What in the MONA FOMA

Only 600 odd kilometres of ocean divides mainland Australia from Tasmania, yet the Apple Isle – with its convict shadows, histrionic politics and monstrous hard woods – feels, at times, like the farthest flung corner of earth; the final stop until Antarctic ice and migrating Albatross.

Brimming with a mystery sustained by sightings of thylacines, colonies of cancerous devils and the legend of Striborg, there is a quiet unease about this island state, an off-kilter energy that has given birth to an off-kilter music community. MONA FOMA – The Festival of Music and Art – created by Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie, who escaped New York City’s alluring orbital pull to drop out in this far flung corner, probably wouldn’t work anywhere else.

MOFO (the official abbreviation of the official acronym) happens at Princess Wharf Shed 1 in Hobart. Each day for almost a fortnight the Wharf hosts a different lineup of performances, while satellite gigs – whether they be theatre based dance-operas or Chinese rockers dressed as Genghis Khan throat singing in a car park – pop up around the city.

Offshoots of festival activity are also scattered throughout surrounding streets, like the deliciously titled Faux Mo – the event’s official after hours party hub. Abbreviated to FOMO (which for those of you not up to scratch with Urban Dictionary definitions, stands for Fear Of Missing Out), this revolving venue is hidden down one of the city’s alleyways and plays host to surprise acts – revealed daily on the festival’s iphone app – DJs and general post-midnight debauchery, all of which incites a nightly case of the FOMOs.

With this endless activity, it is strange to discover that MOFO is a slow festival, leisurely paced: a relaxed ten day party with bursts of movement and noise attended by every kind of Tasmanian. Wealthy creatives, dread-locked hippies, loafer-sporting university students, and white-haired retirees all came together to nod appreciatively, twirl tendrils, lounge on beanbags and drink copious amounts of microbrew.

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