And Groove We Did: Groovin The Moo Bendigo Recap
By SARAH DAVENPORT
A rush through the crisp air and we just make the 8:40 train towards Dja Dja Warrung Country. A two-hour trek, and on the other end, a day of the tunes that have sound-tracked our present and past selves. It’s similar to getting to school early the day of an excursion. Snacks for the ride, a slight drowsiness following our conversations, anticipation running through our veins. Festival staff welcome us on roller-skates, signalling that we are, indeed, ready to Groovin The Moo.
From Place To Place
Bright and early, the first act of our day is Nayyethwey, a Bendigo local who is giving Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds in his performance. There’s a duality to the triple j unearthed winner’s set that sets the tone for the day ahead.
Festivals usually have a soft start, and get more hectic as the day goes on. But as we sprint from stage to stage, we realise that for a local music lover, Groovin The Moo is quite the opposite. I find myself only able to catch the quickest glimpses of the first of the Teen Trio (more on that later), Teenage Joans, before we venture into The Plot for the first time. A DJ stage that is tucked away under a shed of sorts, and a space that makes a lot more sense later in the evening.
We nutbush our way out of the nicknamed “rage cage” and back into the Autumn sunshine, which is shining right on the star of my heart, Forest Claudette. They come into their own as they debut their latest, Motor in the Sand. It’s a Sweet Sixteen pick here at SYN, and immediately a crowd favourite. It’s also where I first encounter the bee: my affectionate new friend who I decide has more music wisdom than I. The bee hangs around quite excitedly for Forest, who has just wrapped up a tour with Ruel, and it is impossible to believe that it is only midday.
Introducing The Teen Trio
Groovin The Moo’s programmers have gone ahead and done no other festival is brave enough to do: Book The Teen Trio.
I hear you ask, “Sarah, Who are the Teen Trio?”
Let me break it down for you super quick.
First up, the aforementioned Teenage Joans.
Shortly after is Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers: A Canberra punk outfit who defy all odds throughout their set. Lost voices and broken ankles and they still have a crowd that screams every word back at them. The bee also makes another appearance, so you know it’s good.
And, then, Teenage Dads finish the trifecta! We venture out to the Moolin Rouge tent for the first time, and to our delight, the Dads have packed it to the brim. Ironically, condom balloons float around the crowd, but they don’t prevent the ever growing fanbase of the Mornington Peninsula group. It’s both surprising and understanding to see there be such a presence for the group so early on in the day. There’s a classic feeling to the group that leaves you feeling satisfied like you are after a home cooked meal, and their cover of Video Killed The Radio Star is like going back for desert.
Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy
It’s only after the UK’s glorious Sophie May that I get a chance to slow down – and it’s only just ticked over 3:00. Having seen her the night before at the ever so intimate Northcote Social Club, her tracks take a new life in the passionate front row in Bendigo. She sings a 1963 track Wish I Was A Single Girl Again and I’m compelled to call my parents, my relationship with them ever changing. I tear up for the first time of the festival (not to anyone’s surprise) and find out that my parents are also in Bendigo for the day. We’re together but separate, and I excitedly make a mental note to send them videos of The Chats and Ball Park Music later on.
A second wind comes through right in time for Confidence Man. Janet Planet is everything, Sugar Bones is Ken. It’s camp, it’s fun, and it brings us to life again. Back under the tent and Slayyyter is in a league of her own. The crowd may even be undeserving, honestly. A strong advocate of a sideshow, I quietly wish that her Thursday night, 170 Russell crowd could make the trek up North, and bring their energy with them to match the electrifying performance she gives.
By now, the Bees of Bendigo have been my sign of a good set, and how they find their way under the tent is beyond me. But they’re here, buzzing around, front and centre with me as everything around me goes red, with only one man who can give a performance exhilarating enough for bees to head undercover: Genesis Owusu.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Genny Wu, but this performance was something else. He’s something of an enigma. He commands attention from the get go, and has the audience by the throat. They jump to every beat, scream every word. He’s a backup dancer down, but as they help him bend backwards for GTFO, we’re enthralled. So-called Australia’s best live act seals the deal as two words send us into a frenzy: SHAWTY GET!
GTPO: Get The Puffer Out!
A quick trip to the cloakroom as the sun sets and we are ready for our last few sets, which we are once again dashing around for. In the distance, crowds are singing along to festival favourites Skeggs and Ocean Alley. We catch the Baddest of Them All, UK’s Eliza Rose, before we make it back to the main stages. Denzel Curry warms us up in the Autumn Evening chill, commanding attention in a similar way that Owusu did earlier. I learn that I know more Denzel Curry than I once thought I did, and have to take a step (or many) back by the time that Meanjin’s Ball Park Music arrive.
There’s a beauty to Ball Park taking the main stage, slotted between two international acts, so late in the evening. It’s not surprising though. They’re a beloved Australian act, and perfect for a festival like Groovin The Moo. Human connection is at the forefront of their music, and their set is full of gems. I hug my friends tight, for they too have stars in their eyes. Temperamental reception allows me to make a quick call to my parents, too, and they text through that they enjoyed the few seconds of It’s Nice To Be Alive.
To the Finish Line!
The battle of the set times is tighter than ever when Alt-J and Fatboy Slim are scheduled at the same time. We indulge our 14 year old selves with Alt-J for just a moment, before trading stages one last time. Fatboy Slim throws a party in The Moo, sampling some favourites and putting on one hell of a laser show.
We make the first train out of Bendigo, not without a mighty sprint. Disjointed at first, I manage to reunite with my friends in the form of a train seating chart. The commute is not as adrenaline fuelled, but equally as wholesome. Reruns of Kath and Kim serenade me into a patchy sleep, and ultimately, it does feel like coming home from a school excursion or something alike. Sharing highlights of the day, airdropping the 0.5 selfies, and a bond strengthened by a love for local music.
And Groove we did.
Sarah Davenport is one of SYN’s Music Directors and contributing radio presenter on music programs The Hoist, Sunday Sweets, and New & Approved. She loves local music (seriously, loves it) and is a staunch advocate for the fan girls, fan boys, and fan folks of pop music. Follow Sarah on Instagram @ssarahdavenport.
ID: Sarah sitting on green grass a the Bendigo leg of Groovin The Moo 2023. Sarah wears glasses and is winking. She is weating a white singlet that features a kookaburra, black pants and white sneakers. In the background are the two main stages of the festival, and white carnival ride, and blue cloudy skies.