welcome to cold ibiza: the strange magnetism of hobart’s new party culture

In Hobart, space and opportunity have given birth to a nightlife renaissance. Now young locals are hoping to save their city through partying.

by Rob Inglis
17 October 2016, 3:35am

The dance floor at Hazey Daze. Photography Eden Meure.

In the Kissing Room at The Grand Poobah, a 24-hour licensed venue in Hobart's CBD, a solitary red light glances off a disco ball hanging over the dance floor. Cherry blossom lines the decks where DJs Sweaty Pits and Puffy Pank hold court, while thick reams of smoke render partygoers anonymous. It's not a sensation Hobart residents are are familiar with; in this city everyone knows everyone.

It's the second consecutive week that Hazey Daze and Good Marinations have thrown a party together. On the street outside, artificial smoke is substituted for tobacco as French disco don Sacha Mambo mingles with revellers before playing a set. When he mentions he's in Hobart for four days, people urge him to visit the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Since opening, the museum has had an immense cultural impact across the state. Thanks are in no small part due to MONA FOMA, the Festival of Music and Art, established under the auspices of the museum in the summer of 2009. Four years later the city welcomed Dark Mofo as the winter alternative to FOMA. With it came Blacklist, the younger sibling of the notorious Faux Mo parties, and an appetite for rangy merrymaking was aroused in Tasmania's capital. But with the festivals only covering two short weeks of the year, Hazey Daze and Good Marinations recognised someone needed to stoke the city's party flames in the intervening months

DJs Sweaty Pits and Puffy Pank playing at The Grand Poobah. Photography Eden Meure.

In 2013, the same year Dark Mofo began, Perth-born Nathan Savage settled in Hobart. But it wasn't until the start of last year that he held his first Hazey Daze party at the Poobah. Since then Nathan — who himself makes music as Bronze Savage — has hosted Australian dance music luminaries including Roland Tings, Sui Zhen and András, as well as international talent like Bradley Zero and Jack J. Earlier this year, many Hazey Daze alumni returned to the island for Rose Quartz Festival, Nathan's electronic music showcase on the shores of Lake Pedder. "I think what DJs love about playing Hobart is they have the freedom to take the dance floor wherever they desire," says Savage.

That's why he and others call Tasmania Cold Ibiza. Originally conceived as a tongue-in-cheek term to entice touring DJs to the island, the name is proving more apt than Savage anticipated. "Before Ibiza turned into a hectic commercial hub, DJs would play whatever, and it was all good," he explains. "It's the same in Hobart."

Hobart's insularity, often understood to be one of its drawbacks, affords it a certain beguiling quality. This is only amplified in the city's underground dance music scene. "A lot of people know each other, and let loose in a way that's without pretence," Savage says. "There's something incredibly sweet and unique about it."

Partiers at Rose Quartz festival this year. Photo by Briony Wright.

But that's not to say that everyone sticks around to enjoy the party. High youth unemployment rates are compounded by low population figures, sending young Hobartians flocking across Bass Strait to look for work. It should come as no surprise, then, that Tasmania has the oldest population in Australia, with a median age of 42 as of June 2015. "It works in waves, but Hobart tends to struggle with losing locals to the mainland," says Savage. "It is attracting a lot of people that come to do interesting things here, though."

Himself a relative newcomer to the state, Savage's enthusiasm resonates throughout the local dance music scene. Rather than viewing the small population as a burden, he's part of a community of local musicians who recognises it as providing space to create something fresh.

Good Marinations, a grassroots multimedia collective fronted by UTAS architecture graduates Matthew Flack and Cal Bilsborough Cowarn, also have ambitions of shaping Hobart's emerging party culture. In September, they held their first event at Schmørgåsbaag, a pop-up furniture store that recently opened 200-metres up the road from the Poobah.

The two first bonded over a shared love of music while at uni in Launceston. "There were seven or eight of us who were all quite passionate about remaining in Tassie," says Cal. "Because one thing that kills Hobart is, we get to Year 12 and go, 'Shit, I kind of want to hang around, but there's nothing here for me. Gonna go to Melbourne, and put all my creative energy into that city.' But if you can get those types of people to stay…"

Matthew and Cal started that effort to keep people in Hobart with a Facebook group for friends to share music with each other. Now 200-members strong, the collective manifests itself in a number of ways, not least in the form of its parties. By endeavouring to "translate" the spirit of the Facebook group into "something that everybody can get," Good Marinations hope to "build a culture," says Matthew.

The pair use the word 'build' a lot — they're architects to the core. And if Faux Mo, Blacklist and Hazey Daze laid the foundation for contemporary party culture in Hobart, then Matthew and Cal are working to fortify it.

The event at Schmørgåsbaag was a testament to their overriding ethos. "Everything was to engage people so they would stay there," Matthew says. For them that's the dilemma facing Hobart — for the city to retain its young people, it has to engage with them. For Nathan, Matthew and Cal they can do this through their parties. They can bring people together, and show them there is space for their projects, ideas and dreams in Hobart — like, a lot of space. 


Text Rob Inglis
Images courtesy of Hazey Daze

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