A long time between sets
The last festival I went to was Good Things Sydney 2019 during the middle of the Black Summer Bushfires.
I remember looking at the dark yellow sky from the balcony of our accommodation and thinking to myself as I took in lungfuls of smoke-stained air that this festival was going to be memorable.
Despite the conditions, I was ecstatic. Parkway Drive were headlining an Australian Festival for the very first time and they were even bringing the pyro kit they used on their European tour.
I will never forget those stage-mounted flamethrowers shooting 4 metre long flames into the night during that Parkway set.
As we walked out at the end of that night sweaty, with noses full of smoke, the last thing I expected was that Good Things 2019 would be my last festival for over 24 months.
It’s been a long time between sets but live music and the Australian festival scene is back and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into GTM 2022!
Groovin’ the Moo 2022: Canberra edition
If you prefer your music on the harder side, the Cattleyard and Triple J stages has you covered.
First item on the pit agenda: Redhook’s 1:05pm set
Playing the early afternoon timeslots is often a thankless job given to bands looking to elevate their exposure and finally make it big.
But you sure as hell wouldn’t know that if you saw Redhook’s set at this year’s GTM.
Redhook toured Download UK only a year after forming out of Sydney in 2017 and they’ve been hitting the festival scene ever since.
When the band went on they begun with only a smattering of people. This soon transformed into a hundred strong crowd in the space of just one song, it was magical.
Emmy Mack, lead singer of the band, asked the crowd full of newcomers if they had been in a circle pit before. Predictably, they all shouted affirmations back at her.
A far fewer number responded when she asked if the crowd had been in a saxophone circle pit. Her face lit up with glee when she realised the answer.
With a one handed gesture from Emmy the lads from Redhorn charged the stage with saxophone in hand.
She demanded the pit be opened, and it was.
The saxophone circle pit had cometh.
Starting with Bad Decisions and continuing for several songs now with extra saxophone, the crowd ran counter clockwise.
As I watched the smiling faces of those in the saxophone circle pit I realised it had been just about two years since I had seen so many happy people in one, socially non-distanced place, and it made me smile too.
Sure, a ‘saxophone circle pit’ might be a gimmick, but it’s a bloody fun one.
That gimmick lasted almost their entire set before the circle pit collapsed in on itself around about the same time Redhook started playing Kamikaze.
Redhook’s set was a textbook example of how to warm up a small and cautious crowd.
By the end of it we were all being played like fiddles attached to amps by a band that has honed their craft here and abroad.
All I can really say is this: If you ever get the chance to see this lot play, take that chance with both hands.
Second item on the pit agenda: Polaris’ 4:30pm set
As Redhook’s set ended and I counted down the hours in the shade until Polaris took the stage, I realised I had come with lofty expectations of the five piece from Sydney.
When I walked over to the Triple J stage and saw a bunch of older metalheads securing their spots at the safety barrier and stretching, I realised I wasn’t the only one.
In the end I’m not sure why we worried because Polaris’ set on that loud and dusty afternoon was excellent.
For many like me, this would have been the first festival they had been to since the lockdowns, and the crowd certainly acted like it.
Muscle memory kicked in for me and a thousand new friends as we ran, danced, and collided into each other like we were trying to make up for lost time.
That old familiar feeling of being part of a living, writhing mass of bodies reacting only to each other and the sonic assault emanating from the stage came rushing back.
Polaris’ frontperson, Jamie Hails, wasted no time as he started barking orders for a circle pit to form during devastating blast beats courtesy of Daniel Furnari on drums.
A gaping hole opened up in the middle of the pit where a stream of bodies descended into it, running at full speed in a large counter clockwise circle.
As a result of the hundreds of suddenly moving people, a massive dust cloud was kicked up from the dirt we were all now running on.
My body ached and my chest was pounding as I inhaled lungfuls of dusty air.
I could barely see four metres in front of me as I ran and stumbled in a counter clockwise direction.
And I loved every second of it.
While I don’t remember what song triggered this chaos, I do remember Jamie Hails commenting loudly on his handy work:
“How’s that circle pit going? I can’t f*****g see a thing so it must be good!”Jamie Hails – Vocalist for Polaris
I’m no spring chicken and neither are my asthma-prone lungs.
It wasn’t long after Hails’ monologue that I found a gap and bailed on my first circle pit in 24 months.
The only words I could make out from my ringing ears as I stumbled out of that circle pit gasping in air thick with dust was just four words shouted from a smiling guy next to me:
“THAT PIT WAS DIRTY!”
As I gathered my breath back after the circular carnage I had just experienced, it became apparent that Polaris and this crowd were not going to slow down.
Polaris went from strength to strength and the crowd matched them at every turn.
But alas, all good things must come to an end, and eventually so did Polaris’ set at Groovin The Moo Canberra 2022.
The crowd that had amassed at the Triple J stage that afternoon went their separate ways.
Some with faces caked in dust trudged to water stations while others sat down in the dirt where they had been moshing just minutes before.
I made my way to the water station and then sat down against a fence in a shaded grassy area so I could catch my breath and process what had just happened.
As my brain started its full body reminder that I’m not as young as I was pre-pandemic, all I could think about was how glad I was that festivals, and mosh pits, were back.
Over my many years of going to festivals I have picked up some tips and tricks of enjoying the event. If my humble diarising has sparked an interest, and you want to have the best time at your first festival, have a read of my first timer’s guide below.
A First Timer’s Mosh Pit Survival Guide
Thanks to the pandemic, this might be your first festival mosh pit.
Run your eyeballs over the advice below to make your first pit experience a good one!
Mosh pit guide
1. Sturdy and comfy closed-top shoes with good laces
Even a one-day festival is physically draining as you’re on your feet walking from stage to stage for often well over 8-12 hours.
You have to take care of your feet at a festival, and that doubles in importance if you’re taking those feet into pits.
What you want in a pit shoe is a shoe with a closed top and a durable outer sole that you don’t mind getting dirt, bodily fluids or drinks spilled on.
Good laces are important too, you will want laces that won’t become trip hazards for you or others if they get loose.
It really comes down to what type of shoe is best for you and your feet, I tend to prefer Volley Internationals because they grip surfaces really well and the material covering your foot is tough and durable.
Whatever footwear solution you go with, make sure you’ve worn them in well before wearing them to a festival.
Having blisters develop in the evening before the headlining bands come on thanks to new shoes is never a good time.
2. Clothing with zippers
Sturdy tops and bottoms with even sturdier zippered pockets big enough to hold your key items like your wallet and phone is incredibly important if you are hitting the pit.
The last thing you want to be doing during a pit is looking for your wallet or phone that fell out from un-secured pockets during a pit.
No only is it dangerous, it can also ruin your day if you can’t find them and then have to spend the rest of the festival looking for lost items.
3. Small bag
If you don’t have clothes with secure pockets, the next best option is a small bag or satchel you can store your items in to avoid spilling the goods when you get down and dirty in the pit.
I am a big fan of Melbourne’s own Alpaka Sling Bags but thanks to the growth of online shopping there is bound to be a bag that works for you and your wallet.
All festivals will have a detailed information section about what types of bags will be allowed entry, so make sure you check before you go!
These days you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to bags, there’s bound to be a choice out there that works for you.
4. The golden rule of EVERY pit
I really can’t stress this enough, if you see someone go down around you in the pit, remember The Golden Rule and:
PICK THEM UP
If someone near you falls or trips in a pit, regardless of size, there is a very real risk that person could get hurt.
The Golden Rule represents a broader culture where people look out for one another at metal festivals and in mosh pits.
It doesn’t matter who you are outside those festival gates, once you pass security and bag check, you are one of us.
The memories you make and the experiences you have in good mosh pits will stay with you forever.
It’s good to be back.