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Published August 4, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
I met the late Monique Ford in the back of a club as I was loading in an amplifier. Ween's "Beacon Light" was playing over the PA, and I was absolutely freezing my southern-transplant ass off. It was almost 18 years ago, but I recall the memory with vivid clarity.
We were just kids, though it never feels like that when I think back to that night. Monique's eyes were shining under the neon lights of the bar, and her long, dark hair was swept up in a bun. In the ensuing years I would grow accustomed to it, but Monique's presence was almost magnetic. You had to talk to this girl once you saw her; she was instantly the most interesting person in the room. Any room.
I remember a snowstorm raging outside; I was soaked to the bone and shivering, staring at an empty club in despair. There would be no crowd that night and I knew it. So did Mo.
She poured a shot of whiskey and pushed the glass toward me. Her face lit up and she hit me with that smile — the smile everyone and their house pets fell in love with.
"Hey, there," she said with a laugh in her voice. "I'm Monique. Looks like I'm your audience tonight."
I recall years of memories when I think of her, now that she's gone.
I see Mo screaming at the television in pure joy as she watches a hockey game, surrounded by friends.
I see her a row behind me at a concert on the waterfront, dancing under a full moon. It hung over her head like a sigil that night. She seemed like a creature of pure magic.
I see Mo coming out of the market, headphones, sunglasses and green Boston Celtics jacket on — the Queen of the Queen City. She's alive and present in my mind, doing all the little things that make up a life.
There are so many stories I could tell about my friend Monique, who left this world last April. I could go on about her beautiful heart, her love of taking in the wounded, helping the misfit and believing in the underdog. I could tell you how much she loved listening to Keith Sweat, eating ice cream and watching basketball at the same time. Or how she would laugh maniacally and make you touch her nose so you could feel the weird cartilage where she had broken it multiple times over the years.
I'm going to keep most of those stories to myself. I don't have the word count to scratch the surface and, honestly, I'm not sure I'm ready to yet. So many others have Monique tales to tell, as well.
And they'll have a chance to tell them this Saturday, August 7. As a testament to the sheer number of lives Mo touched, the celebration of her life will be hosted in two locations. The "MOmorial," as it's called, will start at the Essex Experience at 2 p.m. and feature DJs, a video compilation, and some of Monique's closest friends and family sharing stories. At 6, the party moves to the Three Needs, where Mo had tended the bar since 2005.
I honestly don't know what it will be like not to see her behind that bar — I haven't had the nerve to try. I do know it's going to feel incredible and cathartic to be with so many other people she touched, all of us tipping our glasses to the sky and remembering a gigantically beautiful life.
Goodbye, Monique. You've become a legend in this city now. To me, though, you're simply my friend, and I miss you.
Burlington's comedy scene was thriving before the pandemic threw a banana peel on the stage. Much like live music, though, live comedy is roaring back, baby.
The Vermont Comedy Club reopens on Thursday, September 2, with a three-night run of shows featuring Kyle Kinane — and, good gravy, my body is ready. It was a hard year without live comedy, and knowing that the club reopens soon makes my heart happy.
There's a chance to see some standup before that, however, with the Pop-Up Stand Up event happening in City Hall Park on Saturday, August 7. Running from 8 to 9 p.m., the show features local comedians Julia Colasanti, Ash Diggs, Jared Hall and Kathleen Kanz.
The event is Colasanti's brainchild. She had a revelation that "people needed a pick-me-up, and I needed a project."
"The idea actually began during COVID," Colasanti explains. "I went from living in Chicago and going to comedy open mics five days a week to living with my parents in Michigan and trying to score virtual comedy gigs." She missed real audiences and shows — "even the shows I bombed" she says.
Colasanti, who attended Saint Michael's College, moved back to Vermont in August 2020. As she dreamed of organizing a show, she realized she wanted it to be more than just a simple comedy event.
"For me, mental health and comedy go hand in hand," Colasanti says. "And the Howard Center does so much good and offers so many resources to support mental health. Part of their mission is to help communities thrive. But during quarantine, the words 'community' and 'thrive' had vanished from our vocabulary. I felt like we needed an extra dose of both."
So, while the event is free, guests are encouraged to donate. Anybody with a tight wallet gets roasted by the comedians. (Just kidding.) All proceeds go directly to the Howard Center.
It sounds like a fine opportunity for people to do some good, for both their community and their own mental health.
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but a young, talented artist has completed her collegiate tenure here in Vermont and will soon be leaving town. It's the nature of a music scene based in a college town, but it still stings. This time it's especially rough, as the artist in question is one of my favorites in recent years.
Lili Traviato, aka Princess Nostalgia, is making the move to bigger markets, as so many other Vermont musicians have in recent years. From Caroline Rose and Anders Parker to the Vacant Lots, it's a bit of a Burlington tradition. Traviato aims to put more miles on her odometer than any of those acts, however, when she heads to Berlin, Germany, later this month.
"It's been an amazing time here," the producer and singer says. "But it just feels like now is the right time to embrace change and take this chance."
Being in a city steeped in a tradition of avant-garde electronic music also appeals to Traviato, who professes her love of Kraftwerk, among more modern influences.
"It's cool being in Burlington, where my music sort of stands out on its own," she says. "But it also felt like no one really knew where to fit me in when it came to live shows, what kind of artists to put me on the bill with, that sort of thing. I'm hoping in Berlin I'll find somewhere my music fits in a little more."
Traviato is leaving us with a parting gift, at least; her cover of Dolly Parton's classic "Jolene" drops on August 25 with an accompanying video for the track.
New singles and videos alert!
Alt rockers Phantom Suns have released a video for their new single "Cordyceps." The song has a nice Meat Puppets feel to it, full of dynamic shifts and catchy guitar licks. Head over to phantomsuns.bandcamp.com to hear the track, and check out the band's first post-pandemic gig on Friday, August 13, at Swan Dojo.
If you're looking for even heavier stuff, Vermont metalcore outfit Saving Vice just released a video for its single "Phantom Pain." The band has been accumulating plenty of buzz and plays on Spotify recently, as well as rocking out a billboard in Times Square to promote the single.
Cosmic cowboys Western Terrestrials, having been there and done that with the whole video thing, will release their debut feature film The Ballad of Ethan Alien on Friday, August 13, at Feast & Field Fable Farm in Barnard. The movie spawned from a song WT front person Nick Charyk wrote with Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor, and it featured on WT's album Back in the Saddle of a Fever Dream. Telling the story of a dystopian future in which music and creativity have been banned, the film promises to be a proper head trip. There will be a second showing on Friday, August 27, at Camp Meade. Giddyap, space cowboy.
Tags: Music News + Views, Monique Ford, Vermont Comedy Club, Kyle Kinane, Julia Colasanti, Ash Diggs, Jared Hall, Kathleen Kanz, Lili Traviato, Princess Nostalgia, Phantom Suns, Saving Vice, Western Terrestrials
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