Puttin’ on the Ritz for ‘Formal Mondays’

Teetering in heels, gloves, a cocktail dress and a 1950s prom dress, Jessica and I took our seats. The lights dimmed. Musicians Kim Barlow, Kyle Cashen and Fiona Solon took up their instruments to begin their ritual of “Formal Mondays.”

Formal Mondays are an exploration of musical talent, bringing in electronica, organs, a cello and some really fun, impromptu jam sessions.

The brainchild of the folksy trio, Formal Mondays happens, well, informally: a date is chosen, posters are plastered about town and the group sets up shop at The Old Fire Hall, the Yukon Arts Centre or, heck, even Flippers, earlier in the depths of winter this year.

They’re not choosy about where Formal Mondays happen, but they always happen on Mondays – a rule, like the “formal part”, not to be broken.

Tonight, Cashen is dressed in a snappy waistcoat, and another in the twenty-something hipster audience is wearing a grey tutu. Nobody quite reaches our “gloves and pearls” formal level, but it was clear that they had put some thought into their attire.

Kicking things off with a cover of the Junior Boys, a rather obscure electronica band, Cashen deepened the tone with an organ (formal Mondays is all about experimenting with audio effects).

Barlow had the audience howling with 100 Ways to Die, a series of song titles culled from her son’s book and from her own current collection, Death by Deadly Tiger Attack, a lighthearted, fun look at a potentially gruesome death.

“Chances are slim anything will save you, nothing can save you from the deadly tiger attack, except maybe a friend with a big gun …” Barlow sang.

Aside from the unique indie folk, Solon’s vocals were a standout in a cover of M.I.A.’s Paper Planes, which had the crowd singing along, although the faux gunshot noises weren’t easily replicated on a guitar, banjo or cello.

Near the end of the show, Solon welcomed friend and artist Andrew Stratis up to sing Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic,” in what seemed like an incredibly deadpan fashion. It was awesome – made me laugh so hard along with everyone in the audience.

I never heard Morissette being covered in such a way. Stratis read the lyrics off a sheet in a curiously passionless fashion; it even seemed the cover he and Solon sang was being ironic.

Cashen slammed off the refrain in a high falsetto. It was impressive and hilarious. I couldn’t help but whisper to Jessica to tell her how much I enjoyed Formal Mondays.

Solon said this about Formal Mondays, “We randomly decided to start them and they happen whenever we feel like it!”

To catch another Formal Monday, keep your eye out for a poster on a bulletin board at Baked, The Chocolate Claim or on the corner of Main Street. As they can be impromptu, expect anything from a mannered occasion at the Yukon Arts Centre, to an all-out jam session at Flippers.

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