And here we find ourselves in a week anchored by Valentine's Day. Dismissing the holiday as a mawkish, cheesy, Hallmark-exploited ode to cliched ideas about romance is easy — foil-wrapped chocolate hearts abounding in grocery store aisles suggest quantifying passion is both simple and convenient. If you're not in a relationship, the assault of pink and red and LOVE! and Be Mine can leave a taste worse than those horrible chalky candy hearts.
But wait! What if we approach Valentine's in the spirit of love, for real? What if we consider the sacrifices people have made for love since the dawn of time?
(For those of you preferring the pre-V pagan celebration of Lupercalia, rock on, but please keep those sacrifices metaphorical and leave the goats, sheep and dogs alone. For those of you intent on honoring the Catholic saint, perhaps take a cue from his heroism and sympathy by noting 17 states currently allow same-sex marriage and ask yourself, "What can I do to help love?" then cut a check to the Human Rights Campaign or another LGBT-rights organization.)
In short, love. If you have it, express gratitude by treating your honey to an especially memorable date night of live music. If love isn't a boat you're currently rowing, take advantage of your freedom to check out some fine bands without any pressure. The confidence to be your own date happens to be an attractive quality, so who knows? You might — if you want — meet someone, too.
We're not going to limit love to a single day, especially with nationally acclaimed bluegrass band Dry Branch Fire Squad performing at the Arcata Playhouse. These guys have been gracing stages since 1976, recording more than two dozen albums along the way, while performing at small venues and large festivals, including 61 iterations of the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival — they know a thing or two about commitment. Revered for fierce and uncompromising loyalty to the most traditional aspects of bluegrass, old-time and southern gospel music, Dry Branch Fire Squad long ago transcended any sentimental expressions and instead evokes Appalachian history through storytelling that addresses the old, the new and the timeless.
Sweetening the offer, Dry Branch Fire Squad will also conduct a jam session/workshop at 6 p.m., which is included in the price of a ticket. Get intimate with the band as it explores its roots, answers questions and performs songs you won't hear during the show. Participants are encouraged to bring their instruments and voices to join in. If your significant other is a bluegrass aficionado, this is your dream ticket.
Get those dreamy tickets at the Playhouse or through Brown Paper Tickets. Cost is $18 general, $15 for children, seniors, Playhouse and Humboldt Folklife Society members. The gig starts at 8 p.m.
On the southern end of the county, the Mateel Community Center would like you to celebrate Valentine's Day at the Black & Red Ball featuring reggae superstars Tarrus Riley & Blak Soil. The Blak Soil Band is considered one of the tightest backing bands in reggae music with frontman Tarrus Riley embodying a rare blend of wisdom, maturity and street cred. He's garnered a bunch of awards acknowledging how successfully his expressive voice, lyrics and melodies capture the ups-and-downs of love and life in a way familiar to his island audience and accessible to the world at large.
Reno's smooth soul-meets-hip-hop mistress Lacy Redhead opens. Wearing of black and red is encouraged as are advanced tickets, available online at the usual outlets. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door, which opens at 8 p.m. with music starting at 9 p.m.
Working our way north, Eureka's Morris Graves Museum of Art offers a rather spectacular love night option — if you don't love a person, you can still love the art, the rotunda, the dark whimsy of The Comix Trip, the all-lady random wonderfulness of Blood Gnome and a third band, whose name is as yet unknown. Cover is $5, beer will be for sale, but the gig's all-ages, hooray! Because love knows no bounds. (Except those of a legal and ethical sort. Be advised.) The show starts at 8 p.m.
For those committed to A-town and a sure bet for the evening, the ever-lovin' and love-inspiring gypsy jazz authority Absynth Quintet holds court at Humboldt Brews. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door — don't wait till the last minute, guys — the show is 21-and-over and things heat up around 9 p.m.
And now for something completely different and kind of weird taking place in (where else?) Blue Lake. Apparently Humboldt used to be home to an act known as Elvis and the Hound Dogs. The "Elvis" of the group is returning as "Psychedelvis," with a note explaining, "As the name implies, the idea here is that I will not be bound to staying absolutely true to the original tunes ... Some will be remixed ... and others will remain exactly the same to appease the hardcore 'as he was' Elvis fans." OK. So this would be the show if you're feeling a little experimental. Or a lot experimental. Get back to me on how it was, would you? It's at the Logger Bar, natch, and starts at 8 p.m.
Keep the romance and luck going by attending either the Hot Tuna show (beloved blues rockers at Humboldt Brews, tickets are $40, probably sold out, with a 9 p.m. start time) or the Songwriter Circle of Death with TheBoredAgain, Keil La Chinga, The Weavetown and Gabe Rose Hell (Humboldt real deal alt-something magic at the Alibi, $5, 11 p.m.).
Final thought: Nothin' wrong with cheese or chocolate. Enjoy your weekend.
Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Eight Days a Week calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to firstname.lastname@example.org.