GROOVIN THE MOO: Violent Soho, The Wombats, The Darkness, Pnau, Milky Chance, Tash Sultana, Against Me!, The Smith Street Band, Architects, K.Flay, Amy Shark, Methyl Ethel, Horror My Friend, Tom West. Wayville, SA. 28-04-2017.

Words Will Oakeshott.

French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once wrote in his epigrams: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”; which for those of unfamiliar with French translates to “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”. Groovin The Moo in 2017 made its first appearance in South Australia at the infamous Adelaide Showgrounds, vastly different from its original location in Oakbank. However, the sell-out crowd were once again greeted with a gloomy winter-esque atmosphere (referred to as “Groovin The Mud” in past years), but misery was far from consideration by the attendees, if there were premises to assign to the festival – “victory” and “mystery” would be certainly suiting.

Adelaide-based progressive folk luminary Tom West had the privilege of the opening slot for the festival and brought out his entire arsenal for the presentation. A six-piece band including keys and a banjo serenaded the early observers, although not quite in a spirited fashion, more-so a soothing manner. Single ‘Easy, Love’ was the standout which channelled Pennsylvania’s criminally unknown Koji; honestly though, it wasn’t an enthusiastic engagement but a warm welcome nonetheless.

Math-punk maniacs Horror My Friend injected a necessary burst of adrenaline into GTM and the showgrounds were instantly thankful and receptive for it. These local rioters blasted their way through as many tracks as they could squeeze into their 20 minute allotment landing somewhere between Mallory Knox and Title Fight but with the live intensity of HECK. PB Remains was superb with its loud-to-quiet-to-loud alterations and this was the propulsion required to properly start the event.

Perth’s Methyl Ethel really attracted a sizeable audience, which wasn’t really of much surprise bearing in mind their attention given by Triple J. ‘Twilight Drive’ provoked an exceptional crowd reaction and the outfit’s subdued lounge rock enamoured numerous onlookers who swooned at the band’s oddity.

If there was a “fairy tale” artist at this year’s Groovin’ it would have to be songstress Amy Shark. Her welcoming to the Moolin Rouge stage was arguably the most deafening scream that had ever been witnessed at the festival. ‘Blood Brothers’, ‘Spits On Girls’, a superb cover – or rather re-imagination of Eminem’s ‘Superman’, ‘Weekends’ and as expected her smash hit which reached number two on JJJ’s Hottest 100 ‘Adore’ amazed and truth be told, overwhelmed all present. It must be said that in her short time in the spotlight, Ms. Shark has undoubtedly refined her live connection with her fans; it is of an astonishing magnitude. Exact to her spirit animal, Amy has a bite that positively lasts and leaves an unwavering audio scar on her prey, in the best way possible.

Illinois’ K.Flay provided a mix-up to what had been witnessed thus far, instilling an indie hip-pop explosion into the showgrounds. Her clear passion is overtly evident in her performance; she is as energetic and erratic as a humming bird that has well-exceeded their nectar intake. ‘High Enough’, ‘Another Round’, ‘FML’ and ‘Blood In The Cut’ were visually jubilant in exhibition even though lyrically the songs are more sombre than celebratory. Assuredly, if Ms. Flaherty were to perform intimate club shows, the intensity would be other-worldly.      

For this writer, there was one act that WAS the main attraction of GTM and thankfully for many more it was the same scenario. Florida’s Against Me! wasted no time in making their presence felt, even to the unfamiliar and unsuspecting. ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ pummelled the crowd into a dancing / singing / jumping forced response and literally caused the spectators to throw caution to the wind. ‘333’, ‘Unconditional Love’, ‘New Wave’, ‘Cliche’ Guevara’, ‘Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong’, ‘Rebecca’, ‘Dead Friend’, ‘Crash’, ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ and the anthem ‘Black Me Out’ were put on display for South Australia to absorb and avoidably they relished the bitter punk taste. Laura Jane Grace was divine and menacing in delivery, it was unavoidably infectious and remarkable. Whether Laura is aware of it or not, she has become heroic with her transformation and helped boost awareness to the LGBT cultures worldwide. Thankfully the overdue respect to that beautiful way of life is becoming more recognised every day and Ms. Grace’s beaming smile reinforced the enjoyment factor exponentially.

Thankfully every year the great people of Groovin The Moo invite a band to deafen ears, near-dislocate necks and most importantly confuse the “fashionable” music listeners. The UK’s Architects were appointed with this duty and produced an impact of enormous magnitude with just their introduction alone. Either adrenaline or anxiety became the two reactions of the audience and the quintet made it their duty to expand these responses in the best way they were capable. ‘Nihilist’ suffered a bit of a sound mix issue, but was absolutely explosive and led nicely into ‘Deathwish’; ‘Phantom Fear’ and ‘Broken Cross’ underwent a more-melodic transformation, but when the vicious heavy parts were delivered, metallic heavyweight’s Meshuggah were encompassed brilliantly by Architects. ‘Downfall’ was simply colossal and the smoke-blasters added a very nice effect to accentuate the track. ‘Gravity’ and ‘A Match Made In Heaven’ provoked the crowd into a circle pit and had the five-piece soaring divinely. The momentum was then diminished purposefully by vocalist Sam Carter who beautifully dedicated every song the band played and will continue to perform to Tom Searle, the band’s former guitarist and song-writer. Tom sadly passed away in 2016 from cancer.

To close, the outfit put their entirety into ‘Gone With The Wind’ and amongst the chaos of the track, the melodic-bridge haunted Adelaide with its spine-chilling elegance; undoubtedly it was a wonderful send-off.

The “sold-out” factor started to become really apparent at this juncture and upon approaching the Triple J Stage, an ocean of music enthusiasts were surging toward the barricade to welcome emotional pub-punk-rockers The Smith Street Band. Vocalist / guitarist Wil Wagner may not be to everybody’s liking, his unique croaky vocal style and stout demeanour are distinctive to himself alone; but just watching and experiencing his transcendent delivery of heartfelt lyrics causes an appreciation and even contagion to his honest words. Consistently humble, he thanked all present for their devotion to the outfit as well as his personal favourites Against Me!, Violent Soho and Thundamentals. The “thank you” was deserved to TSSB without doubt and this was acknowledged by an overwhelming sing-along to the single ‘I Don’t Want to Die Anymore’.

A clear favourite of GTM and to be frank, the world, Tash Sultana set-up her “instrument play-pen” to enthral what appeared to be a sizeable percentage of Adelaide; with her multi-instrument-tasking and looping, her spiritual sound is in a word “otherworldly”. Attracting fans from a variety of ages and walks-of-life, the uncountable population of observers were captivated into a submission and basically silenced through the musical expedition. Near-impossible to place a genre on, her songs Notion and Jungle hypnotised her infinite witnesses and sadly the encounter did feel somewhat short-lived as the sun vanished. Not to worry though, she will be “wowing” the nation throughout the autumn months in a follow-up tour.

With the sun now completely absent, Germany’s alt-electronic-folk-rock Milky Chance charmed warmth into the chilly South Australians in the same way a Disney movie soundtrack would. The flamenco-influenced ‘Firebird’ was enchanting and ‘Cocoon’ had the entire oval spellbound; sincerely this outfit were the pleasant surprise of the event.

In the comfortable haze which had overtaken Wayville, it was time to introduce some abnormality. Sydney’s dance troupe Pnau was the perfect selection for the role. A visual backdrop of a nightmare-ish berry fruit, a “scareberry” if you will, lit up the festival and ‘Strawberries’ suitably initiated the dance party. Kira Divine absorbed everyone and everything with her vocal delivery making the show her own, lending her voice to tracks: ‘Baby’, ‘Unite Us’, ‘Embrace’ and obviously ‘Chameleon’ which provoked an eruption festival wide. The whole showcase was stimulating to every sense a human body can undergo; for this scribe though, the performance would have been near perfection if the jazzy dance lounge track ‘Journey Agent’ was included.

Maintaining the slightly peculiar anecdote but with an uppercut of rock’n’roll was UK’s The Darkness; enter spandex, human theatrics and over-eagerness which truthfully divided the crowd; make no exception however, this was extraordinary. ‘Growing On Me’, ‘One Way Ticket’ and ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ were immense in sound, technicality and obnoxiousness executed in superb fashion. Guitarist / vocalist Justin Hawkins was livid in all his glam-rock glory carrying out handstands and even joining the audience amidst a guitar solo in a piggy-back fashion. The only unfortunate happenstance of the extravaganza was the slight lack of response from Adelaide; nevertheless the pROC(K)lamation was certainly made.

Genuinely, Liverpool’s The Wombats were not especially high on this critic’s “must see” list; in reflection though, witnessing the trio was one of the wisest decisions I have made. With a marvellous city skylight backdrop, the masses were entranced and courted by the three-piece’s synth-indie-pop amalgamation. ‘1996’, ‘Moving To New York’, ‘Give Me A Try’, ‘Jump Into The Fog’, ‘Your Body Is A Weapon’, ‘Techno Fan’, ‘Emoticons’, ‘Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)’, ‘Greek Tragedy’ and ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ had an entire festival sway effect with movers and shakers shuddering the earth beneath them. This was going to be a challenge to surpass.

Although a test, Brisbane’s Violent Soho approached the stage the same way they always do, to dominate and relish their love for live music. The grunge-punk favourites brought out the destructive side and bodies were suddenly elevated to head height from every corner. ‘Viceroy’, ‘Blanket’, ‘Like Soda’, ‘So Sentimental’, ‘Saramona Said’, ‘In The Aisle’, ‘Muscle Junkie’, ‘How To Taste’ and the anthem ‘Covered In Chrome’ was the quartet’s love letter to RADS which was accepted whole-heartedly. VS had the world worried with their fake “break-up” rumour they published but essentially the four BrisVegas blokes know “how to start a fire”.

So as Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr had said: “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”; Groovin The Moo 2017 again you were more than victorious and even closer to home this time, perhaps Groovin The Déjà vu is more appropriate?

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