words + photos by Nikki May
This year I was able to attend Groovin the Moo Townsville as a photographer for Girl At A Rock Show. My first major festival as a photographer! Oh, how the anxiety was high. It was an amazing experience being able to see a lot of acts I had never seen before and found some new artists to add to my music rotation.
I started off in the Moolin Rouge tent where Carmouflage Rose had some super catchy beats and worked the crowd like a pro by inviting 40+ women on stage with him.
Next up was Haiku Hands who I fell in love with instantly. With songs like Dare You Not To Dance and Squat I found myself bopping along while photographing them. Not only are these girls all gorgeous, they had some serious moves on stage and kept the party going. They were so much fun to photograph. As soon as I got home I found as many songs of theirs as I could to add to my playlist.
After hanging around and snapping a few shots of Rejjie Snow I ran over to the Triple J and Cattleyard stages to catch Trophy Eyes. When I first saw the line up announced they were one of two main attractions for me so I was pretty excited to get to see them live and they didn’t disappoint, they brought a different tone from the other acts creating a nice atmosphere to groove along to.
It was at this point of the day I started to struggle with lighting a little. The Moulin Rouge tent has some pretty consistent lighting which made it easy to adjust to, however the main stage had massive screens behind the bands and Trophy Eyes happen to have a bright red logo on theirs as well as red lighting so I hit a bit of a snag in post production colour adjusting.
However, Holy Holy were a dream to photograph. Not only are the boys easy on the eye but their backdrop was a gorgeous mixture of blues with white and had nice neutral lighting. I had never heard any of their music previously but I really enjoyed their set overall and have become a new fan.
Jack River and DMA’s sets were pretty fun to photograph with some great lighting but I would like to skip to one of the highlight acts: Regurgitator. They had the funkiest backdrop images and the lighting was a dream, they played at the perfect time of day where it wasn’t dark yet but the sun had gone down enough to remove glare. If you want to see a fun show this is one band you definitely you need to see live. While some of their songs may not have been all ages appropriate it was fun to see people of all ages singing and dancing along to the classics.
Now its time for Spinderella and Coolio. Where do I start? Spinderella was another level. It didn’t matter how old you were or what era you grew up in, Spinderella spun a song to please everyone. It was so catchy that not only was the crowd singing and dancing, so was the security and photographers (I apologise to anyone who witnessed me dancing).
When Spinderella had hyped up the crowd into a frenzy it was time for Coolio. I will be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from Coolio but I was pleasantly surprised. That man doesn’t age, he looks the same as I remember from my teens and of course Gangsta’s Paradise went off. He was really fun to shoot and I was a little disappointed when I had to leave the pit, I could have photographed him all night.
After Coolio wrapped up Hilltops Hoods exploded onto the Cattleyard stage. I’m going to be completely honest here, I freaked out a little. Hilltop Hoods move so fast I couldn’t keep up, as soon as I had them in frame they disappeared again. This is the first time I’ve photographed such a high energy set and got overwhelmed. Not only were they high-paced but the lighting was like my worst nightmare: solid blues and reds with the odd white light break. Visually was stunning on stage but my camera and editing skills couldn’t cope. Unfortunately I missed the confetti cannon and smoke screens which I’m still kicking myself about but Jade got some great shots so head over to her gallery and check them out!
Next up was Nick Murphy. He was the whole reason I was there. I have been following Nick Murphy’s journey from Chet Faker to now and have loved everything he has done so I was beyond excited to finally see him live. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy… oh wait, wrong reference! But that’s how nervous I was to photograph someone I’ve admired for years.
His performance was everything I wanted and more but again I struggled with the lighting. The stage as pretty dark with a fair amount of solid blue and red light that my camera struggled to pick up Murphy clearly but I didn’t let that stop me and have fallen in love with some of the shots I managed to capture.
Sadly I missed out on photographing Billie Eilish and Hermitude but the crowd was in a complete frenzy for Billie!
There is one last topic I’d like to touch on as a bit of a personal opinion and that’s the media/public feedback I have seen post-Groovin the Moo. A common consistency I have seen in the media is they mostly reported on the drug use at the event rather than the success of the event as a whole.
While I don’t condone drug use I am realistic enough to know its going to happen even with the prevention education we have available, and while sadly people were taken to hospital from the event I personally feel the media has sensationalised it to much. 20,000 people attended Groovin the Moo in Townsville this year and it works out roughly less than 1% were taken to hospital (I found the number of people taken to hospital was vastly different depending on publication). However these numbers weren’t just drug related as some media headlines make out; it was also excessive alcohol consumption and heat-related illness. After reading comments and posts online I saw the common responses were to blame the organizers of Groovin the Moo and saying to ban festivals completely.
This is just from what I saw during the day: There was a very strong police presence including sniffer dogs through the whole day, there were bag checks at the door and a tonne of security guards and police roaming through the festival all day and night. I personally don’t see how a organizer can take anymore measure of prevention. The overall massive success of the day has been overshadowed by a small percent of negativity and it’s that sort of sensationalism that gets events cancelled. I would be devastated to see something like this either move city or be cancelled altogether over some bad assumptions.
Lastly, I just want to give a massive shout out to Groovin the Moo organizers, the security team, the police and the Red Frog team who worked their butts off helping as many festival goers as they could.
Anyway, onto the photos!