“As a first timer to Groundwater, I honestly didn’t know what to expect.”
What could be better than a music festival by the beach? A COUNTRY music festival by the beach, full of international and national artists across multiple stages around the Gold Coast.
As a first timer to Groundwater, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. It’s more than just live music, it’s an experience. It’s more than just an audience, it’s a tribe. Groundwater Country Music Festival left my hands sore (from clapping way too much), my feet sore (from walking back and forth between the stages trying to see everyone) and I can’t wait till next year! Let’s get into it…
Dual Golden Guitar winner, Andrew Swift led the festival in style. This soulful troubadour’s set was a perfect complement to the morning’s coastal breeze. Sharing his stories from the road, a mix of nostalgia and comedy, he took the crowd on the journey with him. Belting songs with his smooth-like-honey vocals made the upbeat country rocking music that much sweeter for the audience to jive along to.
A small crowd then braved the summer sun to catch the intimate set of TV personality Kirsty Lee Akers. A powerful voice sharing her WILD adventures, it was an entertaining stop-over before punters migrated to the international artists-returned home, Dozzi. I’d not seen the Dozzi sisters before, so I tentatively watched from the back of the crowd at the start of their set, in a position to quickly move on to the next artist (with 50 artists across 6 stages over 3 days, I was constantly on the move). But with each song, I found myself creeping further forward, more absorbed in their tales of Nashville and family and the mellifluous harmonies. Before the show was done, I was a #frontrowfan, a self-appointed, adopted fourth member of the Dozzi sisters singing along to their Wine Me Up.
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As the sun went down on the first day, Jayne Denham turned up the heat with her country rock set. Grungy guitar solos from talented guitarists, heavy drumbeats pulsing every song, plus belting vocals that literally blow you away. The crowd banged their heads to the Aussie queen of country punk rock. This powerhouse performer owned the stage and amped up the crowd ready for the Travis Collins set. It was “one of them nights” which left a lot of festivalgoers with no voice the next day, singing his classic songs, including one of my favourites, Thank God I’m a Country Boy.
Couple-goals Brooke McClymont and Adam Eckersley made for a glorious contrast to end the night, sharing the truth about love, marriage, family, all through these soulful heartfelt songs. The highlight was bringing their daughter out on stage, pulling the heartstrings of every single audience member in the room, including myself, who was reminded of the support I had growing up and how amazing that feeling is. I can’t wait for their new album next year.
Day Two of Groundwater got a taste of real country twang with a hint of blues and honky tonk mixed in when Michael Carpenter and the Banks Brothers stormed the stage. The talent and skill from each band member oozed effortlessly with every song and the audience soaked it in, returning in droves to their second show at the festival on Sunday. With the sound carrying down the streets, you could enjoy solo after incredible solo, the Golden Guitar nominated group offered a point of difference in this lineup with the pedal steel and honky tonk originals.
Toyota Star Maker 2022, Max Jackson sparkled in the sunshine. Even through the microphone technical difficulties, battling against the wind, I watched from side of stage as the crowd raised their voices louder to fill in the gaps of both her originals and classic covers (PERFORMER GOALS - when the wind cuts the microphone, that the crowd lifts you up to the stratosphere by singing the lyrics over and above her). Dressed in dazzling pink, her outfit matched the theme of the show - fun, bouncy, up-tempo and bubbly.
From having a recreational cry to “bittersweet at best” to jumping and dancing along to “you’re so vain”, Hayley Marsten was spectacular and sparkling. Not the typical country gal, with green cowgirl boots, Hayley showed off her country essence with a unique flare on songwriting and a personality that makes you feel like her friend instantly. Drawing the crowd further in with velvety notes, I heard one audience member comment: "“I've hitched my wagon; I’ll be following Hayley as she makes her second album - can’t wait!”
Kaylee Bell got me going insane got me singing her name (and Keith Urban’s name.) Taking us from heartfelt songs written on the bedroom floor and then all the way to Nashville with co-writers like our hometown boy Morgan Evans, Kaylee left me happily addicted to the country pop tunes. Seamless transitions between each song meant there was never a dull moment! Only good vibes and good tunes.
Have you ever been to a show where you feel at peace after singing your heart out? That’s what it feels like going to a Catherine Britt or a Fanny Lumsden show. Energy was high and the crowd was invested from the minute the bands walked out on stage (or ride out on stage in Fanny’s case - an entrance like I have NEVER seen before - on the back of a horse, symbolic of her latest album Fallow. Seriously though, bravo). These ladies shared home truths, heartbreak and hope.
Catherine bared her soul with raspy power vocals leaving the crowd feeling empowered as a country song (clapping their hands to a honky tonk boot scootin’ before joining Andrew Swift for a surprise visit on Fanny’s set. Fanny’s band, aptly named the prawnstars, got the crowd dancing all through the night, reminding us all of the child within, while Fanny’s folksy vocals danced across the melody like rain in springtime (light, delicate and makes you just want to sit and watch the world go by).
“Incredible. Amazing. One of the best Australian country music shows. No wonder they’re international performers” - these were just SOME of the reviews from the crowd as I passed through walking to interview them BACKSTAGE!
Seaforth were something else – a brilliant headliner for the festival, the crowd was body to body, singing along to every song. The chemistry between each performer on stage was intoxicating – each could have had their own main stage show and be as entertaining. All four made the show pop. Whether you were standing side of stage or in the middle of the crowd or a #frontrowfan, the atmosphere was electric.
Hit after hit, the talent flowed subtly from Mitch Thompson and Tom Jordan as they took the crowd on an emotional rollercoaster that I would buy tickets for again and again. Bassist Justin de Graaf brought the party and rocked out song after song. When watching a band on stage, it makes or breaks if the musicians on stage aren’t into the songs and the journey the crowd is being taken on. Justin is a master of his craft and stage presence (insert applause). Josh Devine drummed his way into everyone’s hearts – phenomenal talent and seriously impressive skills changing the kick pedal when he destroyed the first one during an epic solo. Perfectly executing epic moments, please also insert applause.
Ending Groundwater with a bang (Oh Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!) the final applause was deafening, and a “dream come true” for the boys who made time to chat exclusively to CountryTown. Watch here!
I would like to take a moment in this review and raise my glass and cheers to Mark Duckworth and the entire Groundwater team, the true unsung heroes, who created and executed an incredible festival. Mark creatively curated every stage and artist over the three days, allowing the crowd to explore an eclectic range of country styles, the music floating through the Gold Coast. While I didn’t see every artist, the festival is not one to miss! Round of applause.
Cassidy-Rae signing off - it was a blast taking y’all with us to Groundwater Country Music Festival! Let us know if you’d like to see another festival reviewed here again (maybe CMA Fest in Nashville 2023?) Cheers y’all!