Launceston catches the true Mona Foma spirit on first day of the festival

It’s official: Mona Foma has arrived in Launceston.

Launching the festival’s weekend of music, art, and life were three Friday night performances representing the wildest range of creativity.

From Monumental’s anxiety-ridden contemporary dance performance, combining the fierce dancers of The Holy Body Tattoo and powerful live music of Montreal’s experimental collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor, to Gotye’s homage to electronic pop, to the ‘funky’ leather orchestra and Japanese drums of the Tasmanian Taiko and Leather Orchestra – Northern Tasmania welcomed MoFo with a bang.

At the Princess Theatre, Monumental attendees were warned to prepare themselves for loud music, and Godspeed delivered. 

In deep shadow, the band’s rising, falling sound tied with the intense movement of dancers standing on high blocks, moving sometimes in unison, sometimes in spiky individual statements.

The Holy Body Tattoo choreographer Dana Gingras said it was an honour for the performers to be the first contemporary dance group invited to MoFo, and to bring their on-stage narrative to Tasmania.

She said the Princess Theatre was one of the most intimate spaces the dance group had performed in, compared to the often cavernous theatres in New York or other major American cities.

Monumental considers the stressors of city life, the anxieties and tensions between people – a concept Gingras said could be interesting to bring to a regional city like Launceston, where the intensity of suburbia is less.

For those not prepared to face the intensity of Monumental, Australian multi-instrumentalist Gotye held the first of three performances at the Albert Hall, a tribute to Jean-Jacques Perrey.

Perrey, a ‘pop visonary’, was renown for his electronic compositions, with Gotye’s performance paying tribute through the use of the ondioline: a forerunner of the modern synthesizer. 

Playing in the centre of the Albert Hall, and surrounded on all sides by rows of chairs and up-close bean bags for about 400 listeners, Gotye became part of the Ondioline Orchestra, featuring Rob Schwimmer, Joe McGinty and members of indie-pop band Zammuto.

Performing in a double bill with the Tasmanian Taiko and Leather Orchestra’s Skin Migration, audience members could swing their chairs around to see and hear the oversized leather trumpet on the Albert Hall’s stage.

Taiko drums and leather instruments brought together an eclectic mix of music for the first evening of MoFo.

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