Dark Mofo’s Night Mass Is A Demonic And Disorientating Party With Inflatable Penises
This is one of Australia's most exciting and innovative parties.
At 3am on Sunday, there was a congregation of shivering masses pooling out onto Hobart’s street. Mostly dressed in black or red, they jogged on the spot in front of Night Mass — Dark Mofo’s ‘ritual party’ — to stay warm in the harsh winds, chatting with friends and comparing notes on their night.
It’s easy to miss a moment — or an entire stage. Night Mass is a labyrinth of smoke, haze, low-lighting and impeccably dressed punters who either make the cold work with garish coats, or risk hypothermia for fashion.
This year’s party is under ‘new management’, co-thrown by UXS (a touring and management company who work with warehouse party heroes like Rebel Yell and HABITS) and Soft Centre, Western Sydney’s annual art party at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. As a result, the line-up pulsates with fresh blood.
There’s the innovative big-name internationals, like Junglepussy and Empress Of, as well as the lesser-known draw-cards, such as the esoteric electronica of Beijing group Zaliva-D, a bouncy castle filled with metal acts blasting in and out, and a stage stacked with Brazil’s finest queer party starters.
Throughout, there’s also an eclectic mix of Australian acts from across the country. For starters, there’s Hobart locals The Native Cats, Sydney’s electronic duo DIN (Alex Ward of Moon Holiday and Rainbow Chan coming together to flex their club muscles) and Canberra’s difficult to define Honey2Honey.
Frankly, it’s overwhelming. Wandering between the six stages — inside and outside, across geometric domes, bouncy castles and historic theatres — is incredibly disorientating, but it’s all intended. There are few signs throughout the space, and while a timetable and map are emailed to you beforehand, it seems against the spirit to stick to a schedule.
You may have bought a ticket primarily to see Empress Of on her first-ever Australian tour, but in the moment, you might decide to stay for IC3PEAK, a witch-hop Russian duo best described as somewhere between Crystal Castles and Die Antwoord. Their music pulsates with so much aggression that last year, they were banned from performing in their home country. In Hobart, it hits a chord — even if we have no idea what they’re saying.
About last night. #NightMass
Posted by Dark Mofo on Friday, 14 June 2019
Upstairs, a small room heaves. An anonymous DJ in a Kim Jung-Un mask blasts industrial music and flashes artery-red lights into a crowd, staring down at them from a scaffolding cage, which, for those who know, is the only clue that we’re at the Soft Centre stage.
Another level higher, things are calmer. Reportedly, there’s an alien-green room pounding through the likes Britney and JT, filled with punters a little overwhelmed by the heavier acts. Most, however, simply float from stage-to-stage, occasionally all landing at the same spot.
That’s what happened for Teto Preto, the Brazilian five-piece playing Red Bull’s stage in Night Mass’s central Cathedral, a sandstone cavern, usually a car-park. Their crowd was the largest we saw, though they’re used to literally bringing the party. Lead singer Laura Diaz, alongside partner and the stage’s closing DJ Cashu, is a founding member of Mambra Negra, an underground collective and label who throw illegal parties in abandoned buildings across Sao Paulo to provide spaces for Brazil’s queer people of colour.
Despite the cold, Diaz comes out near naked, as does dancer Loïc Koutana, who wears a a papal red cloth tied to hang from between his legs. The two are incredibly captivating performers, melding electronic punk with queer club-kid performance art; in one breakdown, Diaz removed her chained nipple tassels in an orgiastic release, and the crowd absolutely loses it.
Red Bull’s stage is called Via São Paulo, the second part of an ongoing series called VIA organised by Sugar Mountain founder Pepper Keen, in which international artists and musicians collaborate with Australian acts.
At the first weekend, House Of Slé performed alongside the Brazilian acts, bringing New York’s ballroom world to Hobart via Brazil, Sydney and the Pacific. It’s an otherworld, literally; a combination that doesn’t exist elsewhere.
Elsewhere is the word — on the streets outside, once Night Mass is over, everyone compares what they did and didn’t see.
If you didn’t see the inflatable penises thrown into the Odeon Theatre’s crowd and gyrating on-stage to techno, maybe you heard it from upstairs, where you might have found a kitchen turned into a seriously sweaty dance-floor? No?
Well, what about Japan’s latex-loving artist Saeborg? Fresh from performing one of the most bizarre plays of the festival, her crew arrive just before Junglepussy comes on, dressed as giant bugs. They’re sprayed and writhe around in the strobe lights, like a mock pastiche of the loose dancing underway in the crowd.
But our pick for the favourite of the night was Girl Zone, a five-piece rap collective from Melbourne made up of 12- and 13-year-old girls. Before blitzing through their own songs, they arrived on-stage in cowboy hats, dancing to ‘Old Town Road’.
That was by far the oddest part of Night Mass, as it was the only song the whole crowd knew well enough to sing.
Music Junkee attended and travelled to Night Mass and Dark Mofo courtesy of Red Bull Australia.
Photos by Ken Leanfore, via the Red Bull Content Pool.
Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.