A few years ago, Australian music took a pretty big blow — the death of music festivals. Not only was this felt locally, national festivals started to crack too. It came as a shock when the greats like Big Day Out and Soundwave had to call it quit, packing their stages one final time.
In the immediate aftermath, I would say there was a sort of uncertainty. For a young Australian, festivals were one of the only ways seeing international bands was accessible. And this is especially true for anyone who lived their angsty years in Canberra. No big names came through and it was hard to justify a trip to Melbourne when travel costs outweighed the ticket.
Today, new contenders like Spilt Milk and Yours and Owls are holding the torch, showcasing how with the right attitude anything can be done. But what Groovin the Moo did on the other hand survived the collapse; like a phoenix, it rose from the ashes of its counterparts.
Though never a frequent attendee, I’ve always admired GTM and what it does for regional areas. Not only do they bring big acts to small hubs out of the way, they give local acts a place to play. And this years’ focus on local acts is like nothing we’ve seen before.
Changing locations, 2019 was yet another successful GTM in the nation’s Capital.
It was the first time in a long time that I had attended a festival. From memory, the last time I went to GTM was in 2013 where I saw a young Tame Impala and an aging Kooks. And I think about three years after that I found myself at the after party because a friend got me in. Hoping to meet some cool bands, it was a huge disappointment when it just a bunch uni students too drunk to get in. Needless to say I left pretty quickly…
Anyway, I knew this year would be different, maybe even the time I might enjoy festivals. On the light rail I came up with three predictions for the day. 1) People, without care, will dress for summer and regret it, 2) whole days will be ruined by pre-drinks at 10am, and 3) I’d see local acts receive appreciation they deserve.
And like Nostradamus, these predictions became reality.
I thought the day moved at a nice pace and after following the maze-like entrance all the way to the end you could even say I was starting to enjoy myself. Whether it was my cold n flu tabs, vodka red bull or both, it was a great day to be out for some live music.
At 11am Canberra heartthrobs Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers kicked the festival off and were soon followed by fellow Canberran Kirklandd. The vibe was set and the day was off to a start. Set after set we heard plethora of music from punk to rap to indie, all building for the night to begin as international heavyweights Billie Ellish, MØ and Fisher take to their respective stages.
While EPIC was crowded end to end, offering a smorgasbord of sound, to the side was Canberra’s special secret, The Plot. While not exclusive to Canberra, it’s an oasis for local music, housing our best up and coming artists.
I think so many ways GTM filled a hole in the music industry, or more accurately used their position of influence for good. As I said before it’s great to see big names roll through my city, but what’s even better is discovering bands I can rely on, maybe see next weekend. And that’s exactly what GTM is trying to facilitate.
Can you imagine that? A festival not just including a local competition winner, but dedicating a whole stage? And not only that they let the community determine who plays? This isn’t about who has the most listens or the most influence, it’s about who has the most talent and who deserves to be here. And according to Kojo, the man behind Citizen Kay, this is just the tip of the iceberg. To him it was “bittersweet” because of all the up-and-comers he couldn’t add to the final list.
So many of our local heroes rocked the stage and in front of a steady audience. We saw Canberra hip-hop heavyweights Citizen Kay and KG handpick artists who filled the space perfectly. This included Maleezy, Groovy Daughter, Slack and so many more. And again, what a way for a festival to engage the locals. And as day turned into night, DJs like Brittany De Marco and Magnifik made dancing a necessity. A personal highlight was Mondecreen. How can a two piece be so good?
A good portion of my day was spent planted right there (in arms reach of the bar, of course). And while I sipped at Furphy’s and no-brand craft beers, it was apparent this is what people wanted. This was especially true when guests were ignoring the big names just to see old mate.
In the momentum of the day, whilst I continued to wander, it was impressive what GTM was able to pull off. While traditionally it’s always been housed at the University of Canberra, when they got the boot they didn’t pack up and go home, they found other means. And their this show must go on mentality became clearer throughout the day.
As I nursed a table to finish out the evening, on a good perch to watch people wander without jackets (regretting their costume), I collected my thoughts for the day. Doing so, I became distracted when all music stopped. I believe it was during the Hilltop Hoods opener, when out of nowhere a voice, from the darkness, took over the festival; someone had fallen.
Like a commanding voice from above, it became clear the intention – reduce all injuries. And in a noble (though risky) move in front of a bunch of drunks), all injured attendees were removed. Very impressive.
While it was sad two of my truths came true, people getting gassed too early and those who froze to death before giving in and going home, the other is a much happier. To see GTM support locals artists and see their attendees follow through, is a great way to spend a weekend, or at least a Sunday before the Monday grind.