The first weekend of Groovin 2018 has come and gone, with Wayville, Maitland and Canberra the first to experience the popular rural festival this year. With news tending to focus on Canberra’s Australia-first pill testing facility, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about the fantastic artists who are currently touring around the country for the festival. We hit up Maitland on Saturday, and here were the five best surprises from the day.
1. Not one, but two Outkast covers:
A well known cover is a great addition to any festival set, and Mallrat brought a new dimension to her own live performance early in the day with a fantastic cover of ‘Hey Ya’ by OutKast. The brilliantly understated acoustic version of the song had the entire crowd singing along and was another example of the young musician’s many talents.
Weirdly, that wasn’t the only OutKast cover that day. Winston Surfshirt’s already entertaining, sunbathed afternoon set went to a new level when they performed ‘Roses’, with Winston pulling off the quick rap verses with ease, all supplemented by the band’s excellent horn section.
2. A day of glorious, unexpected fantastic weather:
As any festival head will tell you, unexpectedly great weather is the best weather. The week leading up to the Maitland edition of the festival promised a gloomy outlook, with rain expected across the Friday prior and the Saturday of the festival itself. Yet we awoke on Saturday morning to a cloudy day which eventually gave way to sun after some short periods of drizzle in the first hour of the festival.
3. Winston Surfshirt’s live collaboration with Cosmo’s Midnight:
2018 has already been, and looks set to continue as a massive year for Sydney twin outfit Cosmo’s Midnight, who are set to release their debut album in the coming months. Their track ‘Get To Know’ features Winston Surfshirt, and has already proven a big radio hit, garnering play across not only triple j but also commercial radio this year. It proved its worth as a funky pop jam over the weekend, with Winston singing his perfectly elegant vocals live for the performance, which also saw Cosmo and Pat performing a hell of a lot more live instruments than we’ve seen from them previously.
4. Blood, Bikinis and Bartenders:
While they might not have spilt any blood on the stage, UK rockers Royal Blood certainly dropped a lot of sweat during their hugely energetic, rock star performance. To the naked ear you’d expect a four or five-piece band based on how dense their music sounds, but the two of them simply rock hard enough for five people, with a set packed full of solos and jams.
Confidence Man are establishing themselves as of Australia’s most entertaining performers, and Janet Planet’s glowing bikini-style top was the brightest thing in the Moulin Rouge tent during the whole festival, matching Sugar Bones’ shoulder pads and lighting up the stage with some great choreography.
Now bartenders at a music festival are hardly unexpected, but the loose units of Winston Surfshirt decided they needed one on stage. Complete with his very own tiny bar, the cocktail maker spent the set shaking drinks to the beat of the music and providing bevvies for everyone on stage.
5. The huge crowd singalong to Paul Kelly:
Groovin this year had a distinctly different feel to previous years, where overseas hip-hop acts and a larger number of big EDM acts have dominated. Instead, there was a real emphasis on rock and live performance, so Paul Kelly, who has re-established himself on contemporary festival lineups at the age of 60, was a good fit. Not really knowing what to expect, it was epic to see such a huge crowd watching Paul, who is unsurprisingly an incredible showman after performing live for so many years. The singalongs to songs like ‘How To Make Gravy’ and ‘Dumb Things’ (the latter of which is familiar to triple j listeners from his 2017 Like A Version cover with A.B. Original were so much fun.
Photos by Luke Yates.