It’s February, and pink hearts and red roses are creeping through the city. Teddy bears decked out with ribbons wink at us from the drugstore checkout counter. Flirty hearts fill candy dishes everywhere. Valentine's Day is on its way.
While the day of love might seem inescapable, there is recourse for the less romantically inclined: the Un-Valentine's Show. Billed as “songs and tales of un-forgiveness, heartbreak, dysfunction and revenge,” the Un-Valentine’s Show, now in its tenth year, presents a tongue-in-cheek look at a holiday normally drenched in saccharine sweetness.
Un-Valentine’s Show creator and performer Jamie-Sue Seal also runs local record label Smokin' Sleddog Records and is a founding member of Team Agent Network booking agency. She said the annual show, which comes to Dewitt Friday, evolved out of a monthly jam session. The group wanted to do something for Valentine's Day.
"I got to thinking about everything roses and romance and was like, 'We've got to do something different,'" Seal explained. "That's not really my bag."
Seal decided to center a show around the more unpleasant aspects of love. Each artist involved was asked to write a funny song that followed one of the show's themes: heartbreak, dysfunction, revenge and un-forgiveness.
The resulting show became a tradition. Over the years, many artists have joined in on the fun, but Seal, alongside fellow Michigan musicians Dave Boutette and John Latini, have been there consistently. Latini and Seal also play together as the Bottle Rocket Cabaret, playing jazz- and blues-tinged shows across the Midwest. Boutette plays music influenced by jazz and blues, as well as folk, swing and old time country.
"Dave and John are great entertainers," Seal said. "It's really fun. We do a lot of interacting with the audience."
The lighthearted show appeals to a wide range of people.
"We really didn't know at the beginning what kind of audience it would attract,” Seal said. “I thought, initially, that it would attract a person who maybe wasn't in a relationship, but we really found that it attracts everybody."
The show is designed for intimacy, with performers sitting in the center of the room. The audience is seated at bistro-style tables around the musicians, making it easy for artists and viewers to interact. Refreshments and snacks are available, and attendees are welcome to bring their own beverages. Tickets are available online at unvalentines.brownpapertickets.com and will not be sold at the door.
Though each year brings new music specifically written for the show, there are a few classics that make regular repeat appearances.
"A lot of people want to hear their old favorites," Seal said.
"The Stalker Song," by Seal and Latini, is one such favorite. It’s a darkly humorous love song between a stalker and the object of their affection. Another is "Buy, Sell or Trade," which describes a love triangle at a gun and knife show.
Though the subject matter sounds heavy, the show is upbeat.
"We recommend that people listen with a light heart," Seal said. "Dave one time said it was ‘the most feel-good backstabbing show on the planet.’"
Past shows have seen the occasional sad or serious song, but overall the tone is comedic.
"We used to try to balance it, a soft song with a love-gone-wrong song," explained Seal. "But for the most part, people really like the funny songs. We've got a couple of new songs for people to get excited about that will hopefully become new favorites."
The Un-Valentine's Show
7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5 $15, Christ United Church, 1000 W. Webb Road,