Last weekend, we at Whatsound were privileged enough to be invited to the beautiful Prince Of Wales Showground in Bendigo for this year’s Victorian leg of Groovin The Moo. The day was a spectacularly special one so we’ve decided to do something special right back. The day after a festival, every post–festival convo will inevitably tackle two topics: how much this hangover sucks, and who had the raddest set at the festival. We can’t help with the hangover, but we can help answer that second question with this:

Round 1

This would be the bracket for the official Groovin The Moo BATTLE TOURNEY. With this, we’ll pit off two randomly selected acts and the best will be selected for completely arbitrary reasons. Using this method we will eventually settle just who gets the Whatsound MVP trophy.

ROUND 1

Boy and Bear-15

BOY AND BEAR vs SAFIA

Seeing an act like Boy And Bear following up the lunacy of Danny Brown really makes you notice just how chill the band are. On a stage covered in instruments than sober 18+ folks on festival grounds, the relaxating jams put you at ease even if you aren’t paying that much attention to them. But despite the beautiful melodies, you can’t look past that everyone onstage is much statues statues, as if afraid movement will break the fragile atmosphere. It’s enough to make you wonder if you’re yawning from relaxation or boredom.

Safia’s electro–pop is almost the opposite in every way, a wave of energy that pushes through the entirety of the festival. The trio can’t hide their excitement, smiles beaming from behind their kit, frontman Ben Woolner practically gliding above the ground like a spooky ghost. Sinister organ loops blast from the stage as ‘Counting Sheep’ begins, but not before an intro that gives the impression ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is about to be busted out. Not that the crowd cares, they’re vibing on the energy Safia seem to naturally exude. There’s no way you could be caught yawning to this This first match goes to Safia.

In Hearts Wake-3

IN HEARTS WAKE vs TINY LITTLE HOUSES

In Hearts Wake is a bit of an outlier on the Groovin The Moo lineup, the token shouty band of the eclectic crew. The metalcore quintet have garnered quite the fanbase, at least if you take into account the mass of black band merch wandering about the festival grounds. Folks hound the stage even before the chugging intro, a mosh to rival a riptide starting. While the band suffers being slightly formulaic as far as metalcore bands go (ie. chaotic breakdowns and ‘let’s open this shit up’ banter), it kind of works being at a mostly chilled out festival like Groovin The Moo where they’re the only ones providing metal. The guttural screams and crunching everything is energising, and seeing as we’re only halfway through the day and there’s already a large fraction of folks flopped on the ground, it’s needed. Could do without the mid–mosh hi–kick circles, though.

Tiny Little Houses’ ‘Milo Tin’ is a banger of a lo–fi track, so there were high hopes for the young Melbourne band. And as their bright faces shine out through the miserable Saturday weather, you can’t help but share in the band’s obvious excitement. They quickly gather a crowd of equally hyped punters through their tunes. But other than ‘Milo Tin’, none of the other songs really stand out as anything very enticing, which considering the uniqueness in the line–up is a massive disadvantage. Winner is In Hearts Wake and the Aus heavy music scene.

Ms Mr-27

MS MR vs NGAIIRE

Look at that picture and tell us that’s not one of the funnest looking gig photos (shout out to the fantastic Matt Holiday for shooting for us). Both Lizzy Palpinger and Max Hershenow are larger than life characters on that stage, prancing and swinging about like a cross between cyberpunk Greece Lightning and how you dance in front of the bathroom mirror. Seriously, the joy that you get from just watching Hershenow spin and twist and shake his hips, it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face, and both Hershenow and Palpinger together onstage make for the campiest fun this side of Adam West. The ‘pop’ side of Ms Mr’s synthpop truly flourishes, and normally bleak tracks such as ‘Hurricane’ are transformed into a joyous prance.

But Ngaiire is a whole different level. Glittering gold as she joins her band, the future–soul songstress immediately brings all eyes to her by simply strolling onstage. Something about Ngaiire’s presence alone is something of a spectacle, the charisma that she seethes at all times makes sure of that. The slipping between her playful strutting to her raw vocals that hit like a brick back into dance again certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s an almost indescribable feeling that you have in her presence, but the best way to put it is that as you watch Ngaiire spilling her heart in such a way both effortlessly and profound, you just know you’re in the presence of a future legend.

Drapht-26

OLYMPIA vs DRAPHT

Olivia Bartley draws all eyes on her as soon as the multi-instrumentalist steps out on the Triple J stage, the first person to do so this Bendigo Groovin The Moo. As her eerie guitar lights up the field, Bartley’s brooding vocals hits perfectly, amazing considering that she requires to take a dose of cough syrup in the middle of the set. It’s difficult to tell if its nerves or flu as her voice cracks between songs, but if it is nerves it’s unfounded. Olympia were a delight to watch and a great start to a great day.

Drapht gives it his all but still suffers the same formulaic issues as In Hearts Wake. The difference here is that In Hearts Wake are really the only one with their sound at the festival, while Aussie hip–hop is already fairly plentiful with much more interesting acts such as Remi and Illy. Drapht is charming onstage, laughing off jokes as his brass section stand motionless and dressed full Blues Brothers in the few minutes of sun the day has given. But his fourty minute set might as well have been one song with occasional rests in it. Point to Olympia.

Emma Louise-13

EMMA LOUISE vs HARTS

Emma Louise and her 80s style electronica made a big comeback just before Groovin The Moo, with the release of her single ’Talk Baby Talk’, her first in about two years. To see a voice like Louise springing back to life is a joy, so it’s a little bit of a bummer that her set this Groovin The Moo is so restrained. Creeping about the stage to haunting synthlines (provided by the fantastic Yeo), Louise is quiet, almost on the verge of an emotional burst but never quite reaching it. In the end it’s a decent set, but it still feels like Emma Louise has a whole lot more to give.

Harts has the distinction of being one of the last pupils taken on by the late great Prince, a fact that one can’t ignore as he struts about the Groovin The Moo stage. The half buttoned flowing dress shirt, the fedora that comes off more Justin Timberlake than neckbeard, the lazy way in which he busts out a solo all reminds of the now missing greatness of the rock god. But as his sharp and biting voice hollers out over the Bendigo lawn, there comes the realisation that the reason the set works so well is what Harts has developed on his own. While unabashedly hard rock licks are thrown out by his hands, Harts shows little care for modesty, drawing all eyes on him. Groovin The Moo is well known for not having a headliner, but with his performance Harts makes it clear if anyone on the bill deserves the title, it’s him. Winner is Harts.

Crowd-58

REMI vs DANNY BROWN

Remi wastes no time during his set to get into battle mode. Decked out in a plain black tee and some perfect tartan pants, his words pop like a shot from a gun. Playing Groovin The Moo in his home state seems to have lit a fire in the young MC. He stomps across the stage, practically commanding everyone to keep eyes on him as he tears into verse after verse about friendship, race, and how much life can suck sometimes. It’s exhausting both emotionally and physically to watch, let alone perform, but it’s obvious that Remi gives the set his all in one that pays off as one of the festival’s most memorable.

Danny Brown has a good 9 minutes of warm up before hitting the stage, the crowd on the verge of rioting by the time he makes it out. As he bids the crowd hello in his signature nasal tone, it comes off as more than a little bit of a surreal moment, like watching a cartoon character spring to life in front of you. It’s a feeling that doesn’t subside as the MC and his crew go into the brutal and unnerving ‘Dope Song’, more an industrial piece the way of Metal Machine Music than hip–hop. The crowd practically feed on this weird hyperactive energy, a circle–pit erupting during the first chorus. It’s impossible not to get caught in the atmosphere, not to scream for the hell of it, not to dance stupidly to songs about taking molly despite only learning what molly was a month ago. And for that, point to Danny Brown.

21 Pilots-12

ALLISON WONDERLAND vs TWENTY ONE PILOTS

Smoke clouds the vibrant white ‘WW’ symbol that forms her podium/station. The screen towering above the stage glimmers and shines into life, a recording of what is happening onstage but torn to pieces by a glitch aesthetic. Showboating and jumping about the stage, Allison Wonderland still seems absolutely focused on her overall sound even as she Christposes atop her booth.

It’s this focus that isn’t shared with her opponents this round, US pop–rap sensation Twenty One Pilots. Vocalist Tyler is frequently drowned out by a pre–recorded vocal track on the regular, though one wonders if this is for the best when Tyler sings or raps without it. His voice sounds small and at times simply trails off as he jumps about the stage, leading to weird awkward silence during the set. While entertaining to watch costume changes and flying flailing limbs, as they finish by climbing onto the crowd for a final drum solo atop a carpet of hands the set still feels weirdly uneventful. This round goes to Allison Wonderland.

DZ Deathrays-15

DZ DEATHRAYS vs THE RUBENS

Groovin The Moo 2016’s entrant of ‘act that looks like they’re actually just the roadies’, DZ Deathrays bring the ‘Blood On The Leather’ rock. The duo have seemingly become a trio, and boy has it done wonders for the band who were already pretty wonderful to begin with. The dynamic between the band is pure concentrated cool as the two bound across the stage in a vicious whirlwind of violent riffs as Simon Ridley just goes to town on his drums like they’re in the middle of a barfight. It’s exactly the kind of hype you need in the middle of the day.

The Rubens come on to much fanfare and cheering, which is to be expected of the Hottest 100 winners in a festival so heavily featured and sponsored by Triple J. But despite the near constant applause from the crowd, something about the set just doesn’t sit right. Frontman Zaac Margin comes off as Jeb “please clap” Bush with the onstage antics, feeling a bit too forceful and awkward when strapping on a gold cape and demanding everyone keep fucking dancing. Victor this round is DZ Deathrays.

Let’s check the bracket before Round 2.

Round 2

ROUND 2

In Hearts Wake-14

SAFIA vs IN HEARTS WAKE

There’s no point beating around the bush about this: In Hearts Wake’s sound is kind of dated. Whereas acts like Parkway Drive, Amity Affliction, and most notably Bring Me The Horizon started to mix up their metalcore sound as they progressed, In Hearts Wake comes off as something that has been done before. This feeling isn’t shaken during their Groovin The Moo set, where the chugging guitars, growl/nasally dual vocals, and stomping presence conjures up thoughts not of familiarity, but of oversaturation. Point to Safia.

Crowd-20

NGAIIRE vs OLYMPIA

Seeing Ngaiire perform is an experience for many reasons, but what sticks out like a thumb tack in carpet is how far a departure she’s taken compared to her minimalist studio work. Tracks like ‘Hercules’ and ‘Once’ are completely rebuilt after having their barebones soul structure burnt to the ground and buried, the result being a sound unlike anything else in the genre right now, a grand proclamation of Ngaiire’s being. As she brings out her backup vocalist Stacy for a heartstopping solo over electric beats and twinkling, sinister programming, you can’t help but fall into awe at not only the unique feeling, but the fact that it works so well. Sorry Olympia, winner is Ngaiire.

Harts-9

HARTS vs DANNY BROWNBoth Harts and Danny Brown perform brimming with confidence and charisma, the former. But while Harts is entertaining to watch, there are times where you find yourself zoning out of place. With Danny Brown, you don’t do that, hell, you don’t have a chance to. As he and his hypeman pace about the stage, spitting out line after line about doing line after line, all you and really do is dance, scream along, or stare in awe at the spectacle in front of you. Winner this round is Danny Brown.

DZ Deathrays-3

ALLISON WONDERLAND vs DZ DEATHRAYS

And by sheer coincidence here it is: the most blatantly rock band on the lineup vs the most blatantly EDM act. Regardless of the thoughts of folks that use the term ‘real music’, DZ Deathrays and Allison Wonderland have actually had fairly similar developments over the past year, maturing their sounds into perhaps their most interesting pieces yet. It clearly shows off during both of their sets, DZ roaring through track after track with an unbridled intensity. But it’s young Allison Wonderland who ends up blending together her old pieces with this new found life, mashing and tearing them apart as the entirety of Prince Of Wales dances. Point to Wonderland.

Round 3

ROUND 3

Crowd-51

SAFIA vs NGAIIRE

If there’s one complaint to make about Safia’s set at Groovin The Moo it’s this: compared to their studiowork, the material is kinda weak. ‘Embracing Me’ and ‘Counting Sheep’ come with a punch, but still doesn’t quite capture the energy the band has show the single can have. Ngaiire takes the opposite approach, transforming her normally understated moments into grand stylised points, throwing even her most dedicated fans for a loop with smiles wide and arms flailing. Ngaiire wins.

Alison Wonderland-4

DANNY BROWN vs ALLISON WONDERLAND

AW SHIT IT’S DJ V DJ. It’s funny, watching the show you can actually see a strange bit of shared thinking between Wonderland and Brown, both of which have heavily built their performance on glitches. Sure, Danny Brown may take the more abstract approach with his frankly terrifying backdrop of CGI mistakes and monstrosities, but Allison Wonderland’s violent 80s hacker gone rouge aesthetic draws heavy attention to the fragmented noise that slithers out of her booth and down your spine while you listen. Still, Danny Brown’s brutal, unrestrained, and jagged cross between industrial and hip–hop goes beyond being haunting and into an experience that lingers long after the festival ends and remains one of the most prominent things about the day. Welcome to the finals, Danny.

Round 4

THE FINAL

Ngaiire

NGAIIRE vs DANNY BROWN

In a decision sure to make photographers wanting to be credited across Australia happy, the winner of Groovin The Moo Bendigo is Ngaiire. While Danny Brown’s set is fun as hell and wild in a way only the Detroit MC can be, Ngaiire manages both of these things just as easily. But as Ngaiire grooves to the serene ‘Once’, her voice low and arms outward, it’s impossible not to feel emotional. It’s something Brown and his hype doesn’t quite manage, even with the beautiful lyricisms of ’25 Bucks’. So congratulations to Ngaiire, winner of our Whatsound battle royale: Groovin The Moo Bendigo Edition and possibly the least prestigious accolade she has ever received.

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