Live Review plus Gallery: MONA FOMA Festival – Courtney Barnett and Stella Mozgawa, Odeon Theatre, Hobart 17.02.2024

Feature Photograph: Arun Kendall

Mona Foma, run by the iconic Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart, is a summer festival of music and art, running from 15 February to 2 March 2024. This festival is the ying to Dark Mofo’s yang – a celebration in the sparkling light as opposed to the gothic wintry dark. Perhaps making up for the loss this year of Dark Mofo, the fare on display this year is phenomenal and none more so than Courtney Barnett’s sold out performance at the Odeon Theatre.

Courtney Barnett‘s style is unique and charming: there is a comforting consistency in her dry observational style and every song expands and enriches the colours on her canvas. Live, you can add a self-effacing charm and wit that altogether endearing.

In a swirling vortex of musical innovation, Barnett and Stella Mozgawa (the drummer from Warpaint) delivered an electrifying performance of last year’s instrumental soundtrack album ‘End of The Day’ for the film ‘Anonymous Club’. Barnet stated during the gig that there was never any intention to play this album live but following a invitational performance at the Perth Festival, they accepted an invitation to play once more at the MONA FOMA Festival before her overseas tour.

With the film as a mysterious, enigmatic backdrop, the performance was immersive and mesmerising.

The collision of Barnett’s guitar and Mozgawa’s synth mastery created an auditory tapestry that was nothing short of breathtaking. Together, Barnett and Mozgawa created a symbiotic relationship on stage, each feeding off the other’s energy and pushing the boundaries of their respective craft. The chemistry between them was palpable, as they seamlessly blended their individual styles into a cohesive sonic experience that defied categorization. There was a degree of experimentation and improvisation that added a sparkle and an edge.

Courtney uses everything available to coax new sounds from her Fender Jaguar – a small stick, a bow and an e-bow all helped create the sonic architecture while Mozgawa (normally a drummer with Wargasm) built complex sound waves from a pion/synth and ticky effects boxes.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the performance was the sense of fearlessness that permeated every note and every lyric. Barnett and Mozgawa were unafraid to take risks, to explore new sonic territories, and to challenge the conventions of modern music. In doing so, they reminded us of the power of art to transcend boundaries and connect us on a deeper level.

After a brief break, Barnet returned and took us on a journey of her past work, and it was a testament to her unparalleled ability to captivate audiences with her raw energy and unfiltered lyricism. Stepping onto the stage with her trademark guitar slung over her shoulder, Barnett wasted no time in immersing the crowd in her world of introspection and wit. Barnett’s unique blend of indie rock and folk punk reverberated through the venue, filling the air with a sense of urgency and authenticity that is all too rare in today’s music scene.

One of the most striking aspects of Barnett’s performance was her effortless command of the stage. Despite her unassuming demeanor, she exuded a quiet confidence that drew the audience in, holding them captive with every word. As a one time resident of Hobart, she mused on her past week in her old town, visiting old haunts and reminiscing.

She introduced songs with a background to their genesis – the spoken introduction to `Avant Gardener’ from her debut album eliciting a raucous response from the audience as soon as the tale was recognised. ‘Depreston’ was another song that was fueled by audience recognition, and there were numerous times the audience provided a full belted backup to her voice.

Indeed, perhaps what truly set Barnett apart was her ability to connect with her audience on a deeply personal level with warm interactions. As she sang about the trials and tribulations of everyday life, it was impossible not to feel as though she was speaking directly to each and every person in the crowd. There was a sense of intimacy to her performance that is all too rare in today’s increasingly commercialized music industry.

Of course, no review of Barnett’s performance would be complete without mentioning her exceptional musicianship. From her blistering guitar solos to her haunting vocals, every aspect of her performance was executed with precision and passion. It was clear that Barnett is not just a talented songwriter, but a true master of her craft.

In the end, Barnett’s live performance was nothing short of transcendent. With her electrifying stage presence and unparalleled musicianship, she proved once again why she is one of the most exciting artists working today.

Feature Photograph and Gallery: Arun Kendall

Previous Live Gallery: Coal Chamber and Mudvayne at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 16.02.2024
Next Live Review & Gallery: Royel Otis Brings Endearing Indie-Rock to Liberty Hall for Sold Out 'PRATTS & PAIN' Tour - Eora/Sydney, 16.02.24

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