Groovin The Moo Maitlands

James is a rock photographer and James likes his music loud. I’m not just talking like a little bit loud. I’m talking like ‘I-need-some-ear-plugs’ kinda loud.


As we started our Saturday morning road trip from Sydney – James warmed up the car with some tunes from the bands we were about to see at Groovin The Moo, in the pretty old mining town of Maitland.


I’m a writer and true to the cliché – I prefer my music melodic. Anything with a sweet inspirational lift. However, after sampling a couple of the lighter bands, James decided to educate us on some of the harder stuff.


Before we knew it – the energy of Violent Soho, the angst of Architects and the power chords of the Darkness tore through the car. Fists pumped out windows and heads banged close to the steering wheel as we hurtled North.


Needless to say, by the time we rolled out of the car to breath in the countryside and to dodge the cow pats – we were ready to go!


80s fashion ruled as the sun beamed his big old smile on such a friendly bunch of festival goers. The glitter and sequins sparkled in the sunshine, as the lingerie and denim attracted dark sun-glassed eyes from the local blokes in their muscled wife beaters. Bra, knickers and a cape seemed to be the new festival fashion of choice. Walking around the perimeter we admired the old miners houses while the locals admired the parading talent. We would later grab a life saving sausage sandwich from the locals on the way out.


K.Flay charmed us first off, on the Triple J stage – she can sing or rap heavy, but still move like a sweetie. “Blood in the Cut” put plenty of people on feet, as did “Can’t Sleep” – a live talent to watch. Followed aptly by Against Me! Laura Jane Grace screamed out songs from the new album – including the brilliant “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts”.


Warmed up, James dragged me reluctantly to his festival highlight – Architects. Standing amongst the all-age crowd, I had to take a deep breath as Sam Carter let out his first vitriolic growl. As the sound turned suddenly hard, the band’s rawness grabbed the big tent by the throat. Within moments, the crowd turned almost animal as the pit took shape and all you could do was shake head, shake hair and scream. What a live act!


Leaving James to soak up his hard stuff, I snuck out stage left to listen to the melodies and admire Montaigne’s prettiness. “Because I Love You” beamed, as did “Consolation Prize.” A fantastic wreck, I think not.


Sticking to the main two stages for a few hours, The Smith Street Band are always good and how rad is Wil Wagner’s accent! Punk plus Aussie plus lyric writer. Amy Shark stepped up to the melodic plate to fill the big bare-feet of Tash Sultana, while The Jungle Giants tore out the brilliant “You’ve Got Something”.


The red sinking sun brought with him the festival’s headline acts. Each one of them lit up Maitland with musical fire.


Milky Chance made the most of the beautiful sunset and filled the farm with their poetic folky electronic harmonies. “All Stole a Dance” to “Cocoon’” while the seductive “Blossom’” made every one I could see swing. Even our hard photographer James!

Pnau’s Nick Littlemore, came on looking normal, sounding normal – until his voice exalted into screams and his band’s music drew in people from everywhere to bounce. The highlight band of the night for me. “Chameleon” lit a spark that fuelled the rest of the evening. “Wild strawberries!” shouted James as we both laughed, something for everyone.


Justin Hawkins has not lost it and boy do his teeth look good! James bounced and even I bounced as The Darkness provided power-ballad proof they’re not just funny blokes. These boys can play! And fellow northern Brits – The Wombats proved they could be this generation’s Cure. Poetic, clever, lovely music complemented by the best light show at the festival. Arms were swaying, couples were kissing – it’s what festivals are all about (at least for me).


And from the moment the football was kicked into the crowd, Violent Soho showed everyone why they can play hard rock and still be one the best bands in the world at the moment. These guys ripped it up. “Like Soda” rebelled with anger and “OK Cathedral” could have jerked a tear. And what about Phil Jamieson! The perfect cameo for a world-class band and a fantastically run festival that left only smiles and no doubt the odd sore head. Until next year Maitland – thank you.

Written by Joseph O’Donoghue

Photography by James O’Connor