Two Howlers went along to Groovin’ The Moo this year, only we went to ones at opposite ends of the country. Whilst Cam got first dibs in Canberra, Emma trekked it up to Townsville for the regional one day festival, that has become an institution of sorts in the cities it frequents once a year. Of course performances vary over the course of the tour, but after heading along (and recovering), we put our heads together to narrow it down to just five special moments or lessons each for the day that was. There were, understandably, a few double ups, but such was the calibre of acts on this year’s lineup, each act well and truly brought their A-game. Here’s what we learnt:
The early bird gets the Meg Mac worm
Cam: I always pity the fool that decides to turn up to a music festival late, skating in around 3 or 4 to catch the “best” at the end. At Groovin’ this year, that mistake was more costly than ever, with a chunk of the highlights coming from the first few hours. However, standing head and shoulders above the rest was powerhouse Meg Mac who has ridden into the spotlight on a wave of Triple J Unearthed and is washing up on shore to a plethora of new fans. She greeted the eager fans with her band, headed by her backing vocalist and sister Hannah. She began with Turning, one of her lesser-known songs as the crowds tried to navigate one of the most difficult to read set lists in history. She also mixed in a smattering of new songs in preparation for her new album. As she said herself, the crowd had never heard the new material, but such was the accessibility of the hooks that by the end, everyone already knew the chorus. However, it was Every Lie that first caught the imagination of the crowd. Not even the rollercoaster full of people threatening to hurl vomit onto the audience could distract from her powerhouse vocals. Meg Mac thrives on being minimalist, putting emphasis on her own voice, backed expertly by her sister which adds another level of intensity through her harmonies, slipping seamlessly into the same tone. The set finished with crowd favourites Grandma’s Hands and Roll Up Your Sleeves. After such a flawless performance that would be difficult to discern from her recorded tracks, it is easy to forget she is a raw, fresh-faced artist just beginning to make her way. I would never have guessed.
The Preatures are one of Australia’s best bands
Cam: It is difficult to say you have listened to The Preatures if you haven’t experienced them live. I use ‘experience’ in every sense of the word. Isabella Manfredi is an absolute revelation, dominating the stage more so than anyone on the day. She has an almost unparalleled ability to switch her voice from a silky smooth to wonderfully potent and scratchy that doesn’t come across in their recorded material. Starting with a bang with Somebody’s Talking which saw her prancing around the stage effortlessly and with enough energy to quickly induce sweating – she clearly she wasn’t going to be holding back. At points, her voice became so hoarse that it barely resembled a voice anymore, inciting fears that perhaps she had suffered some kind of irreversible damage. But instead it hyped the audience into a flurry of excited dancing and a slice of euphoria. One of the highlights was their cover of The Angels Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again where the audience more than obliged to indulge in the “No way, get fucked, fuck off” chant. What is it about swearing that unites so many people? By the time she had emptied a bottle of water over her head and danced enough for it to have dried, the set was almost over, finishing with their breakthrough Is This How You Feel?
Emma: I’ve been lucky enough to see The Preatures a few times, so it’s been absolutely incredible to watch them develop into the band they are today. Hands down one of the best bands in Australia right now, they are so quintessentially Aussie, they could have made the same album in the 70’s and be just as loved as they are now. They make it okay to be Aussie in a world that is so obsessed with being American, and they just wanna have a good time. I didn’t think they’d get any better than Splendour last year, but there was something really special about the way the band, and in particular Isabella Manfredi, interacted with a smaller, perhaps unsuspecting crowd, giving themselves completely over and refusing to hold back. It’s not often you could use the word “timeless” these days, but I think The Preatures are as close as you can get.
Broods were surprisingly, and unsurprisingly, one of the best
Emma: Simply due to the fact they were on before the reason I was there (RL Grime, but more on that later), I headed to the Moolin Rouge early to get a good spot. Little did I know what I was about to discover. For some reason, and I don’t know how this happened but it did, I have probably listened to Broods maybe once in my life? Why, I don’t know. But that’s the way things were, until I saw them live. Creating what I’m sure could be considered as magic on stage, the brother/sister duo had my jaw dropping within one song. They struck a chord in me, and I was spellbound. Georgia Nott’s impeccable, ethereal vocals, and the way Caleb Nott was able to fill an entire tent with his production, both calming and intense at the same time, was nothing short of majestic. I could go on about this set for a lot longer, but all I can really say is a thank you to whoever made this timetable, for if it wasn’t for them, I probably would still be missing out on this heavenly duo.
Cam: The clear highlight of the day was the ethereal duo Broods. After spending much of the day at the joint bottom stage in the open, entering the smoggy, hot tent is always a shock to the system. The duo could barely be seen through the cigarette smoke and hint of weed that provokes mass passive smoking, but why not embrace it? Kicking off with Never Gonna Change, Georgia Nott’s vocals were entrancing from the outset, reverberating around the tent deafeningly. Listening on small speakers or with headphones at home, it is easy to mistake Broods’ sound as one of calm, pulsating electronica. But in the packed tent, this was transformed into full-blown dance music that rapidly tempted the audience’s hands in the air. Bridges was the clear highlight, with fervent dancing from older brother Caleb Nott transforming his hair into an outrageous afro. However, the most badass moment goes to the final song Mother & Father that had Georgia whacking a large drum for the start, before nonchalantly throwing them over her head and grabbing the microphone for the last hurrah. With such intense layering and lighting, it seemed Broods were native animals in their very element that night.
Ball Park Music are always a good time
Cam: It’s pretty much impossible to have a bad time at Ball Park Music, but the gang gave an electric performance even by their standards. The gang was lucky enough to nab the set time which summoned in the night. By the end of the set, the spectacular sunset gave way to a light show from Ball Park, and the music to accompany it. They drew from their debut album initially with Fence Sitter, a typical upbeat number. As they sang, the screen behind them was almost as entertaining, with their famed owl head bouncing round incessantly. After reminding everyone that life isn’t so bad (always a nice reminder) with Nice To Be Alive, the real magic came with the piano ballad Coming Down which ushered in the darkness – literally. Blue lights found their mark and illuminated the audience and the sea of waving hands and soft smiles. However, the real highlight came after the audience belted out “I only have sex with myself” in Sad, Rude, Future Dude, when they played a brief but brilliant cover of the Friend’s theme I’ll Be There For You. Sometimes I think Ball Park exist solely to make us happy. With the lights in all their glory, they closed the set with Trippin’ The Light Fantastic.
Flight Facilities were the perfect choice to close the day
Cam: With the esteemed honour of closing the festival, Flight Facilities had received close to the most hype surrounding the festival. After finally releasing their debut album after almost five years of sparse singles and waiting, Flight Facilities finally had a killer base to work from. Playing the Intro of their album first, which welcomes the crowd onto the ‘flight’ – which was surprisingly easy considering everyone was uncomfortable, tired and in a dark place filled with people you didn’t know. However, the entertainment proved far superior to any normal flight. Owl Eyes was the main guest singer, who normally only features on Heart Attack but nailed all of the female vocals. The DJ’s were mere silhouettes donning pilot hats, as they worked through their set, somehow extracting energy from an audience experiencing end of the day festival fatigue. Hundreds of girls took up the offer to get on guys’ shoulders, leaving me somewhat bitter as it felt an inevitability that a drunk girl would soon be falling on me from a great height. Alas, this fear evaporated as Claire de Lune lit up the tent, doing justice to the chilled ballad. The minimalistic Apollo followed, and the song that polarises those who can whistle with the sad souls that can’t, Stand Still, got the last word of GTM. However, the tension in the tent after was palpable as a giant collection of balloons remained pinned to the ceiling. Surely another song awaited, for the balloons to fall dramatically and send us off in style. It was not to be, as the crowd slowly dispersed as the crew packed up the stage after 10 minutes of the audience demanding an encore. Yet even this minor dissatisfaction did nothing to overshadow an emotional finale to the day.
Sometimes, it’s okay to misread the timetable
Emma: I spent most of the fortnight before GTM studying up my knowledge of A$AP Ferg lyrics, ready to lose my shit once again to the Trap Lord and his crew. I say once again as I was lucky enough to catch him at his Brisbane sideshow, and thank God I did, as I learnt that my timetable reading skills aren’t exactly up to scratch after 6 Cooper’s Reds. However, I only shed a few tears, having been able to catch not only the unstoppable Preatures in action, but was also able to catch the Sticky Fingers boys. Now, I have made my dislike for this band known to a few – they’ve just not been my thing. But, thanks to my drunken eyesight/general idiocy, I missed A$AP Ferg, but gained more than a little appreciation for StiFi. They know how to work a crowd, their songs are pretty good, and I may have even danced a little, though sources can neither confirm nor deny this (yes they can, yes I did). Maybe I’m on my way to being converted, I can’t be sure. All I can be sure is, I really did enjoy this set, which made up for missing Shabba live once more.
RL Grime is the King
Emma: I went to Stereosonic for two reasons last year – RL Grime and Duke Dumont. I braved the brusses to see the two loves of my life smash it out in the only way they know how; by skeleton obliterating bass, and heart singing house. Thankfully, my prayers for more RL were answered by GTM, and I was once again not disappointed by the LA Trap King. Smashing through a monster set that saw people lose their proverbial shit all over the place, Grime flexed his muscles and his music in Townsville, leaving no one questions just who is he, or why he’s there. From teasing his Mercy remix before suddenly launching into his What So Not collab, Tell Me, as well as offering up the epic tracks from his album Core, RL Grime had limbs flailing and booties dropping as gave the festival’s speakers a serious workout. It was absolutely unreal, with words failing to truly relay what was not only one of the stand out sets of that particular festival but perhaps of my entire year.