News: The iconic Dark Mofo Festival – Come to the Cross – returns to Hobart from 16–22 June 2021. And there was much rejoicing.

We have been assiduously covering the glorious Dark Mofo Festival in the deepest south of the Southern Hemisphere almost since inception – a record blighted by the festival’s necessary cancellation last year due to COVID. And a bleak winter it was without this shining beacon of darkness.

Dark Mofo is back this year with a late notice and a streamlined and ever-so-swift programme: curtailed to one week of pagan festivities, unencumbered by corporate and government sponsorship and with mostly free activities. However curtailed the programme is, it is just as deliciously enticing ever and promises much. Dark Mofo will run from 16–22 June 2021. The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

A fascinating mix of musicians, artists and events are the norm. This year, the musical programme, weighted understandably to antipodean artists, is nothing short of spectacular with highlights including Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Gavin Bryars, Confidence Man, A. Swayze and the Ghosts and Tangents. Full music programme below.

Dark Mofo 2021 presents artists from Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, Russia, Sri Lanka, UK, and USA, along with a series of world premieres and Australian exclusives. Plus the return of Dark Mofo’s signature events — including the annual Winter Feast on Hobart’s waterfront, Ogoh-Ogoh Purging and The Burning, and the Nude Solstice Swim at sunrise after the longest night.

This festival will christen the new DarkLab Bell Tower, positioned above the Cathedral at In The Hanging Garden in the heart of Hobart. This is the first bell tower erected in Hobart in close to 100 years, and the 1800kg bell was salvaged from a demolished church in Chicago to travel to Tasmania. The DarkLab Bell Tower has a bell designed to be swung through a full circle in the English tradition, joining St. David’s Cathedral and the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church as the only three bell towers in Tasmania to do so.

Creative Director Leigh Carmichael said: 

The sub-theme for last year’s festival was Death. When the festival was killed by Covid in March, we were left disoriented, confused and with a sense of loss for a program that was stillborn. The subsequent isolation of lockdown caused further anguish.

We, like the rest of the world, found ourselves in the midst of a long dark night. It seems that in moments of despair, when all else fails, we journey inward. A journey that is sometimes referred to as The Dark Night of the Soul. The darkness representing the fact that the destination is unknowable. The only light along the path is that which burns in the soul.

It is within this context that we present our 2021 festival, and pray it brings a glimmer of light in these uncertain times. We invite you to come to the cross.

The full musical programme is below – for details of all other events visit here – and tickets go on sale in late May. Highlights include:

Art highlights: Pope Alice Close Encounters*, (Russia)*, Tianzhuo Chen (China), Julie Rrap, Pictoplasma + Akinori Oishi (Germany/Japan), Monira Al Qadiri (Kuwait), Jonathan Schipper (USA), Jonathas de Andrade (Brazil), Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran (Sri Lanka/Australia), Paradise Lost at TMAG, CRONE at Mona.

Music highlights: Thurston Moore (USA)*, Circuit des Yeux (USA)*, The Dead C (NZ)*, Wobbly (USA)*, Om (USA)*, Jeremy Gara (Canada/Arcade Fire), Confidence Man, Lo!, Tangents, A. Swayze & The Ghosts, King Stingray, Misery, Black Cab, Slag Queens, The Amenta, Drug Cult, Grace Cummings, Chloe Alison Escott, Shoeb Ahmad, All Saints Compline Choir*, Gavin Bryars (UK)* with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

More: Mammalian Diving Reflex / Darren O’Donnell (Canada)*, Winter Feast, Ogoh-Ogoh Purging and The Burning, Nude Solstice Swim, Solstice fireworks, and some surprises. (*denotes Australian exclusives and world premieres).

Music details are as follows:

Thurston Moore with Wobbly (USA)*
The post-punk legend lands in Hobart for a festival residency. Thurston Moore founded Sonic Youth in 1980, turning on an entire generation to the value of experimentation in rock n roll. He’s performing for Dark Mofo with long-time collaborator, experimental electronic music composer Wobbly (Jon Leidecker). *Australian exclusive.

  • Friday 18 June, 7pm (doors open 6pm), Odeon Theatre, $129 + booking fee / Door sales $135 (subject to capacity). 18+

Thurston Moore (USA) with The Dead C (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

Sonic Youth founder Thurston Moore is joined by legends of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s underground, the Dead C have been hailed by Thurston as one of the most interesting bands in the world. Formed in 1987, the Dead C (Michael Morley, Bruce Russell and Robbie Yeats) have continuously walked a tightrope stretched between rock and free improvisation. Their 30-year career has resulted in more than 30 albums on a bewildering array of independent labels across the globe. *Australian exclusive.

  • Wednesday 16 June, 8pm (doors 7pm), Odeon Theatre, $129 + booking fee / Door sales $135 (subject to capacity).

The Dead C (Aotearoa/New Zealand) with Lucas Abela (Australia)*
Legends of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s underground, The Dead C makes conventional instruments sound anything but conventional. Lucas Abela, who plays an amplified pane of glass like a bellow-less reed instrument. The glass does not always play nice. *Australian exclusive.

  • Saturday 19 June, 6.30pm (doors 6pm), Altar, 112 Murray Street, Free entry (subject to capacity).

Om (USA)*

Formed as a duo in 2003 by the rhythm section of the band Sleep, Om is a Heavy Eastern rhythm trio from the USA. *Australian exclusive.

  • Friday 18 June, 11pm (doors 10pm), Odeon Theatre, $99 + booking fee / Door sales $105 (subject to capacity).

Circuit des Yeux (USA)*

Chicago-based composer and vocal powerhouse Haley Fohr brings her meditative dark folk and octave-spanning melancholia to Hobart’s Federation Concert Hall. *Australian exclusive.

  • Saturday 19 June, 7pm (doors open 6pm), Federation Concert Hall, $49–$59 + booking fee / Door sales $55–$65 (subject to capacity).

Circuit des Yeux: Music Box (USA)*

Haley Fohr plays and sings with music boxes (given to her over eighteen birthdays), having deconstructed and altered the melody turbines. A long-awaited project for the artist, featuring soft instrumentation and ambient sound. With guest support from sound artists Shoeb Ahmad and Alex Albrecht in an intimate setting. *Australian exclusive.

  • Thursday 17 June, 6.30pm (doors open 6pm), Altar, 112 Murray Street, Free entry (subject to capacity).

X-Cathedra | In The Hanging Garden

Late night party church is in session: In The Hanging Garden’s Cathedral transforms into hallowed ground for Dark Mofo with late-night DJs, live performances, and nightly blessings from the festival’s fabulous patron saint, Pope Alice. Warning: this venue hosts performances that feature loud noise, strobe lighting, lasers, and smoke.

  • Wednesday 16–Sunday 20 June, 11am–late, In The Hanging Garden, Free (DJs and 18+ after 10pm).

{{black:rainbow}} (Australia)

Ritual offering of smoke, noise, and liminal exploration… sacred to {{black:rainbow}} goddess of serene chaos. DJs upstairs.

  • Wednesday 16 June, 8pm, Altar + High Altar, 112 Murray Street, Free entry (subject to capacity).

Night Shift

You better work. Late night, double-level dance party. Electronic DJs, nocturnal artists, and things that go bump in the dark. Program to be announced soon.

  • Thursday 17–Sunday 20 June, 10pm–late, Altar + High Altar, 112 Murray Street, Door sales $20 per night (subject to capacity), 18+

Lo! + Injured Ninja + Threats + Drug Cult (Australia)
Lo!: Metal from Sydney. Groove-laden fury. They’ll perform their acclaimed album Vestigial in full. Injured Ninja: Noise rock from Perth. A traditional power trio of guitar rock and bass that is loud, abrasive, euphoric. Threats: Thrash punk from Hobart. Aggressive excellence. Regulars at the Brissie. Drug Cult: Doom from Mullimbimby. Majestic heaviness. Psychedelic haze.

  • Thursday 17 June, 8pm (doors open 7pm), Odeon Theatre, Free entry (subject to capacity).

A Hut in Toyama: Viola Concerto | Gavin Bryars (UK) conducts the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra *
The world premiere of a new work by acclaimed English composer Gavin Bryars, written during the pandemic lockdown and featuring soloist Morgan Goff on viola. It’s inspired by the southern winter solstice and a twelfth-century Japanese book by Kamo-no-Chomei, about living in an isolated hut after earthquakes, storms and fires devastated Kyoto. )resented by Dark Mofo and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Commissioned by Dark Mofo for Morgan Goff. *World premiere.

  • Thursday 17 June, 7pm (doors open 6pm), Federation Concert Hall, $49–$59 + booking fee / Door sales $55–$65 (subject to capacity).

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet | Gavin Bryars (UK) conducts the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra *
Fiftieth anniversary performance of composer Gavin Bryars’ orchestral lament, featuring pianist Andrea Keller. At its heart, an old homeless man sings ‘Jesus’ blood never failed me yet’; a refrain unearthed from discarded tape recordings made with people sleeping rough in London during 1971. Like words from a lost hymn, and a testimony to humanity’s optimistic spirit. *Australian exclusive.

  • Friday 18 June, 7pm (doors open 6pm), Federation Concert Hall, $49–$59 + booking fee / Door sales $55–$65 (subject to capacity).

Terminal Guitar | Marco Fusinato + Mystic Eyes (Lisa MacKinney) + Bruce Russell (The Dead C) (NZ)
No composition, no limits, no mercy. The amplifier as instrument, the instrument as aerial. Any resemblance to actual music is, at best, fortuitous. Exclusive.

  • Friday 18 June, 6.30pm (doors open 6pm), Altar, 112 Murray Street, Free entry (subject to capacity).

Confidence Man + A. Swayze & The Ghosts + King Stingray (Australia)
Triple threat. Why wait until nightfall? Confidence Man: High-energy dance pop designed to make you lose your cool. Go ahead, feel yourself. A. Swayze & The Ghosts: Incendiary punk power. Charisma in spades. Grind, and grind hard. King Stingray: Indie rock, surf and funk. Legendary Yolngu heritage. Yirrnga Yunupingu and Roy Kellaway are the children of Yothu Yindi.

  • Saturday 19 June, 1pm (doors 12pm), Odeon Theatre, Free entry (subject to capacity).

Screams from the Abyss

Hymns to the Dead beget Screams from the Abyss. Misery: An onslaught of death metal from the festering swamps of Queensland. The Amenta: Circuit-bent electronics, noise violin, and extreme home-made percussion. Harrowing, dissonant death metal, marking their return to the stage from a seven year slumber. Pod People: Big, dense doom and allegorical lyrics inspired by Dante’s journey through hell. Altar Defecation: Black metal heretics from the city of churches. Growth: Claustrophobic narratives of spiritual collapse, despair, and the fragility of hope.

  • Saturday 19 June, 8pm (doors open 7pm), Odeon Theatre, $59 + booking fee / Door sales $65 (subject to capacity).

Black Cab (Australia) + Jeremy Gara (Canada) + Slag Queens (Australia)

Post-everything mavericks light up the Odeon. Jeremy Gara: Improvised noise and trancing visuals. Jeremy’s a member of Arcade Fire, but tonight he goes solo. Black Cab: Seventies and eighties-inspired Krautrock and driving electronica. Slag Queens: Champagne communists peddling off-kilter post-punk, dance bangers, and the odd power ballad.

  • Sunday 20 June, 9pm, Odeon Theatre, Free entry (subject to capacity).

Grace Cummings + Chloe Alison Escott (Australia)
Grace Cummings weaves spacious folk from vocals, guitar and harmonica, harking back to the 1960s folk revival. Chloe Alison Escott usually fronts post-punk duo Native Cats, but tonight she brings it to the piano: life-on-the-line lyrics, and arresting songs of internal conflict and transformation.

  • Sunday 20 June, 7pm (doors open 6pm), Altar, 112 Murray Street, Free entry (subject to capacity).

Solstice Eve | Tangents, Wobbly (US), Sens Dep, Monica Brooks *
A sit-down feast of ambient, experimental soundscapes to prepare you for the solstice. Tangents: Drum-driven improvisation meets skittering electronic production and lush cello-and-piano tones. Wobbly: A human in the loop, improvising with machines that listen. Sens Dep: Textured noise and sonic ruminations. Monica Brooks: Hypnotic, rolling, improvised piano. *Australian exclusive.

  • Sunday 20 June, 7pm (doors open 6pm), Federation Concert Hall, $49–$59 + booking fee / Door sales $55–$65 (subject to capacity).

Towards a Great Silence | All Saints Compline Choir (Australia)
Durational, episodic performances of Gregorian chanting and choral music spanning the last six hundred years. The All Saints Compline Choir is a vocal ensemble which convenes to sing glorious music in its liturgical setting at All Saints Church in South Hobart under the expert leadership of Nick Caddick.

  • Monday 21 June, 10pm–Tuesday 22 June, 6am, Hobart City Hall, 57–63 Macquarie Street, Free (Visitors will be permitted entry at suitable times in the performance).

Feature Photograph: Ivan Volkov /Dark Lab

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