Groovin The Moo Brought Coachella To Canberra, But Forgot A Key Ingredient

The punters shouldn't have to shh each other to hear a song.

Groovin The Moo Billie Eilish review photo

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Billie Eilish tells the crowd to put down their phones and be in the moment, just for this one song.

It’s the ballad ‘When The Party’s Over’, the second last track of her anticipated set at Canberra’s Groovin The Moo. All day, I’ve heard her name — she’s the go-to act to talk about in drink queues.

After all, she’s arrived for Groovin hot off a huge Coachella set, and her album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, is equally massive, hyped as the lead of a ‘generational shift’ in pop music.

For what it’s worth, the crowd obeys — the phones go down as the song begins. But there’s a slight problem: we can barely hear it. To sing along is to drown her out, so the crowd semi-whispers the chorus. A girl behind me even tries to shh some people next to her, who are trying to work out whether they should stay or leave.

“Can they turn it up??”, one guy yells. “Whaddya reckon, Fisher??”, another repeatedly nags to his friends. Turning away from Eilish, you can see Fisher — another Coachella ex-pat — go off in the Moolin’ Rouge tent.

The two are undoubtedly the most-hyped acts of the festival: Eilish is A Voice Of A Generation, and Fisher’s ‘Losing It’ was #2 on this year’s Hottest 100.

Unfortunately, it’s not just Eilish’s ballads that lack oomph. Even her biggest, most pulsating tracks, like ‘Bad Guy’ or closer ‘Bury A Friend’, just don’t hit the way they should live.

And we kind of get it: Eilish’s music is filled with dynamics, shifting from ASMR whispers to thunder in a flash. It’s no doubt hard to mix at the best of times, let alone to a crowd that pushes way past the main stage’s area.

But it sucks. The crowd’s enthusiastic at first — as soon as she starts with ‘Bad Guy’, literally hundreds of people go up on shoulders, ready to thrash around. But walking around to find a better sounding spot, it’s clear that everyone’s sticking around for Eilish to kick in. It’s not her fault, which makes it suck even more.

As she ends, there’s a rush to the tent: getting closer, you can hear the alarm clock of ‘Losing It’ ring out, as if telling punters they only have so long to get there. They dance to the song’s last minute, the set ends.

It’s clear that everyone’s sticking around for Eilish to kick in. It’s not her fault, which makes it suck even more.

It’s clear that the clash was a last-minute act of crowd-control: a few days before the festival, GTM announced they were moving Coolio from competing with Eilish to a little after 6pm (and shaving his set down to 30 mins). That meant Fisher was now up against Eilish —  and while clashes are inevitable, the late-change even spawned its own Facebook event, ‘boycotting billie eyelash to go to fisher’.

The move worked for Coolio. He drew quite a crowd, though it seemed like they mostly were waiting for ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. It, of course, came last.

Groovin The Moo Canberra

Photo via Groovin The Moo Facebook

Earlier in the day, Australian triple-j approved pop reigned supreme, with stellar sets from Jack River, Wafia, Thelma Plum, G Flip, Erthlings and the ever-energetic Haiku Hands proving they’re making some of the most festival ready singalongs.

And just before Eilish, Denmark’s MØ turned the Moolin Rouge tent into a push-and-pull affair, sticking to her clear-cut EDM hits. Tiny and dressed in all black, she danced and jumped around as much as the crowd, though that meant sometimes there was a lot of backing track, and not much MØ. But by that stage, people just wanted to dance: both DJ stages — the Plot, and the tiny Heaps Gay stage — were packed all night, heaving as if it was a headlining spot.

It was hard to leave Heaps Gay’s unashamed string of 2011 hits towards the night’s end. Turns out you didn’t really have to, as Flosstradamus, the night’s final act, ended on a mash-up of M83’s ‘Midnight City’ and Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’.

But it was the DJ’s earlier moment that might’ve been the festival’s finest — just as Hermitude wrapped up on the main stage, he dropped ‘Old Town Road’. The people galloped in, wanting to hear the hits, and hear them loud.

Groovin The Moo continues this weekend in Bendigo and Townsville, with Bunbury the following weekend. 

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and saw ~30 festival shirts at Groovin The Moo. Follow him on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Jess Gleeson/Billie Eilish Facebook