Live Review: Groovin The Moo - Maitland, NSW

14 May 2012 | 12:14 pm | Cara Sayer Bourne

The young festival crowd at Maitland's Groovin' The Moo was geared up for a day of sunshine and sounds.

Boatfriend's chillwave was the perfect way to warm into San Cisco, whose large following came out early to catch a set that was laden with infectious pop hooks that showcased their ever-growing talent. Big Scary's tracks were transformed into powerful sounds live that travelled right across the field, aptly described by drummer Jo Syme as a “natural amphitheatre”. Syme threw her entire body into smashing out the drums while guitarist/keyboardist/singer/beard-enthusiast Tom Iansek played with equal precision and perfection. Matt Corby, the man with the voice that sounds like a beautiful nervous breakdown and eyes that pierce the soul, played a passionate set for his screaming and adoring female audience. He could sit there and make a sandwich on stage and his fans would still lose their shit, yet he does not settle for anything less than musical intensity.

The equally charming The Maccabees shortly followed and while the Londoners were not used to the harsh Australian sun, they still managed a great set that juxtaposed lead singer Orlando Weeks soft voice with crunching guitars. Meanwhile, Mutemath played a tracklisting designed perfectly for the tent where dancing was the mission of the day. Lead singer Paul Meany took to the crowd on a rave-lit inflatable mattress while drummer Darren King got the audience to hold his drums while he bashed out the last song of their set. While Mutemath performed well, there was just something off with the sound. The Moolin Rouge stage did not seem as equipped for bands as they were for DJ and hip hop sets, a problem that again sprang up when Wavves found themselves unable to get their sound as loud as they wanted. Unfortunately, from the outskirts of the audience, Mutemath sounded a bit like their music was coming out of a cheap speaker.

The humble guys from Parkway Drive were correct when they described themselves as the “sore thumb” in the lineup of the festival, but it didn't stop them from putting on one insane all-out performance for their fans. Meanwhile, 360 put on a show for one of the biggest crowds for the day, filling out the entire tent. The guy knows how to put on a festival performance and in addition to producing a great live show, 360 was the perfect host and made sure that everyone was having fun. He asked the crowd to spread out so everyone had space to move and at one point told a group of guys (or “puberty boys” as he called them) that if they wanted to keep on fighting, they could “get the fuck out”. His kindness was proved once again when a girl jumped one of the fences to get into the festival and inadvertently fell into him. Instead of being precious, he high-fived her and gave her a story to tell for some time.

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As the sun set over Maitland, Ball Park Music took to the main stage and played the lively set we have come to expect from the band. Lead singer Sam Cromack was charismatic as always – if seemingly slightly drunk – and maintained a great back and forth with the crowd. In contrast, for the amount of hype surrounding his set, City & Colour was completely underwhelming. Unusually, Dallas Green barely interacted with the crowd and remained very introverted for the entirety of an abruptly ended set that lasted a total of 30 minutes.

Wavves worked their magic with a wall of frenetic ear-bleeding noise, but unfortunately it was marred by the fact they could not connect with the crowd. Wavves plays off the idea that their music alone is enough to get the crowd going, but this wasn't the case at the festival, as most people were too preoccupied with getting to the front rather than actually appreciating the music.

Public Enemy proved they still had it after 25 years, getting the crowd – many of whom wouldn't have even been born when they were at their peak – to go off. The group stopped mid-set as paramedics rushed to take a festivalgoer who had collapsed away, using the time for a bit of shameless self-promotion, but quickly returned to finishing out their set. At its close, Public Enemy reinforced the underlying message of their music, reminding everyone that it is through peace and togetherness we have power. Muscles held the fort on the other side of the festival in a pentagonal prism with ever-changing headpieces, the crowd in the palm of his hand as they lost it to his catalogue of beats.

Kimbra flitted and danced around the stage in a cape made for Little Red Riding Hood on acid, giving energy and colour to a set that could have been stale if done by a lesser performer. Her incredible vocals were given free range in a live setting, adding even more personality to her songs than was already presented.

Watching Hilltop Hoods was like watching some kind of musical super-Pope hold communion. The entire Maitland field was filled out with thousands all bowing to every whim of the hip hop group, jumping and pumping their hands in the air. However, their constant stopping of songs to question the crowd's enjoyment of the set unfortunately overshadowed Hilltop Hoods' best of set. To do it once or twice is natural for a number of artists, but their constant need for approval tarnished their otherwise enigmatic performance.

To the other stage, Digitalism played a lacklustre set that seemed to use a brilliant light show to make up for stage presence. The duo were very refined and controlled, but much of it just felt like a DJ show and was not one of their best live performances. Kaiser Chiefs took to the stage swiftly after Hilltop Hoods and went straight into Never Miss A Beat. The dapper English gentlemen got the crowd wound up with a dynamic performance of their most well-known and loved tracks. Lead singer Ricky Wilson is known for his onstage antics and he did not fail to deliver. Wilson took to the crowd, traversed scaffolding and at one point taped a wireless microphone to his hand, grabbed the keyboardist and took a ride on the reverse bungee Slingshot, all whilst still managing to sing in tune. Kaiser Chiefs truly played for the crowd and the audience lapped it up as they sang every song word for word and beckoned to every one of Wilson's calls for screams or shouts. Finishing off with Oh My God, the boys left the stage and despite of pleas for an encore, did not return.

While much praise can be given for the music, much less can be said for some aspects of the crowd. Like the seedy underside of every festival, for many people Groovin' The Moo was an excuse to go out and get as destroyed as humanly possible and they did so with great success. Well done, you were a gloriously grotesque vision to behold.