Groovin 2014 – Why it’s impossible not to love rural music festivals
First held in 2005, Groovin’ the Moo is a uniquely Australian music festival with a rural flavour. It is the only festival tour in Australia featuring contemporary music to play more than several locations without passing through a capital city (apart from Canberra). Its first year featured just one location; Gloucester in NSW, where it has never returned. Over the following years it expanded to Maitland, Townsville, Bendigo, Canberra and Bunbury, whilst also featuring brief stints in Darwin and Albury.
This weekend just gone saw Groovin’ 2014 kick off at newly added location Oakbank in South Australia, as well as in Maitland and Canberra. There are some pretty awesome benefits enjoyed by Groovin’ the Moo as a result of being an exclusively rural event. One aspect that has driven several venues including Oakbank, Bendigo and Maitland to sell out this year is the incredibly reasonable ticket prices enjoyed by festival-goers. Presumably as a result of rural venues being cheaper to hire, this years tickets are still selling for less than $100, which is pretty amazing considering the excellent line-up of local and international stars as well as the exorbitant prices charged by many city-based festivals.
The rural vibe produced at somewhere like Maitland show ground is also a massive plus for attendees, especially those keen to get away from the arrogance and steroid-infused atmosphere of city festivals like Stereosonic. Despite a much more relaxed police and sniffer-dog presence, drug-use doesn’t feel out-of-hand at any point, and fights are minimal.
Each year Groovin’ seems to attract bigger and better names in its line-up, and 2014 has so far been its most successful year. The Maitland leg began with a bunch of super energetic performances from the likes the indie-rockers The Jungle Giants, rappers Allday and Illy. Robert Delong and The Kite String Tangle also put on engaging shows, singing and using an impressive array of electronic hardware during their very live sets. Vance Joy teased his crowd by not playing Rip Tide until his final song, but it didn’t disappoint.
As the day went on, the rain stayed away, but it became apparent that this could’ve easily been renamed Groovin’ the Mud. Maitland show ground gradually progressed into a mud bath, but this did not deter partiers, especially a particularly enthusiastic and intoxicated group of young men who entertained those who had grabbed a good spot to see Architecture in Helsinki with a series of forward flips, belly-slides and mud wrestling.
As night came around, the cold temperatures we had prepared for didn’t eventuate, and I found myself relatively close to the front of Wave Racer’s set in the Moolin Rouge tent. After a typically awesome set including the debut of some previously unheard material, Jake Stone from Bluejuice, who was filling in between sets informed us it was Wave Racer’s birthday, and had the crowd sing a rousing rendition of the first verse of happy birthday, a very cool moment to be a part of.
The rest of the evening comprised polished performances by The Jezabels, The Naked and Famous, The Presets and Holy Fuck. What So Not psyched up the crowd in typical fashion with a surprise appearance from Harley Stretton halfway through. However, the absolute highlight and unrivaled best performance of the day came from UK brothers Disclosure. In the prime final slot in the Moolin Rouge tent, the boys wowed a capacity audience with their masterful use of live drums, live guitars, bass, keyboard and synths. Disclosure proved their meteoric rise has not been a fluke, with an absolutely seamless set including all their biggest hits. They closed with Latch ft. Sam Smith, and the crowd could not have been more disappointed that it was over.
By Alexander Wilson
Photography by Charlie Hardy