A drive to Bendigo is a decent idea for any Saturday, but when Australia’s only regional touring festival is making it’s annual stop at the Prince of Wales Showground it becomes pretty much a necessity. Obviously I’m not the only one who shares this sentiment as there was plenty of cars heading up the Calder Highway who were obviously heading to Groovin’ The Moo.

Bendigo locals Outlines did a great job opening the Triple J stage and drew a decent crowd in doing so. My Echo were on next and while they played an equally impressive set for such an early slot, the crowd didn’t seem as into it with a larger contingent heading over to the Moolin’ Rouge stage to experience the wizardry of DD Dumbo’s one man show. The set seemed equally confusing and captivating for most of the audience but as soon as he played ‘Tropical Oceans’ it was obvious that’s what most of then were waiting for.

Lurch and Chief commanded the crowd at the main stage for their solid 20 minute set and by the time they were done the crowd had grown significantly, partly for them but also in preparation for Robert Delong. While I usually share the same sort of disdain for electronic artists as Arcade Fire, I couldn’t help but be impressed and entertained by Delong’s unique approach and eccentric showmanship behind his table of toys. About halfway through the set I headed over to check out Andy Bull but I couldn’t get into it and just felt myself being pulled back to the main stage to catch the end of Delong’s set.

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As he came on stage, Illy was clearly so excited that he forgot where he was asking the crowd “Maitland… Bendigo what the fuck is going on?” but within seconds it didn’t matter anyway, the suddenly massive crowd of fans had their hands in the air, bouncing up and down. Illy’s brand of hip-hop is really easy to get into, even for people who may not usually be hip-hop fans and the size and diversity of his crowd was testament to that. His set was definitely an early highlight of the day and it seemed appropriate that the sun finally came out at the beginning of his set, even if only briefly.

The crowd that had waited through Vance Joy’s set just to hear ‘Riptide’ all but disappeared for Cults who, despite a strong set and a great sound, had the most disappointing crowd at the main stage all day. Apparently that’s what happens when you’re scheduled at the same time as Violent Soho, whose respective audience was bulging out of the confines of the Moolin Rouge tent and still growing. The guys are acutely aware of their sudden explosion in popularity and after ‘Love is a Heavy Word’, asked the crowd “Does anyone even know that last song? Who here has listened to us for more than just this year?” and the response was definitely less than 50% of the crowd. Nevertheless, when that point in ‘Covered In Chrome’ came, the cry of “HELL FUCK YEAH” was able to be heard over Cults, whose performance was far better than their crowd size implied.

With their disco beats and choreographed dance moves, Architecture in Helsinki changed the vibe of the whole festival within their opening track ’That Beep’ before starting the party and bringing the energy way up with the rest of their set, peaking during second last song ‘Heart It Races.’ The vibe shifted again as Karnivool announced themselves with a dark guitar note. The heaviest band on the main stage suffered a similar fate to Cults with the crowd dwindling somewhat in favour of The Kite String Tangle on the Moolin Rouge stage, although they may just have been sheltering from the rain which finally broke after threatening to all day. For me, and a lot of other ‘Vool fans, $5 suddenly didn’t seem outrageous for an emergency poncho and the rain didn’t affect the show at all.

The biggest surprise of the festival for me was The Naked and Famous, a band who I wrote off very early in their career as nothing more than mindless, uninspired pop. By the end of their third song I was not only shown that their live show was better than I was expecting but also that I need to pay more attention to them as musicians. Their set was great and they closed with their breakthrough single ‘Young Blood’ (the song which made me hate them in the first place) and even it was good fun.

Holy Fuck were playing to a full house in the Moolin Rouge but only about half the crowd were paying any attention to the Canadian experimental, with the rest just enjoying a seat on the only dry ground in the Showgrounds or getting in early and staking out their spot for Disclosure. Out on the mainstage, Dizzee Rascal had a sea of people bouncing to ‘I Don’t Need A Reason,’ and getting right into his grime flavoured hip-hop. His whole set was a high energy, bass heavy party and the entire crowd defied the sporadic rainfall, dancing along right up to the end of closing track  ‘Bonkers’ during which the crowd went, understandably, insane.

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Based on what I’d heard from the earlier GTM dates, I was expecting a smaller crowd for The Presets so I was pleasantly surprised that it actually stayed pretty big with a lot of the crowd hanging back after Dizzee Rascal. After opening with ‘Push’, Julian Hamilton reflected on a previous Bendigo show playing “to 7 people at Karova Bar. This is a lot more fun. That was 10 years ago.” They powered through their set, keeping the crowd dancing to the end and it was the perfect way to wind up the festival before the 2 hour drive home.

Wes Fahey

FULL GALLERY HERE

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