songs based purely on the vocals and lyrics delivered with such pristine conviction and a level of sincerity that easily surpassed the lazy Oasis comparisons.
Brisbane electro-punk pioneers Regurgitator stepped up to the plate next and the amount of fun the trio were having onstage was infectious. By pumping out hit after hit like Polyester Girl, Black Bugs and Fat Cop they reminded everyone just how much they had shaped Australian music with unignorable melodies and a sense of irreverence that still hasn’t gone out of fashion.
While everyone was dipping their toe into the pool of 90s nostalgia Coolio arrived to get them jumping right into the deep end. He waltzed out onto the stage like he owned the place, in an Orlando Magic jersey with his head shaved, bar the pigtails. While most of us only know the rapper from a couple of hits, both he and his band brought plenty of energy across the entire set, with saxophone solos on display whenever it seemed passable, but never finer than on I’ll See You When You Get There. 1234 got everyone on the floor, but predictably when those opening notes kicked in to close out the set with Gangsta’s Paradise it sent everyone into a frenzy.
Nick Murphy impressed with complex and textural arrangements and noticeable development since shaking off the Chet Faker alias. Yeah I Care was a captivating display, as Murphy looked thoughtful yet assured throughout, sitting down at the piano as the saxophone once again made itself the centrepiece on I’m Losing while old school fans got what they came for too with reconstructed Faker singalong favourites like Gold and Talk is Cheap.
Hilltop Hoods have become a festival mainstay over the past decade and it was easy to see why. With a playlist of anthems to draw from, they had the crowd bouncing in every section in front of the Cattleyard stage with Chase that Feeling and The Nosebleed Section among others.
Now it was time for the main attraction. If you were hoping to get up close to see talk of the town, 17-year old goth pop sensation Billie Eilish, you might have wanted to claim your spot right about the time DMA’s were lulling everyone into their ballads. The crowds were stretching so far back it was hard to tell who was watching the show and who was lining up for the food trucks. There is something chillingly simple and concise about the Californian’s songs and her persona overall. A flurry of hits showcased Eilish’s unworldly penchant to balance the catchiest of pop melodies with her signature sinister whispering vocal, especially in the slow-burning Bad Guy. Unfortunately, there were a few technical issues with the sound cutting out late in the set for a few minutes, but it only felt like the anticipation worked in the favour of closer Bury a Friend.
As is common in music festivals these days, the night was closed out with a dance act to see everyone out with good vibes, and Hermitude played the part well enough to an audience that was evidently less discerning by that point in the night, the clumsy dance moves hitting peak over satisfied sway on their hit Speak of the Devil.
Once again Groovin the Moo and the team behind it deserve great plaudits. It felt like a more adventurous line up than previous years and the crowd had an awesome time without any noticeable disturbances. It was essentially good moooooooods all round and something everyone is looking forward to being part of again next year.
Photos by Annie Harvey