The weather held out just long enough for this year’s Groovin the Moo to be a sunny success. Maitland Showground was inundated with young punters, showing off the latest festival fashions and enjoying an eclectic range of acts. There were new faces on the scene, like Baker Boy and locals Split Feed, mixed in with classic acts such as Paul Kelly and Grinspoon. Aussie faves Ball Park Music and Confidence Man joined international draw-cards like Royal Blood and Portugal. The Man for what was an all-round great day.
One of the only let-downs about this year’s festival were the lines to enter the grounds. Waiting over half an hour to walk in the gate meant many people missed earlier acts Ocean Alley and Mallrat. The crowd for Vera Blue swelled as many of us finally made it inside, and she made for a great first act. Vera had everyone in the palm of her hand throughout the set, with hits like ‘Lady Powers’ and ‘Regular Touch’ warming us up for a huge afternoon.
The afternoon flew by with other great Australian acts tearing up the stages. Alex Lahey, Dean Lewis and Tkay Maidza all drew large, enthusiastic crowds and they all put on quite a show. The clash between Portugal. The Man and Cosmo’s Midnight was unfortunate, as they both had great sets. Cosmo’s brought out Winston of Winston Surfshirt for their latest collab ‘Get to Know’, and dropped some new tunes off their upcoming album that were well-received by everyone. Portugal. The Man were full of theatrics, opening with a mashup of Metallica and Pink Floyd accompanied by Beavis and Butthead visuals. While ‘Feel It Still’ was clearly the biggest song of their set, it was nice to see that their other tracks were still well-appreciated.
Winston Surfshirt brought us into the late afternoon, complete with an on-stage bartender dishing up margaritas throughout their set. While it may not have been their best set ever, the punters loved the comedy of it all. Sampa the Great then showed why she is one of Australia’s best up-and-coming artists at the moment, with a set drenched in strong showmanship. A nod to one of her influences, Lauryn Hill, by covering ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ was one of the best moments of the day.
German DJ Claptone brought his sampling skills to the Moolin Rouge, getting the whole tent jumping together. It was a fitting intro to the evening. Confidence Man showed off their tight choreography, with a set that was both musically strong and visually amazing. Swift costume changes ensured the set was fresh and full of surprises. Having seen them a couple of times before, this set was by far one of their best.
The Paul Kelly/Aminé clash saw the crowd sharply divided. Older punters tended to go with Kelly, although there were some dedicated younger fans who still knew all the words. ‘How to Make Gravy’ was definitely a favourite, with a crowd sing-a-long drifting across the grounds all the way to the tent. Aminé drew a considerably younger crowd, but they loved every minute of his set. His high energy was infectious, and ‘Caroline’ nearly blew the roof off the tent.
Royal Blood were a true highlight of the festival. They tore up the Cattleyard stage in a way that only a rock band could. Consisting of just drummer Ben Thatcher and bassist/vocalist Mike Kerr, they somehow filled the stage and kept the crowd enthralled for the entire set. They gave a much-needed injection of energy to get us to the end, where Flight Facilities and Ball Park Music rounded out the night.
Flight Facilities were well-polished, as per usual, and it was their guest vocalists that really made their set come alive. Newcomer GRAACE made her mark on the festival, providing female vocals for all of Flight Facilities’ biggest hits. RnB singer-songwriter Ric Rufio was on male vocal duties, and he killed tracks like ‘Sunshine’. Running across to the Moolin Rouge tent to catch Ball Park Music was worth it for the atmosphere alone. Every song drew a choir of voices from the crowd and the band lapped it up. Impromptu sing-a-longs of their songs continued as we all trudged back to the train station after their set.
The Newcastle Herald called Groovin the Moo ‘a rite of passage’ for young people and they’re spot on. Despite being in its 13th year, the festival continues to sell out every year and brings great acts to regional areas. The 2018 instalment more than lived up to expectations, and reinforced why it remains such a staple Australian festival. If you’re looking for a bucket list festival this time next year, definitely give Groovin a shot.