Flying under the radar at Groundwater Country Music Festival

Both music fans and country artists are descending on the Gold Coast this weekend for Groundwater Country Music Festival. In its sixth year, Groundwater is Australia’s fastest growing country music festival with more than 40 international and Australian artists performing for free in the malls, streets, parks and venues of Broadbeach.

With headliners including The McClymonts, a tribute to James Blundell’s enduring country career, Suzanne Vega, Joshua Hedley, Adam Harvey and Granger Smith, it’d be easy to stick to the big stages and be overwhelmed by the depth of the program.

But we’re here to help. We caught up with the man who books the bands about the lesser-known acts you don’t want to miss this weekend.

Festival Director Mark Duckworth said the calibre of talent at Groundwater is what makes it so popular with musicians and punters alike.

Mark’s taken it upon himself to challenge people’s perceptions around what country music is. There’s no doubt the festival includes tonnes of artists who stay true to country’s age-old formula of storytelling with traditional instruments.

But they’ve also got some boundary-pushing artists who will blow your mind with their stage shows, their virtuosic talents and ability to jump between genres like it aint even a thing.

Here’s our hitlist for Groundwater Country Music Festival this weekend, according to the man who booked the acts:

Davidson Brothers

“They’re awesome,” Mark says simply about The Davidson Brothers, who are two brothers out of Victoria and one of Australia’s most-respected bluegrass acts. It’s not their first time at this festival and they’ve been performing since 1998 with tours of the USA, Europe and Australia under their belt. With fiddle, banjo, madolin, dobro and guitar incorporated into their live set these guys are a must-see.

Catch the Davidson Brothers Saturday 28 July, 1.00 – 3.00pm at Oracle Boulevard and Sunday 29 July 1.30 – 2.30pm at the Surf Parade stage.

Melody Moko

“She’s a really nice songwriter and has a really light sound,” Mark says of Melody Moko who grew up in a house that held more than 7000 records and burst onto the scene as a child. She’s won a stack of songwriting awards and honed her craft singing in Nashville and Austin as well as on the road supporting artists as diverse as Tim Rogers, The McLymonts and Fanny Lumsden and her latest singles have charted on the Country Music Charts, iTunes and the ARIA Charts.

You can see Melody Moko on Saturday 28 July from 3.00 – 4.00pm at the Broadbeach Mall stage and on Sunday 29 July from 3.15 – 5.00pm at Oracle Boulevard.

The Hillbilly Goats

It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself a country music fan or not. Mark says The Hillbilly Goats are nearly a fringe act. “I’ve seen them all over the place, they’re seriously a festival favourite,” Mark said. With a high energy quirky edge, complete with banjo, bones, double bass, fiddle, dobro and harmonica as well as three-part harmonies and tap-dancing, The Hillbilly Goats tell the story of mountain music’s evolution into blues, country and bluegrass.

The Hillbilly Goats perform every day of the festival. On Friday they’re at TC’s Bar and Gaming from 6.00 – 8.00pm, on Saturday they’re at the Surf Parade stage from 3.00 – 4.00pm and on Sunday you can see them at Oracle Boulevard from 1.00 – 3.00pm.

Bud Rokesky

Mark had never heard of Bud Rokesky until he applied to play the festival. He heard he had a set at The Scottish Prince, took a listen to the guy’s songs live and “just had to book him”. Mark says he’s got a unique understanding of traditional country music and songwriting and given that he grew up in Imbil (right next door to the Gympie Muster site), it’s probably no surprise. Bud says he was surrounded by century-forgotten mountains, disused railway tracks and pine forest, at the end of the almost unrecognisable road, in the deepest parts of the region. Bud’s not entirely unheard of, supporting Timberwolf and playing local venues like Mandala and Brisbane’s City Sounds and other grassroots venues in the past, and his sets at Groundwater are definitely one to catch.

Bud’s at the Kurrawa Caravan on Sunday 29 July from 11.00 – 11.30 and then again from 12.30 – 1.00pm.

Lillie Mae

A member of Jack White’s band and signed to his label Third Man Records, Lillie Mae has fans all over the world. It was a live performance of ‘Over the Hill and Through the Woods’ on Conan that inspired Mark to book Lillie for Groundwater, particularly after he heard she was on her way to Australia anyway. Lillie’s been playing country music since she was a kid and she and her siblings have a deeply ingrained familial link to music.  Her music has been classified by some as pop-Americana but when you listen, there’s the unmistakeable influence of country, bluegrass, folk and blues as well as honeyed vocals. Lillie will be a real treat for Groundwater Country Music Festival punters.

Lillie Mae performs every day at Groundwater Country Music Festival. Catch her Friday from5.30 – 6.30pm at the Surf Parade stage, Saturday from 1.30 – 2.30pm at the Kurrawa Bigtop and Sunday from 4.00 – 5.00pm (immediately before Suzanne Vega) also at the Kurrawa Bigtop.

The Mezcaltones

Sultry nights and dangerous days see The Mezcaltones bring Tarantino vibes alongside Cinco de Mayo imagery (not to mention stage moves and makeup) to Groundwater this weekend. Mark says “they’ve simply taken country music to a different place and a different audience”. There’s the sound of 60s surf guitar, the lavishness of Mexican dance, slick costumes and a six-piece stage show with attitude.

Don’t miss The Mezcaltones on Saturday from 7.30 – 9.00pm at Oracle Boulevard, Sunday from 11.30 – 12.50 at the Broadbeach Mall stage and then again from1.30 – 2.30pm on the Surf Parade stage.

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In case you’ve been living under a rock, Groundwater Country Music Festival takes place this weekend, Friday 27 July to Sunday 29 July and the whole of Broadbeach will be transformed into a festival venue. Get all the details, including playing times at


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