Valentine’s Day

Not just for pop-punk anymore

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shortly after moving to Bellingham all those years ago, I discovered that one of the very best things about living here is we tend to go a little holiday crazy. But the weirdest and most fun part of what some might term our seasonal psychosis is that while Christmas is far from ignored and New Year’s Eve certainly gets some action, the holidays we love best and have made our own have nothing to do with ringing anything in or having a cool yule.

Instead, we come out in droves and light up the sky for the Fourth of July and straight lose our minds over Halloween. And if the popularity of the now fourth-annual Valentine’s Day Cover Show is any indication, we’re fixing to take over February 14 as well.

Out of all of our adopted occasions, Valentine’s Day seems the most unlikely—and also, frankly, the strangest one for us to claim. For many of us, a Valentine’s Day “celebration” revolves not around flowers, candy and declarations of love, but drinking, snarking and eye-rolling.

But thanks to some enterprising folks in the music community, we now have a soundtrack to go along with our V-Day skepticism, and an event that, if history is any judge, has the power to lure us out of any self-induced holiday hibernation.

When it was dreamed up four years ago by Bellingham’s pop-punk touchstone Casey Nolan, the Valentine’s Day Pop-Punk Covers show seemed like a weird idea that could be fun, but I certainly didn’t think it would amount to anything more than yet another of the strange one-off shows that routinely happen in this town because, well, pop-punk.

As is the case with many things, I was so, so wrong.

Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day has a long affiliation with pop-punk of which I am unaware (I’m pretty sure it doesn’t). Or because people just love pop-punk that much (I’m pretty sure they don’t because, well, pop-punk). Or because people can’t get enough of cover bands (I’m pretty sure that’s actually it). Whatever the reason, the first year of the Valentine’s Day pop-punk show proved so popular—and brought so much fun to an occasion that sometimes isn’t—that it has since become another of this town’s decidedly unorthodox holiday traditions.

The premise, pretty much summed up by the event’s title, was simple: local musicians would team up to cover their favorite songs by their favorite pop-punk bands. The only rules seemed to be “no PDA” and in case you didn’t know what you were getting yourself into, the show came with the ominous admonition that “love is dead.” Seemingly within minutes, Nolan had a full roster of impromptu bands ready and willing to perform, and the Valentine’s Day Covers Show was officially born.

As traditions go, this one is pretty short-lived, but has also undergone a striking evolution. As early as the show’s second year, the show began to branch out from its pop-punk roots, with local musicians covering the likes of Bikini Kill and the Cranberries. When Nolan moved away from Bellingham and left the event in the capable hands of Zach Wise, any pretense of hewing to its pop-punk roots was pretty much thrown out the window.

Under Wise’s tutelage, the event has become the Valentine’s Day Covers Show, and its musical horizons have broadened considerably. Mind you, the emphasis remains on punk/rock/loud bands, so in the words of the event info, “no Mazzy Star cover set, sorry kids.” The set times top out at 20 minutes and one of the only other stated rules is bands covered last year are off the table, but other than that, anything goes, as long as it can survive the veto power of the show’s organizers.

Predictably, with such loose guidelines in such a large pool of musicians, Wise was flooded with interested applicants, and with a whole lot of help from Make.Shift’s Audra Robson, attempted to cull the crowd. They quickly discovered that the Valentine’s Day Covers Show is either an entity that cannot be contained or the gift that keeps on giving, but either way, they were going to have to add a second night.

So now both Feb. 14 and 15 have been given over to this holiday happening, and the Make.Shift basement will play host to one truly bizarre and magical musical doubleheader.

To give you a sense of what you’re in for, the first night of this year’s show features Cat Sieh and the Jebs doing the Descendants, parts of Rhombus and the Craisens will tackle the Smashing Pumpkins, Pan Pan settled on Pavement, and Fictions’ Nick Thacker and friends will take on New Order. However, for my money, the can’t-miss set has got to be the Limp Bizkit cover band.

Night two also holds many delights. Eagle Teeth and the Full Clips win throw down some Smash Mouth (what? Who chooses this band?) action; Hollie Huthman, Nora Hughes, and Zach Zinn will try and embody the Breeders; members of Rat Riot and Go Slowpoke will channel Avril Lavigne, which would be my pick of the night if the Mark weren’t covering Hot Snakes.

It’s possible you’ve got the ultimate romantic Valentine’s Day weekend planned, and if so, good for you. But if you’re like the rest of us, might I suggest the Valentine’s Day Covers shows? Just remember: no booze, no drugs and no PDA.

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