And so another fine MONA FOMA festival draws to a close. It was a much smaller festival this year, with no superstar headliner acts, and a move from the cavernous PW1 to the more intimate MAC2 for the main performances, and MAC1 housing Conrad Shawcross’s ADA Project for the duration of the festival.
The festival certainly didn’t suffer from the more intimate arrangement, and it’s certainly a case of quality over quantity. Couldn’t fault a single one of the acts but I’ll make an effort to highlight some my favourites.
Sun Ra Arkestra at Faux Mo – OK, their main festival performance at MAC2 on Thursday night, was damn fine, but nothing, and I mean nothing could beat seeing them up close and personal in the Drill Hall at the Faux Mo after party on Friday night. Wow, wow. wow! The place was a seething mass of hot, sweaty, writhing bodies, pumping to this chaotic, primal, electric, transcendent madness. If you’ve read On the Road, this is the IT! that Dean Moriarty wants us all to get, and they kept IT going full pelt until 1am, not bad for an almost 90-year-old Marshall Allen! Wow, that’s it, I’m spent.
Striborg at Wim Delvoye Chapel – moody ambient black metal. Hooded guy with a guitar, plus a string section, mood lighting and smoke providing a mesmerising experience at the outdoor Wim Delvoye Chapel at MONA. I loved letting this performance wash over me while I lounged in a beanbag, even if it did mean getting back into town too late to get into Faux Mo (see lowlights below).
Conrad Shawcross: The ADA Project – An industrial robot, inspired by the life and work of Ada Lovelace, gifted mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron. Lovelace predicted computer-generated music 100 years before it eventuated. The robot was there as an installation throughout the festival, but I’m so glad I caught the hour long performance. Four different compositions, each in response to a different movement pattern of the robot. All different, from electronica to opera. All magic.
John Grant – I don’t know how I haven’t heard of this guy before. An unusual blend of crooning balladeer with a fine voice, wry understated lyrics and electronic beats. Stunning. Check him out.
The Julie Ruin – Being an 80s post-punkster, I was a little old to get caught up in the whole Riot Grrl thing, but I knew Kathleen Hanna and Bikini Kill by reputation. Making a comeback after debilitating health problems, it was great to see a more mature performer who still has her kickass punk feminist credibility fully intact. (And go the business leotard!) It was also great to get more background in the screening of The Punk Singer documentary about Hanna’s life followed by an illuminating Q&A with the woman herself – a very down-to-earth, genuine woman.
Mick Harvey doing Serge Gainsbourg – It’s Mick Harvey, what more can I say? I love this guy.
Chris Thile – bluegrass and Bach all mashed up on the mandolin. Who’d have thought a guy with a mandolin could have the crowd transfixed for an hour?
The staff – honestly, I’ve never had a negative, or even vaguely neutral, experience, with MONA or MOFO staff. They’re always fabulous. Friendly, helpful, organised. If something goes wrong (which it rarely does), they deal with it. No fuss, no hassles. If you have a problem, ask, they’ll do what they can to help.
Security – like the staff, they’re always great. I suppose it helps that MOFO’s a grownup festival and they don’t have a lot of idiots to deal with, but they are always the friendliest, cruisiest security crew you’ll come across. Most of them also get right into the spirit of discovery that is MOFO, opening their minds up to new experiences and enjoying the variety of acts as much as the rest of us. Thanks again guys, see you next time!
Bicycle parking – The hardy volunteers from Bicycle Tasmania staffed the bicycle parking area late into the night, making the hassle-free, eco-friendly transport alternative even more hassle free. Lovely to see their smiling faces watching over my trusty treadly so I could make a quick exit and beat the crowds to Faux Mo at the end of the night.
It’s always hard to fault MOFO, it’s just such a darn good festival. Can’t think of any lowlights content-wise – all acts were of the excellent calibre we’ve come to expect of MOFO programming.
The few lowlights of the festival were of a logistical nature, and compared to most festivals they’re pretty minor. They just stand out because I love this festival so much I get especially bummed when things go awry. (Can’t they be perfect all the time?)
No pre-purchased tickets or priority access for the Faux Mo after party. I’ve already had my rant about this on MOFO’s Facebook page, and it’s been positively responded to, so I won’t harp on too much here. But this was a big fail in my books, with the system favouring those who didn’t go to the festival as they could get there earlier and get in, while festival goers were left out in the cold in a looooong queue. Look after your supporters, MOFO! (I’m sure you’ve got the message and you’ll do better next year, no?)
Queues – My post after the festival last year advised you to eat and drink at the venue, with great quality food and generally no long queues. While this still generally holds true, I did find the queues much longer this year, and a much smaller selection of food with the smaller venue. It was really only a problem on the busy Saturday night, and at the MONA Market, but I confess, I packed sandwiches a couple of times this year, and was glad I did.
Again, hopefully this is the result of demand outweighing expectations and that measures will be taken to alleviate the problem next year.
Not enough coffee – this is my gripe at most festivals. Plenty of effort goes into making sure you can get a drink quickly, but if you’re in need of caffeine, you can be in for a long wait. More coffee stands please! (or purchase a bottle of SlowDrop cold brew coffee at the MONA Market and sip on it like a hip flask 😉 )
And so MOFO 2014 draws to a close, and I eagerly await news of Dark MOFO to brighten up the winter months. Thanks to David Walsh, Brian Ritchie and all the MONA and MOFO crew for bringing this shining light to Hobart once again. I occasionally think of moving back to the mainland, but then I think, “No, do I really want to be further away from MOFO?”
Photo gallery online soon.