Review: Groovin The Moo at Oakbank 2016

Review by Caleb Sweeting
Photos by Dave Court

In the lead up to Groovin The Moo I payed special attention to Tim Noonan’s weather reports, to decide whether wearing my new shoes to Oakbank was a good or bad idea. Last year my shoes were mud-cakes, but luckily this year we weren’t rolling around like filthy farm animals in a mud pit (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold, with 100% chance of quality live music and yes, ideal conditions to be wearing a fresh pair of kicks.

The day kicked off with some friends of ours, Radelaide’s own garage-rockers, West Thebarton Brothel Party, who were selected by triple j Unearthed to play their hometown leg of GTM. Their seven members finally found a stage where they had ample room to thrash the hell out of their instruments. They managed to smash out six songs in 20 minutes of hard-hitting, guitar-driven chaos, led by the husky vocals of Ray Dalfsen, who sounds like he eats cigars for breakfast. ‘Glen McGrath’ and their new single ‘Red or White’ amped the crowd, leaving us wondering why they weren’t on later in the day.

As their set wrapped up, I rolled up to the Moolin Rouge stage ready for indigenous duo, Briggs and Trials (Funkoars), to witness A.B Original. I caught them not long ago when they opened for the Hilltops Hoods on their ‘Restrung Tour’ at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, and while the audience wasn’t as big at GTM, everyone knew the lyrics to new tracks including, ‘2 Black 2 Strong’, ‘Dead In a Minute’ and ‘Firing Squad.’ While Australia has a thriving hip hop scene, what it doesn’t have is mainstream indigenous rap – that is, until now. No doubt their debut LP will continue to uncover indigenous injustice in a way that will have people listening on the radio. 

After opening in Bendigo last year, Melbourne singer-songwriter-one-man-band-producer, Harts, found himself joining the full tour this year. Being a fan of the guru ever since he covered Daniel Johns ‘Aerial Love’ for Like A Version, I was sucked into his Jim Hendrix-esque guitar shredding and the fact that he writes, records and produces his own songs is truly incredible. While not everyone knew who he was, it was hard to not get down to his fusion of funked-up-soul. His tribute to the late Prince was also a nice touch, and felt quite authentic as the artist actually had the honour of jamming with the legend before he passed away, “May the legend, the love and of legacy of Prince live forevermore,” he said.

REMI, also hailing from Melbourne, oozed swagger on stage, ‘XTC Party’ and ‘Sangria’ had everyone on a high. While hip hop artists were out in full force this year (A.B Original, Drapht, Illy) REMI continues to bring a different sound to the current Oz hip hop game. 

Brisbane indie/thrash-rock duo, DZ Deathrays melted faces, with tracks from their 2014 album Black Rats, reminding us of acts such as FIDLAR, with a smashing cover of Blur’s ‘Song 2’. However, the highlight of their set was their latest single, 'Blood On My Leather', where violently shaking your head in time with the track was compulsory. 

As more punters started to groove into Oakbank, Perth hip hop artist, Drapht, hit the stage to the rowdiest crowd of the day. Anthems like ‘Jimmy Recard’, ‘Bali Party’ and newbie ‘Dancin’ John Doe’ had everyone on their toes. Even more so, when Briggs and Trials joined the mic for a bit of on-stage banter. 

The Rubens had the night on their side, as they performed hit after hit from their two highly successful albums. Frontman Sam Margin wore a white silky jacket with gold sequins; resembling something from Elvis’ wardrobe collection. Highlights included ‘Hallelujah’, witnessing The Meeting Tree and REMI join the stage for ’99 Problems’ and watching Margin rip his jacket off and proceed to jump in a one-man blow-up boat as the crowd lifted him into the mosh-pit (somehow he made it back to shore without drowning in fans).

Golden Features appeared on stage with heavy-bass and a soundscape straight out of an EDM fan’s wet dream. While US rapper Danny Brown didn’t have any haters over at the Channel V stage - ‘Dip’ with it’s pounding trap drums and addictive synths would have made the money worthwhile for fans of the modern rap king.

Illy, like A.B Original, Drapht and Remi represented Oz hip hop with flying colours, and it was at this point that I realised that this was the first mainstream festival I had attended with a line-up featuring so many MCs. I wasn’t complaining. Illy played some new material, while pleasing everyone with high energy track, ‘Tightrope’, newbie ‘Swear Jar’ and arguably triple j’s biggest Like A Version, where the Melbourne rapper mashed Silverchair, Hilltop Hoods, Paul Kelly and Flume into one seamless composition. 

As the festival came to a near close, headliner, Alison Wonderland, delivered an electrifying set – I mean, she’s played Coachella for goodness sake – she had no issues helping the Oakbank crowd reach the climax of this year’s festival… Well, that was until RATATAT hooked us into their electric guitar-driven soundscapes and visuals. I was mesmerised beyond belief by the Brooklyn-based duo that injected their experimental beats into our ears and proceeded to blow our minds with tracks like ‘Drugs’, ‘Lex’, ‘Loud Pipes’… the list goes on.

Groovin The Moo is one festival I hope we never lose. See you next year with or without the mud!