There are many facets to Dark Mofo that make it such a complete and engaging festival. There is of course the art, which this year was as strange and confusing as ever. There’s also the food and drink on offer at the Winter Feast as well as numerous live music events during the course of the festival. The show ends with a fiery finale as the Ogoh-Ogoh is set alight and the deepest darkest fears of the attendees are vanquished into the cold Winter air.
I didn’t get to see any of the gigs last year as I was working nights so it was lovely to be able to attend one of them this year. And what a gig to attend it was! We procured tickets for Chelsea Wolfe, a gothic folk songstress who’s music was the perfect soundtrack to Dark Mofo. It’s hard to find music that truly moves you but when she played Halfsleeper for the encore, it was immensely powerful stuff. Probably the best gig I’ve ever been to, it was amazing!
The Winter Feast is another must-see (or rather EAT) part of Dark Mofo and involves the best local food and drink producers, plus a few from the mainland selling their delicious wares from numerous stalls setup on the edge of a giant hall whose floor is lined with tables that stretch from one end to the other. It’s kind of like a giant German beer hall but much more gothic and with less singing from the audience. There’s plenty of entertainment on site to keep the crowds entertained with a band taking residence overlooking the hall, playing some nice funky jazz numbers.
Outside the main hall there were even more stalls as well as plenty of toasty fire barrels to huddle around in the cold air. On the night we were there, a sudden commotion drew us towards the edge of the Feast next to Salamanca. Suddenly a rythmic drumming began, strange sounds began emanating from within the crowd. Out of the swell of people appeared some people wearing sombreros bedecked with glowing red lights. Others followed suit, wearing black masks while all of them sported strange marching band uniforms. There were ladies wearing burka-like outfits carrying flag poles with their extended fingers. It was all very odd indeed. Then they started playing, huge drums were setup on the stage and the rhythm got louder…..and funkier. The crowd began to bob their heads in approval, sporadic dancing began and it was just fantastic. We were witnessing Itchy-O, a marching band all the way from Denver, Colorado and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen . If Chelsea Wolfe had been the songstress of Dark Mofo, these guys were the thumping beat at the heart of all this darkness.
Before we had a chance to take everything in, it was all over! This year’s Dark Mofo festival flew by in a flash of craziness, fire, intrigue and delirious fun in the darkness. The main festivities end with the burning of the Ogoh-Ogoh, that symbol of Balinese Hinduism that I mentioned previously. The procession began at the Winter Feast and marched through Hobart along the waterfront to Dark Park. Itchy-O were there again to lend their unique sound to the proceedings and played a soul jarring set before the burning got under way. Something about their movements and the drums and their outfits, I just loved it.
The burning had more of a genuine feeling to it this year with a lot of chanting and a symbolism and the spectacle of the final act was certainly drawn out for maximum impact. The collective fears of all who had left a note on or in the Ogoh-Ogoh were engulfed in the flames in view of the “Fear Eats The Soul” sign at Dark Park….quite fitting indeed.
So another year done and dusted and yet another brilliant festival. Hats off to David Walsh and the team at Mona as well as the local governments for getting so involved with an event that would struggle to maintain its weirdness and sense of danger elsewhere. Can’t wait to see what dark delights they’ll bring us next year.