Venice native Monica Aben’s ‘Sweatpants Series’ is all about being comfortable in your community

By Christina Campodonico

Venice’s Monica Aben employs music to do good and build community

At her shows, singer-songwriter Monica Aben wants you to feel comfortable — in your skin and with your feelings. In order to do that, she has a bit of an unorthodox method.

Over the past year, the fourth-generation Venetian has invited friends, friends of friends, and community members to show up at her family’s Rose Avenue home in sweatpants — or whatever makes them feel comfortable — for concerts she’s dubbed “The Sweatpants Series.”

During these intimate house shows, Aben and one or two of her singer-songwriter friends play original songs and regale audiences with the tales behind them. It’s the 25-year-old’s way of not only sharing her music (her latest single, “The Beginning of Things,” launches Friday during a special “Sweatpants Series” showcase at Amiga Wild), but also creating community in a neighborhood that’s seen rapid change over the last five years.

“Here’s my opinion on the whole situation that has become Venice,” she says. “I think it’s great that things can boom and bloom … but I think at the same time, I feel like it’s created a wildfire for a lot of other issues.”

Among them a lost sense of community and a rise in homelessness, which is why 70% of the proceeds from every “Sweatpants Series” show benefits homeless youth services center Safe Place for Youth.

“I think they are such a special thing that exists in Venice,” says Aben, who adds that a special guest from S.P.Y.’s music program will also be playing on Friday. “I’ll support them forever. … The only way I feel comfortable about promoting my music is if I can feel I can make a dent in the world and not add to the noise. I want to give back to the place that built me.”

Even so, Aben’s relationship with Venice has not always been easy. When she was growing up the neighborhood’s then-grittier nature was a turnoff for high school and middle school friends from ritzier zip codes. And for a time, Aben herself “fell off the Venice map” as she dealt with the aftermath of a severe allergic reaction during high school and, later, her friends moving away from the area to attend college. Even now, she sometimes finds Venice’s newly glammed-up status alienating.

“It almost reminds me of New York,” she says, “and I know that’s really extreme to say, but you know when you walk around and you kind of feel like you’re invisible? I don’t like that there are parts of Venice that feel like that. … All of it has changed so much. I feel like I’ve moved, but I haven’t.”

Yet music has always been a saving grace for Aben, who as a teen found great comfort in strumming her guitar for her friends in — you guessed it — sweatpants.

“I would like to sit on my bed with some friends and I would play them a new song I wrote about a boy that I liked, or something a 15-year-old me would do,” she reminisces.

Since recreating that comfy vibe through “The Sweatpants Series,” Aben’s discovered a newfound sense of community in Venice that she hopes to share with others.

“You know, when people are comfortable physically, it kind of brings up this thing within them to be like, ‘I’m comfortable, I want to share,’” she says. “And so far, it’s just been really magical.”

“The Sweatpants Series: Monica Aben Single Release Show” happens from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday (Nov. 16) at Amiga Wild, 2124 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. A $10 donation is suggested. RSVP at sweatpantsseries1116.eventbrite.com or visit sweatpantsseries.com for more info.

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