Singer Alexandra Scott won’t spend Valentine’s Day with wine and flowers. Instead, she’ll lead “Alexandra’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and sing heartbreak songs with her musical friends at Siberia.
“Sad love songs — almost everybody likes those,” Scott said.
She’ll be joined on the gig by members of the independent music community in New Orleans, including Micah McKee, Kelcy Mae, Luke Allen, Lynn Drury and Natalie Mae, jazz vocalist Cindy Scott, Dayna Kurtz and WWOZ personality George Ingmire, who will sing in public for the first time.
Also on the bill are Rebecca Crenshaw and Adam Campagna from Little Maker, John Renshaw, Emily Davies and Elizabeth Zibilich, who hopes to participate although she was recently injured in a traffic accident.
The participants are united by their hostility toward Valentine’s Day.
“It’s so commercialized and rife with expectation, said Kelcy Mae. “People who are in relationships feel this unnecessary pressure to adhere to the commercialized tradition of flowers, candy and romantic outings, while people who aren’t in a relationship — or a traditionally defined one — are made to feel like outsiders for a day.”
Dayna Kurtz agrees. “I hated Valentine’s Day when I was single, as I was resentful that after surviving Christmas and New Year’s Eve as a single person, the universe throws another brick at the back of your head ‘celebrating’ romance in February.” she said. “I was gratified to find out when I got seriously coupled that I still hated Valentine’s Day. I don’t want my lovers buying me chocolate and saying they love me and bringing me flowers because some holiday tells them to. I want them to tell me they love me when they mean it.”
Scott’s answer to the occasion’s oppressive, forced romance is a night of sad love songs. “Almost everybody likes those,” she said.
She sat down at a coffee shop and searched the Internet for sad love songs, quickly coming up with more than she could do if it were her night alone, and others had similar experiences.
Kurtz already has a lot of heartbreak songs in her repertoire, and Kelcy Mae sees the show as an opportunity to pull out songs she normally stays away from.
“I want to do songs people know and will sing along to, but I also have a chance to sing some really depressing, gut-punch sort of songs — the ones you typically leave off the festival setlist,” she said. Cindy Scott knows she’ll sing Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart” in honor of her mother, who played piano in Williams’ band at one point, and “there’s a rumor going around that I might be singing ‘My Funny Valentine,’?” she said.
For Micah McKee of Little Maker, at least one choice was easy. “The song that immediately came to me was ‘To Love Somebody’?” (by The Bee Gees), he said. “It’s one of those songs like ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ where there are just no bad versions of it.”
Alexandra’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was partly inspired by costume designer, actor and performer Veronica Russell, who died last August. Scott didn’t know her but was moved by reading about Russell and all the things she did. “When you lose a maker of that magnitude, you do have to step up and make more things for the people you care about,” Scott said.
Micah McKee’s stage recreations of The Band’s “The Last Waltz” also inspired her. The famed final concert by The Band in 1976 featured of who’s who of musical greats from the late ’60s and early ’70s, and McKee pulled together musicians from across New Orleans’ musical spectrum to perform something none of them would do on their own. Scott wanted to try to create a similar event.
“The challenges with a show like that are less obvious than they seem,” McKee said. “It’s such a diverse cast of musicians, the challenge really lies in getting your band to play to the strengths of each one of them. That said, pulling the show off is relatively easy because the artists are all so professional and delighted to perform. It’s just mostly a pleasure. Also, the band practiced. A lot.”
So far, getting schedules to coincide for rehearsal has been a challenge, but since most participants in Alexandra’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will be self-contained, Scott’s not worried. She hopes that a night with peers who rarely get to play and hang out together will translate into the same sort of pleasure she felt as a part of McKee’s “The Last Waltz.”
“A night of joy on a musical and personal level,” she said.
Cindy Scott is optimistic, but she’s a little apprehensive about her place on the bill. She and Alexandra have a project together that they call The Great Scotts, but it has yet to play in public or with other musicians. As a jazz singer, she hasn’t shared bills with anybody on the gig, but she has a good feeling about the night.
“I think it’s going to be fun for us, and usually if the musicians are having fun, the audience has fun,” she said.