At The Bar with Mona Foma Curator Brian Ritchie – of Violent Femmes Fame

Best known as the bassist in 90s American folk punk band The Violent Femmes, Brian Ritchie has long called Australia home – with a base in Hobart as curator of Mona Foma – a Launceston Arts and Music Festival that rolls into town every February and extends into the heart of Mona in Hobart too.

Brian Ritchie has curated an epic line-up of acts – including some of the biggest acts heading to Tasmania this summer. From Queens of the Stone Age to Mogwai, Courtney Barnett performing with Stella Mozgawa and Japanese orginal punks Shonen Knife, the musical line-up is worth getting on a flight for.

Stoner rock legends QOTSA at Mona Foma February 2024
Courtney Barnett appearing at Mona Foma February 2024


Shonen Knife from Japan appearing at Mona Foma this February 2024

There’s gin and gastronomy nights, free music on the lawns at Mona, meditation sessions and a special performance by TISM at Cataract Gorge in Launceston. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; check out the full program here:

Ritchie spoke to The Write Drop for our At The Bar series


My wife Varuni Kulasekera got a job in Canberra to run the Fullbrite Australia Commission so we have recently moved here from Hobart. I have spent some time here before, but Australians revile Canberra don’t they? I’m a cyclist so I like to ride my bike around, it has the most cycle paths of any city in this country and some of the best public spaces – like museums which is really important for me- given what I do.


In the Australian context, let me talk about Africola in Adelaide. I think it’s a very original, dynamic restaurant that is unpretentious with real food with real flavours that are constantly changing. That’s a place I visit repeatedly and it’s unique in my experience.


I used to live in Rome and I liked to go to the many bars near the Pantheon. I would sit there and have Campari and Soda and watch everyone go by. You can’t go wrong if you pick one; any one of them works.


I have been known to enjoy a dry martini with an olive.


Eat carbs – for me that’s either cereal, rice or bread. I also go to the sauna – I do that every day and get some exercise in. I practice Shakuhachi which gets my oxygen flowing again. My new hangover strategy is radical – it’s called not drinking too much. I don’t get hangovers nearly as often now.


Basement restaurant Ishizuka is where I like to go to that is incredible in Melbourne. I am a Japanophile. To me Japanese food is the greatest cuisine. I also went to a great bar in Fitzroy where they specialise in gin and also make great jaffles. It’s called Bad Frankie. It’s a lot of fun.


I love wine and for me it has to be Moorilla – our winery at Mona. I drink a lot of wine from here and admire Conor van der Reest for his winemaking skill.  He is incredible and likes searching for new ideas and I enjoy the vintages and see how it’s developing.  I am non-denominational when it comes to wine- I tend to drink what matches the food and the season. I do enjoy whites and Conor is making a really nice  sparkling rosé I love.


Perth and Margaret River to celebrate a friend’s birthday and checking out the Australian Chamber Orchestra – they end the season at Vasse Felix winery, so that’s become a yearly tradition for me and I consider the Australian Chamber Orchestra to be one of the best musical groups in the country.

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