Review + Pics: Groovin The Moo | Maitland

Written By Zanda Wilson on 04/25/2016

Groovin The Moo Maitland edition on Saturday kicked off the rural Australian tour which continues to go from strength to strength at a time when more and more Aussie festivals seem to be falling from grace and ceasing to exist. A strong lineup awaited punters, with a good mix of local and internationals, and of bands and producers ready for the day – whilst rain threatened to spoil without ever following through on such a threat. Maitland was sold out, and we were ready.

Easing festival-goers into proceedings was the immensely talented Wafia. Known best for her work with Ta-Ku, the Netherlands-born songstress was out to prove that she’s a performer in her own right, and blew away anyone committed enough to get to Groovin before 12pm. Wafia may not have a huge stage presence, but the purity and emotion of her vocals was absolutely captivating, as she pumped out a fairly chilled set – climaxing with her 2016 hit single Heartburn.

The day was in full swing when Sydney alt-electro duo Boo Seeka arrived on stage. Following a breakthrough 2015, the boys are now really starting to show crowds what they can do on stage, performing a hugely charismatic set, punctuated by the crowd singing along to their catchy originals. A short downpour during Deception Bay sent the already energetic crowd into a frenzy, with plenty of loose punters dancing out the back of the moshpit. They then close the set with FOOL which had equally as much crowd-participation.

Following such a high-intensity set, Emma Louise was next on the main stage, and she began to entrance us with her chiller vibes and brooding vocals. She wore a sparkling one-piece jump-suit, and was an engaging stage presence – her 2016 single Underflow easily being the highlight of her performance. Louise also had some punters from last year feeling a sense of déjà vu as she churned through some of her biggest tracks recorded with Flight Facilities, a soulful rendition of crowd favourite Two Bodies taking us on an emotive aural journey at the back end of the set.

Getting into the middle of the day now, the elements again intervened – with the heaviest rain of the day driving throngs of people into the Moulin Rouge tent just as Canberran electro outfit Vallis Alps took the stage. The effect was awesome, with what would have to be the biggest crowd they have ever played to muzzing out on some ethereal jams, hyping up a wet crowd. Backed by some super triply visuals, their set was highlighted by their biggest hit to date Young – set of the day thus up to the point for sure.

Drapht seems like he’s been going around the Aussie hip-hop scene for ever, and there’s good reason why he still gets booked for festivals like Groovin. His songs are catchy, that’s a fact, but he distinguishes himself from production hip-hop by performing with a live horn section, adding a whole other element to his live show. Jimmy Recard had every single person in the vicinity belting out the lyrics, and was topped off with a live flautist playing that iconic introductory melody.

When this reporter reviewed SAFIA last year at the third of their sold out Sydney shows, it was unbelievable how far they had come in such a short time. The boys from Canberra have taken leaps and bounds even since then, putting together their most visually impressive show to date. Ben is a fantastic frontman with a stage presence that grows in confidence with every live performance.

SAFIA started their set with an extended theatrical jam, before launching into their set – which included several highpoints especially when Ben got the crowd to sing Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues back to him. The talented multi-instrumentalists pulled out guitars, keyboards and everything else when necessary – churning out a massive Stairway To Heaven/Counting Sheep mashup, and what is perhaps most unbelievable is that they still only seem to be touching the tip of their potential.

As day began to turn to night, we had Client Liaison take to the Moulin Rouge stage to keep us warm. Another group that are still really just starting to reach their potential, the Australiana-themed group had giant water coolers and office ferns out on stage. Lead singer Monte Morgan started the performance with a purple armband on as a tribute to Prince, before spending the set busting out his most Prince-esque moves.

It’s incredible to observe how every tiny detail of their set comes together to create the musical experience that is Client Liaison, with backing visuals of parliament house and its chambers, spinning Diner’s Club cards, and the outback, they bring the turn of the 90s to you in every sense. The End Of The Earth and Feeling were highlights, but the whole thing was 100% the whole time, inclusive of Monte’s wardrobe changes and a Michael Jackson cover of Black Or White (with productionist and instrumentalist Harvey Miller providing the raps, and Monte hitting those Jacko falsettos).

ODESZA are absolute superstars. The American electro duo are adept at playing to big crowds and it was obvious from the get-go that this set would be a climactic part of the whole day. Apart from their engaging light show, their use of live trombone in lieu of a sample exemplifies how best to captivate a crowd. The trombone player stood to the back of the stage, with smoke making him seem like a silhouette, and enough people knew the lyrics to their originals to make it a very inclusive set. Despite all that, their most energetic track was a killer remix of Something About You by Aussie boy Hayden James.

Now it’s time for the big headliners – in an hour set to close the festival with local girl Alison Wonderland, followed by Brooklyn duo RATATAT. AW takes to the stage and it becomes immediately obvious why she’s pretty much been touring non-stop since she released her album in 2015. Her live show is truly something to behold, a light and visual performance that is perhaps only matched by Hermitude among Aussie artists, heavily effected vision of her mixing live is blown up on the big screen as her big WW shaped deck flashes different colours. Lasers shoot in all directions and confetti explodes out of cannons, as she banters with the crowd and screams at us throughout the show.

She’s incredibly engaging, and intensely likable – climbing up on her decks more times than one might care to count. Her own tracks like Run and I Want U have the whole crowd singing along, and she works in her own fantastic remixes of other artists, as well as straight tracks by the likes of Hudson Mohawke and Bauer fit in seamlessly as well. Her take on Justin Bieber’s What Do You Mean has the crowd at fever pitch, and it’s a set that no one wants to end.

That could’ve been the end of it, a fitting and energetic end to a glorious day of sun, rain, and tunes, and yet – there’s still another act. RATATAT have recently released their fifth studio album, and have been going around for ages (they had Tame Impala supporting them on tour as recently as three years ago). An all ages festival inevitably meant that the younger portion of the crowd, coming from Alison Wonderland, and expecting club music perhaps, eventually siphoned out, leaving a medium sized crowd for the instrumental duo.

RATATAT are consummate professionals, and the undisputed kings of the instrumental. Forgoing a lyricist has certainly made them harder to engage with for audiences used to guitars being accompanied by vocals, but RATATAT know exactly how to build a set. Their custom lasers (as pointed out to me by my mate who works in AV), spin in mystical patters on the roof as surrealist visuals played out on the screen behind them. Their better known tracks like Cream On Chrome and Abrasive had the whole crowd clapping along, but the whole performance had an intensely infectious vibe that you could just muzz out to – a perfect way to begin your post-groovin come down.

Photos by Brayden Smith