Mona Foma – the summer festival of art and music connected to Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) – returns this March. It’s been curated by festival director (and Violent Femmes bassist) Brian Ritchie, who is going into his 16th year in the role.

Ritchie joins us this week on our podcast Broadsheet Sydney: Around Town to chat about the acts he’s most looking forward to and how Queens of the Stone Age booked themselves as a headliner. Plus, the Aussie restaurant he rates, the surprising musical instrument he plays every day and his morning routine.

On one of the acts he’s most excited for

I’m really excited about Yahon Chang, a Taiwanese artist doing a free performance at a gigantic industrial space that we used to use as the festival hub in the early days. He’s got canvases that will be spread over the floor in a huge setting and big paintbrushes that are taller than him. He’ll be moving around, creating a calligraphy-style, abstract expressionist, yet very traditional in some ways, work of art.

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On his favourite coffee shop in Tassie

My favourite coffee place is called Sweet Brew. It’s run by a family and they’ve actually moved to another location since we started the festival. Hobart has made so many good coffee shops; I really like a place called Pigeon Whole Bakers, because it’s in the same building as my office.

On his morning routine

There are a few things that I do every day, which are yoga and sauna. I also practice the shakuhachi, which is Japanese bamboo flute. We have a specific regimen which we are supposed to do every day. So it’s a discipline and kind of a ritual, in a sense.

On Courtney Barnett’s Mona Foma history

[Last year] she was reticent to play solo in Launceston, but it was a special request. She liked it so much she started touring around the state solo. This time she’s doing two sets, one of which is her new album … and then she’ll be doing greatest hits and that’s going to be at the Odeon Theatre, which is actually a replica of a famous theatre that no longer exists in New York City, but exists in Hobart.

On the importance of live performance

We really need to embrace live performance, and the arts in general, as a path to sanity because I think the world has pretty much gone insane. The Covid thing, people think ‘Oh, yeah, we’re over it’, but it has had a lasting effect on society. I think one of the best ways that we can get back to our mental health is to try and listen to new things, experience festivals and get together with other people. There’s nothing like live music to really express the deepest and also the funnest parts of humanity.