Review: Groovin The Moo @ Kawana Sports Western Precinct (Sunshine Coast)

Groovin The Moo's Sunshine Coast leg was staged 30 April, 2023.
Solar-powered journalist with a love for live reviews and the challenge of describing sounds with words. Always: cooking, often: thrifting, sometimes: playing the piano, rarely: social, never: late. Living abroad in Japan.

Festival appreciation comes in all shapes and sizes.

There's those thankful to see live music, those embracing a wilder alter-ego, those eager simply for a social occasion and those wild followers of just one artist.

As a teenager, I fell into a category once overlooked by the music industry – I grew up in a regional area, and I was just grateful to be included. And that was all the doing of Groovin The Moo, the jewel in the crown of our social calendar. A must-attend event on everybody's radar from months before the line-up was even close to a release date.

But what made it a must wasn't just the proximity of a national event in our little city – it was the line-up, banging, year after year, consistently bringing in a balance of Australian favourites plus international superstars.

Image © Harrison Innes

Despite my GTM experience ending when I graduated and shifted to the 'big smoke', it seems the festival has only improved each year, without adopting any ego or pretension. 2023 is no exception to the trend of top tier GTM line-ups, with a mix of up and coming talent, the biggest names of 'now' and a handful of decade-ruling music icons.

What's more, I am thrilled to be a small thread in the weave of Groovin The Moo history – attending the first event held on the Sunshine Coast, mere hours from my tiny coastal village.

Sunday morning (30 April) is all sunshine but wet grounds from rain the night before. I was worried the clouds would gather again, but bright blue skies was all we saw. Mid afternoon, I was reminded that there's no feeling comparable to the walk or drive to a festival. It's elation at its peak, with a dash of anxiety and excitement.

I decided to take the bus – seemingly convenient but always troubling. Picture 30-plus under 30s waiting anxiously at a tiny stop for their precious lift. Then seconds ticked to minutes ticked to more than hour, ticked to dozens of ticked off punters. Buses drove by with waving patrons, too full to the brim to stop.

But finally, hurrah! We were off and moving to the Kawana Sports Precinct. The venue may be massive, but fleshed out quickly with the sold-out number of ticket-holders.

Slowly Slowly first, scratching the emo itch not left behind with the early 2000s. They triggered twangs of nostalgia with their distinctive vocals and tight instrumentals. Though no side fringe, sweep of black eyeliner or pair of skinny jeans in sight, the band have taken the cream of emo stereotypes and elevated it to its peak.

Slowly Slowly
Slowly Slowy - image © Harrison Innes

The simple familiarity of their sound alone was undeniably smile-inducing, though fond memories of emo aside, they were actually a real pleasure to listen to. I've loved their top track 'Jellyfish' since its release in 2019 – combining tongue-in-cheek with poignant lyrics like: "The more you know the less you care, science and God are just uncomfortable underwear."

bbno$ (pronounced Baby No Money, I learned), a key player in the changing game of modern rap music, showcased some surprisingly catchy hooks for an artist who toes the line between serious and silly.

His viral single 'Lalala' was surprisingly my least favourite of the set list, but starting track 'Edamame' proved a work of art – funk-driven, and with a beat impossible to plant your feet to.

I remember introducing The Chats to friends in Canada at the beginning of the trio's career. They were delighted by the hilarity of a band that so cleverly encapsulated Australian culture.

The Chats
The Chats - image © Harrison Innes

Cleverly, yes, but not in a sense of writing particularly poetic lyrics or instrumental ballads. The songs are incredibly simple, but smart – tapping into what was once a gap in the music market.

Vocalist Eamon Sandwith looked the part in a red muscle tee with a picture of a shark, shading his eyes with white speed dealers and a sunglasses strap – 'bogan' dressing at its finest. I was surprised by the massive crowd response to their latest single, '6L GTR'.

It would have been hard to follow 'Smoko' and 'Pub Feed', but they nailed it – another piece for the working class man. "Happy 21st birthday to Kylie, if you're out there!" – a rare pause between the fast-paced set. Their energy was epic – thrashing, plain fun, and less repetitive than I expected.

Confidence Man is no underdog to me, though I hope they blew away some unsuspecting others. There are very few bands that encourage me to move without thought – to utterly release all inhibitions.

Janet Planet and Sugar Bones wore their signature accessories of cone bra and shoulder pads, even allowing the masked instrumentalists Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie to take the reins while they changed costumes mid-set.

Confidence Man
Confidence Man - image © Harrison Innes

I adored watching men and women of all ages replicating the 'Don't You Know I'm In A Band' dance, crowd dropping to the ground without question during 'Boyfriend (Repeat)' when dictated by our fearless leaders on stage.

'C.O.O.L Party' always proves to be the perfect combination of stellar song and middle finger, flailing arms forming letters like the YCMA. Sugar popped a bottle and showered us in bubbles – even stripping down to shirtless, to the delight of all watching.

Nothing But Thieves blew me away with their big sound, and even bigger vocals. Conor Mason has phenomenal pipes that almost feel genderless, my absolute favourite kind of singing.

While most of their set list ('Futureproof', 'Is Everybody Going Crazy', 'Forever And Ever More', etc.) was classic rock at its core, pop influence trickled in at times – I even felt a hint of Future Islands during 'Sorry'.

A bittersweet show watching Skegss, it being bassist Toby Cregan's second-last run (Splendour In The Grass, the finale). I've been a long-term fan of the trio and knew that I wouldn't see them perform together again.

The boys only touched on their 2021 album, flicking though iconic crowd-favourites instead. 'L.S.D', 'Spring Has Sprung' and 'Save It For The Weekend' the soundtrack to their signature flaming name on the projector.

I was thrilled they included 'New York California', a 3.45 minute, 2-line wonder. The track even remains in my Dad's small collection of the 'best songs of all time'. Their 2017 single 'Got On My Skateboard' remains a staple in the Skegss discography. The guitar riff is just so beautiful – smiles were for miles even five years later.

Skegss - image © Harrison Innes

Ocean Alley approached the stage with all the finesse and comfortability of a band together for 30 years. I'm always blown away by their musical capability – by the tidiness of their performing.

Their festival performance confirmed, for me, the calibre and quality of all three of their albums. The set blended seamlessly, as if the songs were written side by side instead of years in between.

"I know you know the words of this song. So if you can, let's sing it together," vocalist Baden Donegal chimed pre 'Confidence'. I know it's all been said, but massive critical acclaim aside, that piece is timeless – a work of art.

A black-tracksuited Amy Shark started strong with her biggest hit 'Adore', to my surprise. Her vocals were impeccable – her stage presence carrying all the shine of any massively acclaimed pop star.

She even threw in an excellent cover of pub and club classic 'Mr Brightside' by The Killers – an unexpected addition. Guitar in hand, I watched her peak the interest of punters even walking the other way, turning around in source of the familiar tune.

Amy Shark
Amy Shark - image © Harrison Innes

"Hands up, hands up, hands up, what's up, what's up, what's up?!" Denzel Curry roared into the microphone. I always admire hip hop artists for their ability to singularly command the stage.

He blasted through seven straight songs of his 2022 album, 'Melt My Eyez See Your Future'. Hits were thrown in from 'TA13OO', before announcing, "I'm sick of this old sh.t. Do you want to hear some new sh.t?" prior to revealing unreleased music.

I've been following Ball Park Music since they were fledglings floating down Brisbane River – and though I saw them play live not three years ago, I couldn't believe the transformation.

They are rock stars, truly, no hint of small indie band breaking through triple j Unearthed in sight. They have 12 years of albums under their belt, and they are an undeniably worthy second headliner. Underrated 'Hands Off My Body' was a wicked way to explode into the set.

I was captivated by Jennifer Boyce's compelling harmonies during 'Head Like A Sieve' and 'Stars In My Eyes'. "How was church this morning?" Sam Cromack grinned, after delighting fans with 'Everything Is Sh.t Except My Friendship With You'. "This next song is dedicated to a champion we met this morning! This one's for you Darcy," preceded 'Spark Up!'.

I adored the addition of 'You've Got A Friend In Me', lyrics soothing after all-day festival trudging. I've often referred to Sam's kooky, laidback nature as 'accidental superstar', but there's too much talent for his fame to have happened by chance.

Ball Park Music
Ball Park Music - image © Harrison Innes

I didn't know whether to celebrate or mourn as punters walked away from the Moolin Rouge tent. alt-J were my number one act to see, but most were heading in the opposite direction.

No matter – there was ample space before the stage, three figures scarcely illuminated by the screen. They almost looked like shadows, the lights behind them flashing through the currents of the music visually.

Familiar tracks like 'In Cold Blood' and 'Tessellate' were slightly skewed, but not skewed negatively in the slightest. They were simply real, live-sounding, one-of-a-kind – tweaked versions performed for us only.

"Thank you Groovin The Moo, if you know this song, sing it with me," vocalist Joe Newman cooed. The haunting introduction of 'Matilda' triggered cheers as fans began to recite the lyrics.

It fascinates me that Fatboy Slim remains a drawcard, 20-plus years post his peak. Even at a festival partly dictated by punters born after his prime, his DJing prowess continues to ripple along Generation Z.

Fatboy Slim
Fatboy Slim - image © Harrison Innes

I was amazed by how quickly I was swept up off the ground, soon realising it was on my own two feet. The danceability of his music is extraordinary – it picks you up and swallows you whole, spitting you out in time with the beat.

Norman Cook's face was amplified on the screen, slightly distorted behind his body behind the deck. Audience members of all ages seemed right at home during the decade-spanning 'Right Here, Right Now' and 'Praise You'.

I'm a long-term Groovin The Moo attender, but first time appreciator of the festival grounds setup. The parallel stages are a dream, allowing acts to swap seamlessly – with an extra tent for versatility.

I had forgotten, however, that the overage area is segregated from the rest – far from the stage. The distance first felt unfair, but I adored attending in high school, and with regional areas covered, why not throw another marginalisation in the mix?

As I write this review on Monday morning, my phone pings with a Facebook photo post reminder. It's my brother and I at Groovin The Moo six years ago, baring the same goofy grins reserved solely for the festival, the grins we wore just hours prior.

More photos from the show.

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