Did you hear the one about the happily married couples who crossed paths at the annual gun-and-knife show's swap meet?
Emphasis on the swap?
Let's just say the guns and knives were left intact, along with whatever other artillery and ammo was to be had.
But the couples exited in a differing configuration.
So goes "Buy, Sell or Trade," one of the odes to un-love that comprise what's surely the most un-seasonal offering hereabouts: "The Un-Valentine's Show," slinging Cupid's arrows right back in the little imp's hind end tonight at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. No "My Funny Valentine" sticky-stuff here, promise the show's duo, John Latini and Jamie Sue Seal, a pair of professional singer-songwriters from the Michigan music scene who joined forces a decade ago with the idea of skewering the most romantic day of the year with some well-aimed shots of their own. They've been firing away every February since. Before making contact, we pictured this pair as a couple of embittered losers in love out to exact their revenge on the world's romantics. As it turns out, both Seal and Latini are happily married ever after, just like in the greeting cards, but not to each other, with no "Buy, Sell or Trade" funny business on the side. Just funny business up front. "It's the Hallmark side of things we're opposed to," insists Latini. "The cliches ... like the box of chocolates and all that ... things we wouldn't recommend to anybody." Hence, titles like "Now That You're Dead" ... "I Never Liked You" ... "The Stalker Song" ... "Why Would the King Need the Queen". And, of course, "Buy, Sell or Trade". Part of this, agrees Latini, a singer-songwriter who takes his craft seriously, by the way, can be chalked up to the pervading crass marketing of holidays in America. "I can remember when they didn't start putting up Christmas stuff until after New Year's," he says of the good old days. Tonight's performance, just a week and two days before V-Day, can best be summed up by the show's subtitle: "Song & Tales of Unforgiveness, Heartbreak, Dysfunction & Revenge". Further down, in the show's mission statement: "Healthy cynicism for couples as well as those not feeling so amorous ... a feel-good show disguised in backstabbing, love gone wrong and dark little hearts." This match made in un-heaven occurred around 10 years ago, when Latini and Seal crossed paths at the Grand Marais Music Festival held on Lake Superior in Michigan. The two musicians ended up on stage together in a singer-songwriter series-in-the-round. "We found we had a certain chemistry ... and cynicism ... and we began playing more and more together as a duo." Around them on the Michigan music scene "were all these husband-and-wife and boyfriend-and-girlfriend duos doing 'My Folkie Valentine'-type mush." Agreeing that some evasive action was needed, Seal and Latini started pitching anti-woo and came up with an entire concert program of curdled hearts and sweet revenge. Thus, refrains like, "now that you're dead, I don't ever really miss you at all" ... "I never liked you, you were never that sweet" ... "yeah, that's right, it's me again, another lovely visit from your best girlfriend; what's this?; bars and windows on all your doors?" ... "swappin' guns, swappin' knives, swappin stories, husbands and wives." The music styles range from "cheatin' country" to hot jazz to aching blues, with no scrimping done on the musical components: all have to meet Latini's exacting standards, he says. "Jamie Sue's gorgeous clear voice rings out like a bell and my little sandpapery voice creates a fine dust," he says with a poetic lilt worthy of a Hallmark Valentine's sentiment. Over their dead, arrow-pierced bodies. - Dan Craft, The Pantagraph
Sample song list: I Never Liked You, Now That You’re Dead, Stalker Song, Buy, Sell Or Trade