Festival punters can be a funny bunch. The snarl of Canberra’s cold failed to deter a staggering number of ‘short-shorts and singlet’ fans as they marched through the gates of the UC Meadows. It was a baffling image, but understandable. Groovin’ The Moo is a festival that evokes optimism and a well-deserved sense of excitement each year, and 2012 was no exception.

Under the Moolin Rouge tent, Canberra’s own Super Best Friends kicked off the day with their unapologetically raw and enjoyable brand of rock. Bassist Matt Roberts was captivating as he leapt all over the stage, throwing himself around in a well of positivity despite having the hard task opening the day. Their twenty minute slot felt short, but as vocalist and guitarist Johnny Barrington yelled to the slowly amassing crowd “We got a club, the billionaires club,” it was hard to not want to be part it – whatever it might be. Where can we sign up?

Over at the Channel [V] stage, San Cisco walked out in the languid gaze of the sun to start their early set. Most will no doubt be familiar with their hit single ‘Awkward’, and the crowd at Canberra were no different. It’s hard to go wrong with a set of cheery indie pop at a festival, and to their credit, their performance was exceptionally tight and strong for such a young band. In any other setting, you could argue they were lacking in variation, but today, they were near-perfect. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was hard to not let loose and enjoy them as the festival atmosphere started building.

Melbourne duo Big Scary were up straight after, and my, were they impressive. Playing everything between explosive, blues-tinged rock, to slow-burning, understated keyboard ballads, Tom Iansek and Jo Syme effortlessly stole everyone’s attention. Part of their charm lies in the fact that they seem so down to earth, but it was equally as mesmerising to see them interact as a duo. Their performance cemented them as a band with enormous potential and creative longevity. If you get a chance, see them live. They’re refreshing to watch, and were one of the clear stand-outs on the day.

There are two possibilities regarding the timing of Mutemath’s set under the Moolin tent. Either somewhere along the line, an act ended early, pushing everything else forward, or Mutemath cut their playing time fifteen minutes short. They didn’t play “Typical”, which would have gone down a treat with the enthusiastic crowd. That aside, being introduced to the instrumental wonder of “Reset”, from the band’s debut EP of the same name, was a mind-blowing experience. Lead vocalist Paul Meany was an exceptional frontman – one of the most entertaining performers on the day – and the whole band put on a great show. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get a bit more of it.

The Getaway Plan were up next on the triple j stage, and their grandiose, dramatic rock translated perfectly live. The beautiful “Heartstone” stood out as percussion duties were shared by multiple band members, and vocalist Matthew Wright’s emotive performance throughout their set kept everyone on their feet. Closer “Where The City Meets The Sea” heralded a predictably massive reaction from the crowd, and rightly so – The Getaway Plan know how to put on a show.

It’s impossible to deny the charm of Ball Park Music’s frontman Sam Cromack. Their set was permeated with his charismatic and up-front banter, and despite the encroaching darkness and cold, it was hard not to grin – introducing themselves as One Direction no doubt brought smiles to more than a few crowd members. Their bright, often humourous, and always catchy songs had large portions of the crowd singing along, and I find it hard to imagine them not winning over some new fans that night.

Soon after, City and Colour walked onto the Channel [V] stage to rapturous applause – but what else would you expect? Dallas Green is a popular man these days, increasingly so since he left Alexisonfire to focus on his solo work. Fans hanging out for popular hit “The Girl” would have left a little disappointed, however when gems like “Weightless” and “Waiting…” were heard, how could anyone have felt unsatisfied? Green’s voice was beautiful as it rang across the Meadows, and his backing band filled out his sound without marring any of its inherent delicacy. However his lack of crowd engagement felt a bit disappointing.

That was quickly countered by Bluejuice, who are an unstoppable force live. The band’s set and costumes glowed in the dark, and as frontmen Jake and Stav walked onto the stage, the tent erupted. Launching into “Can’t Keep Up” – the opener of their latest album Company – the band began a set filled with crowd-pleasing fan-favourites. It would be impossible to overstate how their trademark quirkiness and energy lifted the crowd’s energy, as they ran through hits like “Vitriol” and “Shock”, and it was a sight to behold. Even against an amazing line-up, nothing topped Bluejuice for pure fun that night.

Walking towards the triple j stage shorlty after provided a special sight: hundreds upon hundreds of arms flung in the air as the Hilltop Hoods threw themselves around the stage, spitting line after line out to the buzzing crowd. Bringing out hits like “The Nosebleed Section” and “Chase That Feeling”, alongside newer material, it was a typical festival set, and they worked it well. It felt almost awkward to see them try and play games with the crowd though, stopping and starting songs on more than a few occasions to try and get a bigger reaction from everyone. It might’ve seemed like a good idea backstage, but in practice, instead of helping build tension, it just seemed to deflate everyone a little. By no means did it ruin what was ultimately an incredible performance though.

Up last were Kaiser Chiefs, and they closed the night in style. Frontman Ricky Wilson had a great stage presence, climbing stage scaffolding, and even venturing over to the rotating festival ride at one point, leaving the band on stage while he was singing and being spun around. Their catalogue of strong singles gave them plenty of room to work the crowd, and they did just that. “Ruby” sounded enormous, as did “Never Miss A Beat”, and then before anyone knew it, the night had finished.

Each subsequent Groovin’ The Moo brings with it not only a line-up of talented acts, but one which caters to a wide set of tastes. Now regarded by many to be one of th emost genuinely carefree and enjoyable festivals Australia has, with people of all ages collectively treating everyone as equals. Here’s hoping that quality and sense of community continue for many years to come, because Canberra’s 2012 leg was nothing short of amazing.

– Jeremy Stevens