Wwhen something is described as entry-level, it can feel off-putting. However, calling Groovin The Moo an entry-level music festival is done with appreciation and love for what they’re after. The organizers know that every event they put on is at least one player’s first major event – not least because of the festivals location away from your usual Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane venues. It’s not something to be taken lightly, and every year that GTM has been active, it’s curated something accessible, uncomplicated and – most importantly – fun.

Maitland starts on April 22 with eyes on the Teenage trinity: Teenage Joans, Teenage Dads and Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers. Pound for pound you look at some of the most exciting bands working at the moment, all with different angles: Joans with high-kicking pop-punk exuberance, Dads with whimsical Devo-style new-wave and Jesus with riot grrrl-flavored rock . All three score memorable festival moments with ‘Something About Being Sixteen’, ‘Teddy’ and ‘Girl Sports’ respectively.

Teenage Dads at Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023
Teenage Dads at Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023. Credit: Groovin the Moo/Steve Wall

The national contingent is strong this year with a potent mix of genres and energies. Barkaa leads his rained crowd with raised fists and teams up with his drummer Dobby to bring attention to Indigenous deaths in custody with their protest song ‘I Can’t Breathe’. The fact that she does this as effortlessly as the party starter ‘Groovy’ speaks volumes for her versatility and vitality.

Although strange bedfellows, The Chats and Confidence Man work well back-to-back on the double main stage. They’ve each doubled down on what they’re about, rejected meaningless discourse about authenticity, and simply set about laying waste to the scene. Skegss draw arguably the biggest crowd of the day for a rambunctious but bittersweet set, one of the first they’ve played since bassist Toby Cregan announced his departure from the band. Although it’s never addressed, you can tell he’s going to miss that beautifully silly song in ‘New York, California’.

Skegss at Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023
Skegss at Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023. Credit: Groovin the Moo/Leo Kaczmarek

Amy Shark reintroduces herself with a greatest hits set that’s smart and thoughtful, proving she’s still in touch with the common man after living in reality TV world. Ball Park Music, meanwhile, is heading to their fourth Groovin — the first time in 2012, when some contestants were still in elementary school. Essentially the festival’s house band, they make light work of heavy lifting – friends are on their shoulders, lungs are at full capacity, and the joy that comes with ‘It’s Nice To Be Alive’ and ‘Cherub’ is extremely hard to beat peek.

Amy Shark at Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023
Amy Shark at Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023. Credit: Groovin the Moo/Jordan Munns

How do the internationals fare in comparison? Canadian internet rapper bbno$ translates well to festival scenes, bringing a healthy goofiness to proceedings. Denzel Curry, on the other hand, is not here to fuck spiders. His belligerent, fast-paced approach is a shock to the system in the best possible way, lighting up the field with cuts like ‘Ultimate’ and ‘RICKY’.

Denzel Curry on Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023
Denzel Curry at Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023. Credit: Groovin the Moo/Jordan Munns

Elsewhere, singing DJ Eliza Rose is riding the momentum that landed her at number two on this year’s Hottest 100. ‘B.OT.A.’ is closing, of course, but what comes before is frankly more memorable: a striking mix of British garage, house and electronica. One-hit wonder? So what? Rose is on the other side of the world doing what she loves. She has already won.

Fatboy Slim at Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023
Fatboy Slim on Groovin the Moo (Maitland) 2023. Credit: Groovin the Moo/Jordan Munns

On the surface, Fatboy Slim is a curious headliner choice for a festival whose audience is largely youth driven. That’s the thing about dance music though: it’s timeless. From the shirtless kids packing it down in the front to the Gen Xers rocking up in the back, the veteran DJ’s set is exactly the all-encompassing send-off a festival like this needs. We get low, we get down, we sing, we dance. Right here, right now, no amount of mud can dampen this kind of brilliance.

Groovin the Moo continues in Bendigo, VIC (Saturday 29 April), Sunshine Coast, QLD (Sunday 30 April) and Bunbury, WA (Saturday 6 May). More info here

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