Groovin' the Moo, Maitland

Eight years running and regional Australia's favourite annual ho-down, Groovin' the Moo, was back in Maitland. The Dwarf let Loani Arman loose to explore the pros (let’s call them Moos) and cons (let’s call them Boos) of GTM 2013.

I was ready. Ready for the dehydration and the dust, the pierced ear drums and long toilet queues. I was even ready for the chill that I’d feel when the sun fell, and I’d regret not wearing a onesie. What I wasn’t prepared for though, was to be drinking a stranger's sweat and develop a complex about aging.

Two minutes into the festival, and the sweat from a nearby kid was dripping down my face as he flicked his drenched hair towards me. I wanted the comfort of my festival companion, let's call him 'Mr Boyfriend', but he was busy being accosted by a pack of Daisy Dukes, who were draped over him with arms that have never known the threat of dissolving into ‘tuckshop lady arms’. Long hair, mascara, glitter, red lipstick, and "retro" Michael J Fox and 90210 shirts; all fawning over the bemused 'Mr Boyfriend', who had to point me out to his fan club, as proof that he was 'taken'.

Then the leggy teens were upon me.“You’re bewwwdiful!” they squealed in chorus. I'm not sure how they saw me through the haze of glitter on their eyes. “I’m old”, I replied, because I’m from the school of thought that says one should always turn a compliment into an self-inflicted insult. "How old are you?" one Daisy Duke shrieked, as she searched my face for wrinkles. I held up 3 fingers on one hand, and 3 on the other. "Wow! That’s SO cool you still came! We’re 18! See ya!”

As they raced towards the crowd that had amassed before Urthboy (who was, at that stage, ripping into Blur’s ‘Song 2’), I wasn’t sure if they thought I was 6 years old (3+3), or 33 years old. Either way, as I watched them skip like school girls into the crowd, I felt well and truly old.

I pondered the course of the day. I could watch the festival from the safety of the media tent, and scorn the passing of my youth by picking apart the lives of teenagers. OR, I could enjoy being surrounded by youth’s exuberant energy, and be reminded of the joy that comes with being away from your parents for your very first festival.

I wiped the the kid's sweat from my brow, and chose to wave goodbye to 33. At 'Groovin’ the Moo', I was going to be young again. I was going to get amongst it.

And I did.

The line-up was a goldmine, and the more I dug for goodies, the more I found them.

The Temper Trap + Example + The Bronx + Hungry Kids of Hungary + Tame Impala + The Kooks + Tegan and Sara + They Might Be Giants + Flume + Regurgitator + Pez + Yacht + Seth Senty + Last Dinosaurs + The Owls= welcome to GTM 2013.

I raced from stage to stage, I danced (OK, only once), I even yelled a "Yeeew!" and shoved my fingers in my mouth to belt out a piercing whistle. I sank two apple ciders (that's 'partying' for me), and I even took a "selfie" of Mr Boyfriend and I, as we watched Regurgitator play.

And at the end of it all, as I rubbed my aching feet on the bus ride home, I realised that Groovin' the Moo was a pretty damn good way to feel young again.

MOO’s: The Good Bits

The Line Up
New talent was rife: Seth Sentry, Alpine and Urthboy played alongside fellow Aussies Tame Impala, The Temper Trap, and Flume, who’ve all been killing it overseas. Not enough? Want more? How about some old faves like Regurgitator and They Might Be Giants? Chuck in some international drawcards like Tegan and Sara, The Kooks, The Bronx, and Example, and the benchmark for one day festival line-ups is set. I worry for you, Big Day Out, and Homebake. I really, really do.

Oh, bless GTM’s cotton socks! Did organisers know that Grandma Loani was coming to Groovin’ to shake her elderly bones? If, like me, you can’t walk more than 500 metres without complaining about your knees, then you’ll appreciate this stroke of genius from GTM: position two stages side-by-side. A simple turn of the head at the end of Alpine’s beautiful harmony and pop filled set, scored a front row seat to Frightened Rabbit, who exploded on the adjoining stage. The exception to the rule was the Moolin Rouge Tent: the home of all things electronic, DJ / hip-hop / rap. On the far side of the festival, the tent kept those who had beats in their feet (and seemed fascinated with chewing gum) happily ensconced. Or imprisoned, if Flume’s set was anything to go by. The electronic wonder-kid and star of this year’s SXSW, drew a crowd so big that if you went into it, you were in danger of never coming out.

GTM’s roadies are the calmest, yet fastest, cowboys in town. Blink and you would’ve missed their change over between bands on all the Groovin’ stages. Even when the mics cut out during The Kooks’ set, there was no panicked racing around, or screaming from the crew. In truly relaxed country style, the roadies sorted the leads, and brought Luke Pritchard’s vocals back to the eager crowd.

Good music appeals to all. Kids, teenagers, old folk and security guards engaged in a Regurgitator karaoke night, of sorts, with Quan Yeomans often turning his mic to the crowd. Dressed in white with matching sweat bands, the ‘Gurg were electric, and looked surprisingly angelic under the last rays of sunshine. ‘Polyester Girl’ never sounded so damn shiny. And who doesn’t love a band who can laugh at their own lyrics? If they don’t enjoy their songs, who will?

OMG. LOL. LMAFO. ROFL. QT. LASDNIBNMEAZP$!#. SOS. Though I don’t speak the language of choice at GTM (commonly known as the ‘acronym tongue'), I’m pretty sure that what the kids were saying as they watched Flume was, he is awesome and hands down the star of the festival. Freakishly talented, and so damn humble. His parents must be proud.

The Kooks
People fall in love with The Kooks for two reasons: their Brit accents, and their track 'Naïve', from 'Inside In Inside Out'. BOTH the accents and song were on fire at GTM.

Return a Can, Get a Buck
In the same tradition of Homebake, if you return a can to the bar at GTM, you get a dollar off your next drink. Four cans in total per transaction. Sure, that just encourages people to drink more: who would turn down a $5 cider? But, it also keeps the grounds clean of cans, and you get to play "spot the cheapskate fishing through the bins for cans".

I Heart Safe Sex
I’m not usually one for free condoms at a festival, because, let’s face it, they ALWAYS end up as condom balloons, and one of them ALWAYS hits you in the face, and it's ALWAYS just a little bit sticky. What I AM up for, however, is a safe sex campaign that manages to make the words ‘I heart safe sex’ cool when they’re blazoned across a truckers cap. GTM’s national community sponsor, YEAH, worked their magic on GTM once again this year, promoting a message that hit home with the young crowd. Those caps were everywhere.

Boo’s: Bits That Need More Love

Were GTM’s Exterior Designers On Leave?
Closer attention on the atmosphere of the festival wouldn’t have gone astray. A bale of hay would've been nice. Or even just a sumo-sized inflatable cow that you could ride for $60 (which, incidentally, was the price of the ridiculous Bungee Slingshot Ride Thing that was stationed beside the main stages). In the age of smaller boutique festivals like Harvest, whose organisers value atmosphere and reward it with beautiful lighting and decorations, GTM just didn’t cut it on that front.

The Bar Was Too Far
If you wanted an alcoholic beverage, then you weren’t going to get it close to the action. Barriers and security checks separated the drinkers from those on the wagon, and the underage. In theory, that was a good thing. No beers cans were hurtled dangerously into the crowd, and serious drinkers had to stay passed out somewhere behind the barrier, and out of harm’s way. But, what it also meant was that drinkers were disengaged from the festival: sidelined as dirty folk, who had to be sectioned off from the band and the rest of the punters. That's what you get for partaking in the (tasty, oh, so tasty) poison of alcohol.

News Flash! Kevin Parker Isn’t Invincible
With Tame Impala’s frontman suffering under the duress of a cold, the band’s set was below par. Still, even when they’re not their best, they’re better than most.

 Get your spotted cow onesie dry cleaned, and mosey on down to one of the remaining Groovin’ the Moos in Bendigo on May 4, Townsville on May 5 and Bunbury on May 11.

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