Is romance in the air this Valentine's Day, or are you romancing the idea of saying to hell with the holiday? Whether you've been struck by Cupid's arrow or you're aiming a middle finger at the chubby cherub, Madison has plenty of musical options to ensure the week ahead plays whatever tune your heart desires. Here are my top picks for the Valentine's-obsessed and the Valentine's-averse.
For the lovers
Malt House, Feb. 11, 7:30 pm
Well, duh. The name of the band screams intimacy in that public, slightly buzzed sort of way. If you already have a special someone you're thinking of asking to be yours, waiting for Feb. 14 to arrive could be agonizing. Might as well jump the gun and dance to the Irish-inspired frenzy of this beloved local rock band. The absence of TVs at the Malt House means less competition for your lover's gaze and more quality time together.
American Heart Association Blues Jam Benefit
Knuckle Down Saloon, Feb. 14, 8 pm
Though it's the figurative heart that takes the lead this time of year, a healthy ticker in the literal sense makes passion's pursuit possible. That's why this benefit for the American Heart Association is key to the making of love. A little fundraising will lead to a lot of good feelings, and appropriately named guitarist A.J. Love and great blues singer Michael Coleman will blast out the kind of Chicago blues that keep the blood pumping.
Valentine's Day Dinner with Pro Arte Quartet
University Club, Feb. 14, 5:30 pm
Going all out on Feb. 14 remains one of the most surefire ways of letting someone know how special he or she is. The romance Pro Arte Quartet conjures with its gorgeous, elegant strings will take you halfway there, and drinks, hors d'oeuvres and a three-course meal should finish you off. It's a whole lot of loving for one evening, even if you're too stuffed to go out dancing afterward.
For the haters
High Noon Saloon, Feb. 14, 5:30 pm
This show sounds perfect for anyone, regardless of his or her stance on Valentine's Day, but for the sake of argument, let's say it'll be best enjoyed by those in defiance of sending flowers, candy and obnoxious greeting cards. Kirk Wall and Randy Ballwahn of the German Art Students, along with former bandmate Andy Larson and buddy Mike White, will perform hooky Romantics numbers like "One in a Million" and "Talkin' in Your Sleep." With an opening set from R.E.M. tribute band Chronic Town, featuring German Art Students vocalist Annelies Howell as Michael Stipe, this show's potent pop cocktail ought to quell any lingering mopiness about going stag.
Mickey's Tavern, Feb. 16, 10:30 pm
Chivalry is dead, so we might as well forget the romance and get down to business, right? These noble crusaders are out to make the world a place where mushy stuff isn't a prerequisite for doing the nasty. Actually, these guys are a tremendous Twin Cities rock 'n' roll band who probably don't stand for all that. But the truth that shines through in brazen, blues-tinged brain-bashers like "Got Me a Real Love" should arouse animal instincts in the audience, leaving heartfelt sentiments stomped and bloody on the floor.
Food Not Bombs Benefit
Fountain, Feb. 16, 1 pm
There's a reason the spoils of Valentine's Day are called trifles. Dropping $6 on a card that plays "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and throwing it away two days later seems pointless. Luckily, the first annual Peace-Jam Madison Food Not Bombs Benefit is a good place to reframe love in global terms. Anna Laube, Folk You, Jim Schwall and MoonHouse will fill the Fountain with lovely sounds, and tasty vegetarian treats will protest war and poverty. Plus, if you ultimately opt for a more conventional Valentine's rendezvous, you can probably pick up some vegan cookies for your sweetheart.