Young denizens of downtown New Paltz gathered in Hasbrouck Park, Oasis, Bacchus and Snug Harbor this past Saturday to celebrate a much-missed friend on the third annual Ludwig Day. The longtime Paltzonian being remembered was Ludwig Montesa, who died in his sleep on April 7, 2013 following an epileptic seizure, at the age of 34.
“Matty, take it away!” called out Amanda Sisenstein at the Oasis bar that evening as eleven of Ludwig’s friends formed a kickline and sang along with Frank Sinatra to “New York, New York.” According to Sisenstein, who coordinated the Ludwig Day activities, Montesa played piano and also sang for many years with the Community Choir on the SUNY-New Paltz campus. But karaoke was his special passion, and although he drank very little on account of his seizure medications, he was a familiar face at all the bars in town that offered karaoke and rarely missed an open-mic night. “He would hang out and be everybody’s buddy,” Sisenstein reminisced.
The outgoing Ludwig loved Sinatra, Broadway show tunes, jazz and pop standards, and performed them with glitz, panache and no fear at all, inspiring others to do the same. “I’d often sign on after him,” said Peter Pennisi, an accordion-player who knew Ludwig from the time that he was ten years old, and also worked in Kon-Tiki, the store on lower Main Street owned by Ludwig’s parents, Virginia and Oscar Montesa. Ludwig’s performances were “musically outside the box” for the alt/rock-oriented venues of the New Paltz bar scene, said Pennisi, but he seems to have found appreciative audiences wherever he went.
The day’s events began at noon with a gathering in Hasbrouck Park billed as a “Wig-Out.” Live music went on all afternoon, featuring Rich and CreAmy, Shabbat Rusciolelli, Maiko Hata & Friends, the Crimmins Family Duo, the Kairos and NCM. Plenty of family activities were available as well, with another Ludwig friend, Yuvelca Reyes, coordinating children’s games including volleyball, ring toss and wiffleball.
“Ludwig was the kind of guy who would go up to anyone and give them a big long hug,” said Reyes in explanation of the influence that Montesa had wielded as a sort of self-appointed downtown New Paltz goodwill ambassador. “Or he’d give you a high-five that lasts forever. If you were hungry, he’d make sure you got something to eat. If you were crying, he wouldn’t leave you alone until he made you smile.”
“He had a simple way about him,” said Pennisi, who today regards the deceased young man as a bodhisattva — in Buddhism, a being of profound compassion who has made a commitment to spend all one’s lifetimes helping others achieve enlightenment. “What came out of his mouth was poignant, and maybe what you need to hear.”
Blessed for the first time by beautiful weather, the third annual Wig-Out drew about 150 of Montesa’s admirers to the park. Ludwig Day 2015 then continued into the evening with the Ludwig-style karaoke open mic at Oasis, followed by the bands TMT, Mikey Blais, Ratboy, the Sweet Clementines, Stinkwood and CFR & Friends.
Bacchus joined in the celebration with the bands John Curran IV & Acoustic Sun, the Kairos and the Breath Collective. Snug’s hosted a seven-hour Bloodwig Fest, featuring bands Mr. Bighead, Exit 17, Black Mesa, It’s Not Night It’s Space, NCM, Minotaur’s Redemption, Terra Nova, Dr. Awesome and Rice and Beans.
Pennisi explained that the point of Ludwig Day was for people to recommit themselves to the spirit of open-hearted friendliness that characterized the deceased. “We’ve got to carry on and do the right thing,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I love you.’”
Funds raised from donations and tee-shirt sales on Ludwig Day will be used first and foremost to ensure that a similar celebration will be held next year. Any surplus will be donated to the family of Marc Reiss, a friend of Montesa who died more recently. To find out how to donate to the fund or purchase a tee-shirt, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.