Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Survived Groovin The Moo 2013

I have the privilege to do volunteer photography at a bunch of music festivals (Southbound, Blues and Roots, and most recently Groovin the Moo) which is a pretty sweet gig. I get to walk around taking photos of people and can walk in and out of the festival thanks to the magic powers of the "STAFF" wristband and there's nothing stopping me from watching bands while I work for a few hours. I don't get paid but I get in for free.

After a bit of a road trip southward bound with friends we arrived at a carpark reserved for staff. There were two cars for the photographers (good ol' carpooling) but only one car would fit because someone had decided that one carpark space was insufficient and deliberately parked partially in two spaces. Naturally my friend wrote "you are a prick" on a piece of paper and put it on the front of the car for them to find. They had to know... they just had to know.

Then we arrived at staff registration where we were told we had to sign a form that said we were only allowed to use a "SRL camera" (unfortunately we had only brought real cameras). I didn't have to start my shift until 2 so I decided to walk around and watch the bands. First up was Foam (aka Nirvana 2: The Return of the 90s) that was led by a dude with hair so long that it looked like he was a mop with legs and a nose who was channeling the voice of Kurt Cobain the best it could. At one point I yelled out "Play Smells Like Teen Spirit!" and the guy next to me laughed. They announced they had one last song, started playing it, then realised they didn't have time and walked off promptly and politely so the band on the stage right next to them could start playing. What fine young lads.

The thing about the crowd at GTM is it isn't 18+ only so you get lots of teens. You've got the 14 year old kid with the 2010 Justin Bieber haircut, the 15 year old groups of girls with braces that clearly have somehow managed to get their hands on alcohol somehow, 16 year old boys on the prowl for hot teen chicks, and whatever other assorted teenage hipster-esque types you can think of thrown in and then segregated from the majority of the adults by a fence that surrounded the bar. As I was watching the rock bands on the triple J stage there was this one adult in a black trench coat, top hat, beard, piercings etc... the kind of serious looking dude you'd expect at a metal concert. He was watching the bands and looking around at all the teens and I could tell in his head he was thinking "I don't belong here... there are way too many kids for my liking... I've made a mistake."

There's something about teen fashion today that looks, to me, like a mixing pot of 60s, 70s, and 90s. There's certain kinds of clothes you could list from each decade and then play bingo with them. I lost count of the amount of blonde girls I saw wearing green cargo jackets. My friend and I were discussing how there were archetypal examples of fashion and how this created this feeling of generic familiarity. We had photographed crowds before and so when looking out at the see of faces it posed the question "do I know that person, or are they just a generic hipster?" As the words left my mouth I pointed to a random individual and then realised... hang on. I DO know that generic hipster! Then I rushed over to say hello.

But back to the fashion. There were all these 15-17 year old girls walking around with tight clothes and denim shorts so short they nearly weren’t shorts at all and I kept looking at these women thinking “Geez… cover yourselves up… it’s really freaking cold. How are you not freezing your nearly visible butts off? I’m wearing multiple layers and I’m cold!” It was ridiculous. How did they not realise that it wasn't summer anymore? Kids these days have no respect for the weather conditions. They party hard regardless.

Doing crowd photography is pretty simple. Stand around with a camera. It is like bait on a hook and if no one bites then simply wiggle the bait... the bait being the camera and the wiggling being asking someone for a photo. Frequently they'll agree, and when nearby people see you doing this they suddenly realise your purpose. You're the camera guy. It doesn't matter that they don't know what exactly your reason is for having a camera because the most important part to them is the fact that you have a camera. Suddenly the relaxing standing around is interrupted by a bunch of teens running up going "can we have a photo!? Can we have a photo!?" Which, of course, they can. It is my job. Then they would demand another one which... OK. You're only getting one uploaded but whatever. Then they thanked me, hugged me, and told me how wonderful I was which was super uncomfortable... who wants a bunch of drunk teenage girls touching them without warning or permission? Thanks? (Fortunately only a few did that but still... ask before you surround a person and embrace them all at once people...)

After taking hundreds of photos we have to sort through them to figure out which ones are acceptable to upload to Murdoch's Facebook page. For instance: any of them with people doing rude gestures are not allowed. At other festivals that sort of thing is pretty easy to avoid but at GTM for some reason teenage guys would see you taking a photo and quickly lean in from the side to give you the finger. Thanks dude? What does that achieve? I'm not taking the photo until you a) go away b) go away. I'm not blind. Anyway, the joy of the sorting process is that I get to sit down with food in front of a laptop (I bought chips. They were really fresh. I could tell because they tasted like dirt...) which just so happens to be in a tent bordered by the DJ stage at the rear of the festival where people uninterested in the real live bands can party hard to dubstep...

Constant dubstep. Constant loud dubstep. With such classic dubstep remixes as: Smells Like Teen Spirit Dubstep, Thriftshop Dubstep, Harlem Shake Dubstep, and Skrillex as Skrillex, remixed to be indistinguishable from Skrillex. BRAWWWAAARAWWUBUWUBUWUBUBUBAAAAAAHHH.

Fortunately this led to fellow friends and photographers sitting around and making fun of dubstep to pass the time. We dug into the clich├ęs, the climactic crescendos and bass drops - everything. That sort of thing is my favourite part of getting into these festivals for free. Not the bands, but the company that I spend my time with. I actually don't know the majority of the bands that play at these things. I go with the intention of taking photos and then maybe finding new bands to listen to based off how much they catch my attention live (Cloud Control is one such band I had never heard of before seeing live and now I quite like them). For me it is a chance to hang out with Uni friends I've known for years and relax as well as go off and see a live show if I so choose.

The night neared its end as I watched The Temper Trap (one of the few bands I knew of and the one I specifically wished to see) perform. As they music played I sung along, my breath flowing out as mist in the cold, being illuminated by the light shining off the stage. I love the end of festivals. The favourite band plays, all the effort of the day seeps away, and I'm there watching, listening, engaging with a performance.

In the end it was fun. Sure, there were things that detracted from it but that's festival life for you. That's the story of my first Groovin the Moo experience.

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