Groovin' the Moo

Groovin’ the Review

by Ben Lewis 

While the rain came down, Maitland’s GTM show was anything but a washout!

Groovin’ the Moo is one of Australia’s most beloved music festivals and 2023 promised to be another spectacular series of shows. The regional festival has brilliantly tapped into an audience who are so often starved of live music (unless they can travel to a capital city) and have been rewarded with a loyal fanbase who make GTM a staple on their calendar.

Over the years, the paddocks have hosted acts like Billie Eilish, The Amity Affliction, and Twenty One Pilots and 2023 was no different. Boasting a line-up stacked with incredible talent, including a range of international artists, homegrown Aussie acts, and a good mix of genres, GTM’s Maitland show felt as though it was designed to be a gateway to the world of live music and festivals.

Sadly, I was never going to be able to watch every single act and had to face the bittersweet task of agonising over the schedule and picking what to watch. There were three main stages in total; the Cattleyard and Triple J stages were right next to each other allowing for back-to-back acts without needing to wait for stage setup and playing host to the bigger and more well-known artists, while the Moolin Rouge stage featured a large undercover audience section. There was also a nightclub-esque fourth stage known as the Plot, where smaller, mostly undiscovered artists could hone their craft and entertain the dance-happy crowd.

First up, I was over to Moolin Rouge where Butterknife kicked off the day with a 20-minute set. They played to a small but excited group of fans and pleasantly surprised me – they play with a keytar!

Next, we had the punk-pop duo Teenage Joans. The Adelaide pair brought their signature high-energy (and high kicks) to the steadily growing crowd and gave us half an hour of exuberant tracks that would have earned them more than a few extra fans. Keep an eye on the Joans, they’ve got one hell of a bright future, especially if they keep churning out bangers like “Three Leaf Clover”.

Meeting the Teenage Joans after their show.

Heading out to the Cattleyard, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers blitzed the main stage to show off their riot grrrl flavoured rock catalogue and sounded as though they were enjoying every minute of it. The upfront and in-your-face group have struck gold with “Girl Sports” and despite being the best song to end their set with, they could easily have gone for double the time.

The skies had been threatening to open all morning and the rain finally poured down, drenching the Maitland Showground for the best part of the next hour – indie acts Royel Otis and Teenage Dads were the biggest beneficiaries of the inclement weather; their audiences in Moolin Rouge grow significantly and suddenly as thousands threw on ponchos and scrambled for the shelter! Thankfully after the first downpour it was only followed by intermittent showers for the rest of the day and despite the paddocks turning into mud fields, the crowd only seemed more determined to enjoy the show as best they could.

Of course, GTM has more to offer than just live music. Along with the (overpriced) food trucks and local market stalls, the organisers ensured nobody wanting to buy merch would go without; setting up a huge tent near the main stages. One of the more unexpected features was the signing tent – at different points throughout the day a handful of artists stopped by to meet, sign, and take photos with the first 30 or so keen fans who lined up. I was lucky enough to meet and quickly chat with all of the Teenage Trio – Dads, Joans, and Jesus – now there’s a co-tour waiting to happen!

Back to the stages, bbno$ satisfied the hip-hop loving section of the crowd with an enthusiastic set while bringing some well-received silliness to the proceedings; bringing up a fan onto the stage to fill in for Yung Gravy and reading a recipe from a cookbook. The Chats soon followed and drew one of the larger crowds that certainly did not go away disappointed. One of the best acts of the day, their hardcore punk-rock blend managed to start a small mosh pit, to nobody’s surprise.

Amazingly, considering their harsh vocals, they sounded just as good as they do in the studio and had over 10,000 people screaming along to “Smoko”, “6L GTR”, and especially “Pub Feed”.

Following the Chats with Confidence Man and Nothing but Thieves was a bit of a gamble but flowed cohesively enough, and Skeggs made it through an entertaining set without mentioning the elephant in the paddock; bassist Toby Cregan’s departure later this year.

Amy Shark was surprisingly only given a 50-minute time slot; when I first saw the line-up, I thought for sure she would be the headliner. A highlight of the festival, she pulled no punches; ordering the crowd to sing along and even admitting to being slightly drunk after slurring her words between songs. Opting to focus on her big hits, every song resonated with the crowd, especially “Mess Her Up”, the emotional “Only Wanna be With You” and the passionately defiant “I Said Hi”.

Entering the festival.

GTM regulars Ball Park Music, are the second-to-last act on the main stage and clearly knew what they were doing for their fourth appearance at the show. The set seemed effortless for the group and received a strong reception from an audience that hasn’t appeared to grow tired of them in the slightest.

The last two artists were playing at the same time, so without any disrespect to UK DJ Fatboy Slim, I opted to close out GTM with alt-J whose artful indie rock style felt like the best way to draw a curtain on a fantastic event. My choice was rewarded with an enjoyably experimental show that blended post-modern elements with a distinct emphasis on imagery, both lyrically and literally.

If GTM had a point to prove this year, they signed, sealed and delivered it. The show was brilliant, and more than worth the price of entry. Even despite the rain and mud, it was tremendously fun, and you’ll be catching me in the paddocks again next year!

Ben Lewis and TuneFM were granted media accreditation to produce a review of the festival.