The annual art festival created by Hobarts own MONA - Dark Mofo - commenced this week with an eclectic line-up as any. Trying to take in the breadth and scale of the festival, which has art works and installations strewn throughout Hobart’s CBD, is no easy task(but we’ll do our best). We’ll be covering the next two weeks of live shows and pop up art spaces, trying to get in as much of the festivities as possible. Check out the first few nights coverage below.
Sharron Van Etten @ Odeon Theatre 9th of June
“There is a reserved intensity, which is almost achingly palatable..”
The first of the headliners that have made the pilgrimage to Hobart for this winters festival being none other than singer/ songwriter/ actress/ poet/ mother/ activist and a million other slashes - Sharon Van Etten. Playing four shows during her time in Australia, Dark Mofo the others at Melbourne's Hamer Hall, Sydney's Vivid & Qpac in Brisbane. It's no wonder the tonights show is & has been sold out for a long time.
Making my way into the venue, which has been decorated and styled in all things Mofo like, dead branches, red neons etc. I take my allocated seat, pleasantly located on the isle near the sound desk, I'm always stoked watching a show from and around a sound desk(A++ for sound & levels). The slowly filing in audience awash of deep red with two neon crosses fixed to each side of the stage. Being that there are no supports and the show commencing at 7pm, the chairs are all but occupied. Queue the dimming of red house lights and walk on music in the form of early 90's Portishead.
The band walks out to the stage and commence Jupiter 4's synth heavy vibes from Etten's latest album 'Remind Me Tomorrow'. The stage still heavily washed in red, we make out a figure walking out onto the stage, with a slight awkward wave Sharon Van Etten greets the audience, stands sombre and still in front of the microphone, centre & silhouetted. As she delivers the first lines "Our loves for real.." a spotlight slowly appears as we're visually introduced to Etten, hair over face, suit jacket & white shirt.
There is a reserved intensity, which is almost achingly palatable as she sings through the remainder of the opening track & into recent dancier number 'Comeback Kid', which garnishes an instant applause from the audience, shuffling and bopping in chairs which, for some reason, ends up being the case for the remainder of the show, much to the disapproval of some more than vocal & dance keen audience members.
Sticking to the latest release, third song into the set & 'No ones easy to Love' sees Etten move from the mic stand & start to bring out the intensity & expression to the substantial. It wasn't until the fourth song in that she greets the audience. She is personable & nonchalant, unassuming & dismissive of praise deserved. Her pitch perfect execution during tracks like 2014's 'Tarifa' & this years 'Memorial Day' all hitting a sombre & floored silence amongst the crowd, taking a beat to collect themselves & respond with claps & cheers.
Poppier numbers like 'Your Shadow' & 'Seventeen' has itchy feet up in the isles dancing away, but for the majority being content to sit and watch, which at times feels and seems all too strange to me.. Namely during the belter of interlude, which has Etten on her knees screaming "I know what you're gonna be.." to someone in the front row.
Taking time to address the crowd for the second time, now two thirds the way through the set, Etten reflects on the current state of the world & her new life as a mother, commenting that she's "hopeful" when referring to the compassions in the world, before playing a solo cover of Sinéad O’Connor's 'Black Boys on Mopeds'.
Bringing everyone back on board to the full sound of 'Everytime The Sun Comes Up' then finishing the set with the closing track off the latest 'Stay' in which she vacates the stage with a wave & leaves the band to finish off the rest of the song.
Encore's though trivialised beyond rationale still play a part in the live music experience, much like the chorus of 'Happy Birthday' to a candle lit cake. And as thus, the cheering & clapping & stomping of feet relentlessly hit as though it wasn't meant for anything other than the appreciativeness of a performance witnessed. But with a slight feel of déjà vu Sharon & the band appear on stage in much the similar way that commenced the evening, awkward wave and all, to begin the title track off of 'Remind Me Tomorrow' - 'I Told You Everything' marking the majority of the latest release being featured during this set, before the rock heavy 2012 'Serpents' blasting out amongst the still very enthralled crowd.
Ending the night by once again addressing the audiences on the hopefulness she feels when visiting "this part of the world" before suggesting that we "love more" segueing to the final track of the night. The seemingly perfect delivery of harmonies, flooring the most stubborn of sitters into standing ovation mode not moments after the final note ends.
Costume @ Odeon Theatre 12th of June
“..understandably, the crowd loses shits..”
I couldn't think of a more suited fit for the premiere performance of Hobart-based Costume. Having recently recorded the debut album 'PAN' in Iceland, and release of the first single 'Horns', Adam Ouston's androgynous mix of electro-pop theatrics was definitely an anticipated highlight, surrounded in mystic.
The stage was set, large triangular shaped shards, taking up the bulk of the visual plane. As the opening track commences, Adam appears to the back of the stage - a top one of said shards - a single spotlight hits the pink suit jacketed singer, whom waste no time in introducing us to the wide vocal range.
As the song progresses, a masked violinist appears accompanying the theatrical elements already showcased from Adam's relentless and dramatic shape pulling. As we're guided into each of these relatively new tracks, I find myself taken back by the mix of industrial sounds, almost reminiscent of early Nine Inch Nails, yet maintaining a clear cut androgyny lending itself to the sounds of Antony & The Johnson.
The forefront of Costume's performance is one of operatic theatrics, which is maintained throughout the entire set, at times, is purposely over shadowing Adam's performance, in which he becomes the accompaniment to the story that is unfolding visually on stage.
Mid way through the set, a contemporary dance between the masked violinist and the lead tuxedo wearing dancer takes place, as Adam recedes behind dark curtains. The tense visual that takes place between the two remaining on stage is heighten by the layered sombre and ominous violin notes, which build and build until coming to a dramatic climax.
Returning to the stage Adam - now donned in a tiger striped sequinned onesie - dedicates a song as "it is tradition for Divas to do" to Lee Carmichael, the festivals director. But not before taking us through the remaining tracks on the most recent release, which range from heartbreakingly tragic to industrial dance floor fillers(sometimes a combination of both).
The final song is announced but not before Adam shows his absolute gratitude for the audience in attendance, which even to him, is crazy for their first ever show. Light Years, which doesn't feature on the latest release commences, its dance undertones are thick & synth filled, as the song progresses, we're introduced to new band members that have not yet made an appearance - a surprise to all - a gold covered sax player walks out for a solo - understandably, the crowd loses shits - and before the end, a gold haired guitarist appears, soloing alongside the recent sax addition. These elements all coming to a huge collective end, which I'm sure has the crowd enticed as to when this will all happen again.. maybe in 30 years.