Pics by Bandanna Photography
We went along to the first night of Mona Foma and this is what went down.
The first major cultural event for the year, and indeed for quite awhile, Tasmania’s Mona Foma has been willfully reigniting live arts and music throughout January. In 2021, the festival sprawls both Launceston and Hobart, across two weekends, bringing Violent Femmes’ bassist and festival director Brian Ritchie’s next ingenuities to the fore.
On Friday January 15, Mona Foma commenced with Mofo Sessions – the first of three concerts that took place on Launceston’s beautiful River Tamar. A delightfully-satirical and more-than-a-little-naughty performance by the Terrapin Puppet Theatre kickstarted proceedings – a collective that features the seven foot puppets, Ma and Pa Ubu.
Mocking everything from vegans, to Marie Antoinette, to the Tassie food scene, no topic was off limits to the Ubus and while the crowd was somewhat subdued by some classic Tassie weather, everyone was laughing by the time the Ubus waddled off stage.
The first music performance of the night came courtesy of Dinette & Confetti, a French cabaret trio dressed in bright colours and a gorgeous retro wardrobe who were full of dramatic flair. Their set consisted of everything from raunchy tunes that made you dance, songs that pulled on the heartstrings (made even more appropriate by Launceston’s misting rain), and even a French cover of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’.
With no less than three wardrobe changes, four instruments (harp, violin, tap shoes, and some fantastic singing), and miniature comedy sketches in between each song, Dinette & Confetti definitely left an impression as a dynamic and hilarious group.
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Next up was the Evan Carydakis Quartet, a jazz hip hop fusion band whose music was smooth and easy listening. The crowd had reduced in size due to the worsening weather, but the Quartet played their hearts out.
After playing some John Coltrane songs, the Quartet was joined by Nathan Whittle, a north-west Tasmanian who clearly knows how to work a stage. The already interesting combo of jazz/hip hop was further elevated when Whittle started rapping along. His energy was infectious, and when he called for audience participation, the punters happily obliged.
Following the Quartet was Hobart outfit The Broken Girls Club. They describe their style as “sadgirl, dorky pop-rock, guaranteed to make you feel things” – a sentence that describes them perfectly. Headed by Rosie Cann, the four-piece sung about everything from love to loss to hating your boss.
With vocals reminiscent of 4 Non Blondes, lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place in a Blink-182 album, a keen focus on mental health, and a vibe that can only be described as unabashedly tongue-in-cheek, The Broken Girls Club was the first act of the night to have people up and bopping.
You wouldn’t expect line dancers to emerge during a pop-punk set, but there they were, wearing hats that matched the band’s pink overalls. The Broken Girls Club were a definite crowd pleaser, and a new favourite band of mine.
As we awaited the concert headliners, Luca Brasi, more and more people began to flood into the park. By this point, the weather had cleared up, creating the perfect environment for the Tasmanian four-piece to step in and deliver something special.
And that they did. Playing through all their greatest hits, Luca Brasi exploding onto the stage in a haze of dry ice and killer drums. The crowd pulsed along to every song, screaming the lyrics and chanting for the volume to be turned up. One guy behind me very adamantly requested they play Paul Kelly’s iconic ‘How to Make Gravy’ – a song Luca Brasi performed for triple j Like a Version in 2017 – but the band had other ideas.
Clearly ecstatic to be back in front of a live audience, the performance was overflowing with energy, as showcased by the loud chants of “Fuck yeah, Launnie!” that accompanied every break between songs. After performing several hits and an acoustic track, they finished off the night with a medley of their most memorable classics, leaving the stage to multiple encore pleads.
Despite the rocky weather that kickstarted the night, Mofo Sessions – indeed Tasmania’s return to live music amidst the COVID chaos – can be deemed a roaring success. Every band was thrilled to be back on stage, and it shined through in their performances.
Highlight: Being able to dance for the first time in months.
Lowlight: Definitely the weather, but we couldn’t do anything about that.
Crowd favourite: Luca Brasi’s ‘Dying to Feel Alive’, and also the cheeseburger-loaded fries.
Mona Foma comes to Hobart for the second weekend of festivities from Friday January 22 to Sunday January 24. Find out more about the festival here.