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Inside Dark Mofo’s rave at the end of the earth

Hobart is usually a sleepy town – the kind of place where if you haven’t gotten dinner in before 9pm then you’re going hungry. But for five nights every winter there’s a hedonistic bacchanal that takes over the cavernous City Hall: a secretive shindig that lies somewhere in the fertile ground between an old school warehouse party and the over-the-top production values of a major international festival.

The party’s called Blacklist and it’s the major nightlife attraction of Dark Mofo, the mid-winter arts festival run by Hobart’s incredible private gallery MONA. Dark Mofo’s all about turning sleepy, icy Hobart into the centre of a debauched pagan celebration of the winter-solstice: hence its clever and obscure programming that takes in everything from gigs by black metal bands and industrial experimentalists to its blockbuster art exhibition by Marina Abramović, a performance artist fascinated with shamanism, the occult and testing human limits.

So it makes sense that their after-hours party would shroud itself in lewd mystery. The marketing blurb gave away little, except that attendees should “dress appropriately for the end,” “be a wild and free gay horse” and “acknowledge the power of magic” in order to prepare for the “late-night ceremonial death dance”. Even the venue was a secret up until the day of the first event (revealed on Facebook by none other Kamahl, because of course it was). That tactic might have had something to do with keeping out gate-crashers rather than preserving mystique, but it didn’t seem to matter: the first night of Blacklist it looked like every single Tasmanian between 18 and 40 had bought a ticket, along with every mainland punter in town for Dark Mofo, all throwing shapes like it was 1991 in a Hampshire field.

Creative team Supple Fox – behind the Faux Mo parties of previous years, which our sister site FasterLouder called “still the best after-party on earth” – were placed in charge of curating a different theme and performance for each of the five Blacklist nights, and on the inaugural night that theme was futuristic-bacchanal. There were white jump suited staff, strips of clear plastic dividing the wrap-around balcony into discrete sections like an apocalyptic hospital, fires in metal bins and a car wrapped in gold foil in the smoking area, and at the back of the cavernous main room, the piece de resistance: a large round stage on which sat a huge, canonical silver sculpture like a pagan Christmas tree.

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