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You Can Learn A Whole Lot From Dark Mofo

You Can Learn A Whole Lot From Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo is over for another year. Hobart’s mid-winter festival is a deep dive into darkness; food, music and arts are served up with an edge of the absurd as locals and visitors lean blissfully into the cold. Writer and photographer NICK BUCKLEY emerged from the mayhem enlightened.

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Resistance is futile


Good luck resisting the pull of the party. Before you know it you’ll be dancing 30 centimetres away from a laser-bedecked robotic marching band wielding giant drums, cymbals and megaphones. Later, you could be barely holding onto a bar stool while two performers in drag passionately make out on the table in front of you, covering not only themselves but your pants and camera in a saucy combo of glitter and chocolate. Finish the evening curled up on a beanbag, sipping on spicy chai sweetened with honey. As the woollen poncho you’ve just been handed quickly banishes the chill of the evening, the intoxicating movements of dancers and the breath of new friends can easily instigate naptime. Don’t worry if you pass out completely, the dancers performing two feet from your resting place will soundtrack your dreams with delicate footsteps for the next 12 hours.

Photo: Itchy-O

Love the locals


So many festivals tend to rely on big-ticket international artists, and although Dark Mofo has had its fair share in the past, this iteration of the festival saw several locals receive well-deserved prime positions on the calendar. Even if the headliners cancel you could be lucky enough to see Eddy Current Suppression Ring upend a venue for only the second time in six years. Who needs Marina Abramovich when you have Melbourne artist Cameron Robbins’ ramshackle contraptions distilling cosmically massive or microscopically abstract elements of nature into deeply humbling and relatable forms?

The organisers decision to charge the prolific King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (fresh off their best release yet!) with melting the revellers brains at Saturday’s Blacklist party has left some attendees still trying to reconstitute their mind goo. If you’re lucky enough, the celebrations won’t end at 3am and you’ll find yourself desperately trying to unstick your feet from the floor of the Brisbane Hotel at 5:30am during an impromptu disco party.

Photo: Eddy Current Suppression Ring

No need to call the babysitter


“Daddy are you sure this is for kids?” – seven-year-old girl at Dark Park.

While Mofo definitely has its moments of confrontation for adults (Mike Parr having his face repeatedly pierced and stitched by an assistant will not be easily forgotten), children are frequently given a scare or two themselves. Although there are undoubtedly scary moments in Toy Story 3, one has to wonder whether the visceral thrills of the Dark Crystal are now being censored from younger audiences. Not so at Dark Mofo. Watching kids running around squealing with delight in a disorienting House of Mirrors, only to be silenced by a wailing wraith hunched over a cello, will take you back to the time you saw the spider Gremlin for the first time. There are rewarding, challenging experiences for any age, and to be honest, it won’t just be the kids left with the odd nightmare. Let the little suckers be scared, they’ll thank you for it later.

Photo: Ogoh-Ogoh Parade

Broaden your horizons


You may head to Hobart for doom-laden riffs or dense electronic drone but finding your most unforgettable moment in the form of a diminutive 67-year-old Ukrainian pianist is truly unexpected. As the fastest pianist in the world (19.5 notes per second!) Lubomyr Melnyk has long been shunned by the classical community, as a case of technique over substance. However despite being a novice with only a cursory interest in classical music, the tears streaming down my face were definitely substantial.

New experiences abound at the Winter Feast, where watching a newly reformed vegetarian try their first oyster is a delightfully sadistic vision. Explaining that these delicious jewels of the ocean are basically just a muscle without a nervous system will do little to suffocate their gag reflex. If you find yourself as the guinea pig in this situation, do it for your friends and choke on the shellfish, as your loved ones choke with laughter.

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Photo: Ephemera: Tim Hecker and Marcel Weber

Keep it toasty


Make sure everyone in your group has gloves. Sharing gloves isn’t ideal as there will always be at least one cold hand per person. That said, the effects of this arrangement can be mitigated by always having a hot boozy drink in the naked hand. The inevitable spill is more bearable when the liquid is delicious hot cider or gin punch. Like the Dragon Force song,  a trip through the fire and flames is unavoidable. There are burning braziers everywhere, which are regularly utilised by citizens north of Launceston to stave off hypothermia. We also found that if you run out of money, skewering Germany’s favourite packaged salami over one of the aforementioned braziers is a quick solution to soaking up the hot toddies. Just make sure you keep your distance when a Cambodian demon wrangler starts kicking around a burning brick, before setting fire to a giant red dragon.

Photo: Ogoh-Ogoh Burning

And a suggestion


With the decadence of the Winter Feast nearby, there’s no real reason to order average takeout. Always choose the Feast. Lesson learnt.

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(All images: Nick Buckley)

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