Winter is Coming: Dark Mofo 2014
It’s been five years since the first annual music and arts festival MONA FOMA started happening in Tasmania. Curated by Brian Ritchie (bass player for the Violent Femmes), the festival has been pretty much a major success, not only for bringing a phenomenal collection of artists to the island (John Cale, David Byrne, Phillip Glass, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Grinderman, Dirty Three, Death Grips, and Bridezilla to name a few), bringing in enough tourist dosh to keep the conservative pollies at bay, but also in giving thousands of Tasmanians major instant props with our Mainlander (and here I’m really referring to the Melbournian) neighbours. Suddenly Hobart became nationally, and not much later, internationally recognised as one of Australia’s premier cultural hubs. People speculate it’s thanks to the mastery of Walshy (David Walsh, owner of MONA) and Ritchie that Tasmania is suddenly on the map for much more than its ~pristine beaches, isolated mountain ranges, and un-touched rain forests~ (according to every tourism handbook ever). It’s an endless debate that some Tasmanians are happy to chat about, but most are sick to death of.
The fact of the matter is, the Helpmann Award winning MONA FOMA (or just MOFO), is one of Australia’s most interesting music and arts’ festivals, and its soon-to-be-two year old lovechild Dark Mofo is just as good. For those yet to venture south of Bass Strait, here is a brief sketch of the festival’s home city: picture a green, curvaceous mountain sitting high above a seaport town, at the mouth of a giant river. There’s sky everywhere. In winter, the sea is a deep, southern ocean blue. It’s got this smell that tells you Antarctica isn’t far away. Encasing the city are beaches, where surfers glide silently. The local food and wine is consistently internationally award-winning, and everyone’s nonchalant about it. Youth laze on the waterfront, downing freshly caught oysters for 11 bucks a dozen. Seagulls eat scraps of organic brie and crackers fallen from picnic park lunches. Life, here, is pretty bloody cruisey.
And then there is Hobart during winter solstice; the few weeks that Dark Mofo happens. Where there is dark skies and icy winds, there is blinding lights and plenty of fire. Bacchanalian revelry spills from its glass; communal feasting tables ignite the appetite, and weigh out the hours between the music, exhibitions, architectural talks, avant-garde puppetry, theatre and public installations. And then there are the late evenings at Dark Faux Mo, the festival’s official after party. Somehow, labyrinth Hobartian church The Odeon will again play host to Faux Mo, as well as seeing in a fair portion of musical acts and subversive Australian films earlier in the festival evenings.
Music at Dark Mofo 2014 ranges from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with Anu Tali, to doom drone (Sunn O))) & Earth), with a detour stop at Yo Gabba Gabba! Live along the way. To try and deconstruct the choices of musical curatorship that can seem somewhat arbitrary is useless. In the end, the shows always work. One event I’m highlighting is After Life on Saturday, June 21st at the infamous Odeon. HTRK, Total Control, Kirin J Callinan (pictured, right) are just some of the acts you can look forward to performing in the depths of the dimly lit, carpeted, multi-storey, multi-bar dungeon that night. Also be sure not to miss out on the limited screening of 20,000 Days on Earth: a new Nick Cave documentary by Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard. I’ve had the privilege to view the film already when it toured NYC, and it’s an absolute cracker for any Cave or film fan. People seem to like the nude solstice swim too. Get along to all the free events. There’s always so much to see.
Dark Mofo offers events priced at varying levels of privilege. For example, attending the mysterious Red Death Ball will put you back $240 a pop, but there’s also a shitload of free exhibitions and interactive public art and events all over the place. You can spend whatever you wish, and still experience the infectious mood that takes over Hobart when MOFO pitches their pegs. Just don’t forget your jacket.
P.S. There’s a theory going around that MOFO events are always either literally or closely linked to Nick Cave. The new one might be David Lynch. Keep your eyes and ears open.
Check out the Dark Mofo website for pricing, and be sure to go over the extensive list of musicians and exhibiting artists; there’s always someone new to love and loathe.
Words by Neika Lehman.