Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), February 13, 2020

 It’s Valentine’s Day, and all around the romantically walkable beaches of our fair Shore, thoughts turn to candy kisses and cardboard Cupids; the sweet swirl of the sauvignon, and the scent of Sunoco station roses; the prix fixe menus, and the pure peer pressure of participating in a “romantic” ritual designed to make the unattached feel like…

Sorry folks, that’s Anti-Valentine’s talk — and that’s the purview of music promoter Megan O’Shea, whose Anti-Valentine’s Day Songwriting Contest hosted its third annual competition this past Wednesday at the Asbury Hotel. But beginning tonight, February 13 — and continuing on through a four-day “Valentine’s Overtime” interlude of concert events and variety vaudevilles — it is all about the Love.

Here on the first V-Day of the Roaring Twenties, what better way to kick off the festivities than with a Valentine’s Day Eve Massacre, set to take place tonight in the basement of downtown Asbury Park’s Bond Street Complex. Going up at 8 pm, the FREE subterranean spelunk showcases the intriguingly moody pop electronica of Blaise, along with Bronco 2, The Skinny Dickies, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and the nextbigthing known as kqhyt kqhyt.

Meanwhile over at the oceanside Langosta Lounge, a special Thursday night Galentine’s Day free-for-all highlights the new-ish New Attitude, a supergroup of singers (Postmodern Jukebox vocalist Brielle Von Hugel, Virginia Cavaliere of Six Appeal, and Shore stage sensation Bre Cade) who team up to channel “badass lady icons” like Chaka, Aretha, Whitney, and Adele with full band in tow.

Valentine’s night itself finds impresario, humanitarian, restaurateur, entrepreneur and eternal entertainer Tim McLoone assembling his band The Shirleys for a specially themed show at Tim’s eponymous Supper Club on the Asbury boards — and February 14 wouldn’t be complete without the contribution of the aptly appellation’d DJ Tyler Valentine, commandeering Asbury Lanes for an “Emo vs. R&B” dancefloor showdown that’s FREE of charge.

Frequenters of the Jenn Hampton-era Lanes know Angie Pontani as the undisputed superstar of the region’s New Burlesque scene, with the Jersey-born mistress of classic striptease/ bump ‘n grind dance emerging as impresaria of her own touring Burlesque-A-Pades performance troupe. More than just a leering cousin to old-time vaudeville (or a slightly less pierced version of hipster sideshow revivalism), the burlesque/boy-lesque dancers, comics and specialty performers of Angie’s company are on display Saturiday night, February 15, on the big stage of House of Independents, when Angie joins The Maine Attraction, Ben Franklin, emcee Murray Hill and other guests for a Burlesque-A-Pades in Loveland encore event.

When we last interviewed Southside Johnny Lyon, it was in his now-traditional role as master of ceremony for Asbury Park’s Independence Day interlude — a role that the Jukes generalissimo balances each year with his “Mr. New Year’s Eve” gig at Red Bank’s Count Basie stage. On Saturday night, Johnny returns once more to his Stone Pony spawning grounds for the “third time’s a charm” in another calendar-guy context: as blues-belting Cupid for a special Valentine’s weekend show. Meanwhile back at Mr. McLoone’s, Asbury’s own songbook sensation Chris Pinnella is joined by a 12 piece orchestra, performing “re-imagined versions of songs by The Beatles, Jeff Buckley, The Who, The Righteous Brothers, Elvis, Billy Joel, Elton John and more.”  

Galentine’s Day weekend continues apace at The Asbury Hotel, where a Thursday evening ladies-celebrating-ladies Floral Workshop is followed up on Saturday night with a fourth annual Galentine’s Day musical showcase that spotlights the skillsets of three young Shore-based singer/ songwriters. Olivia Beck, Amanda Duncan (Hazlet), and Sophia “Monte” Montalbano (Middletown) perforrm a free show inside the hotel’s lobby Soundbooth Lounge, with first note floated at 9 pm.

There are many who maintain that romantic evenings don’t mean a thing unless you’re getting brunch in the deal — and on Sunday afternoon, February 16, a trio of round-the-calendar regular visitors to The Asbury return for a third-time charmer, when The Golden Gays NYC preside over “A Golden Girls Musical Adventure Valentine’s Day Brunch.” The hotel’s Asbury Hall is the setting at the noontime hour, and the plot is an intrigue in which “Sophia Petrillo has gone missing,” and “your favorite pals and confidants Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose must travel down the road and back again across America to find her.” All attendees enjoy an “all-you-can-eat buffet brunch extravaganza,” and one lucky witness “may even have a chance to make their stage debut with the bosom buddies and become the next #TokenSophia.” Tickets, for what’s historically been a sellout attraction, range from $40 to a Valentine-VIP $50.

The love jones extends well beyond the seasonal-aisle parameters of Valentine’s Day this weekend, and into a pair of benefit events addressing causes that range from global in scale, to as intimate as the bond between individual human and beloved pet. This Saturday between the hours of 11 am and 2 pm, visitors to 10PRL (the lofty new Long Branch arts and wellness warehouse we wrote about a couple of months back) have a chance to help Save Picasso — a local “furry friend” who suffered burn injuries during a fire in which his family lost their home. A cyclorama’s worth of musical acts — ranging from (Doug) Zambon to Zebeeb (Awalom), plus Now Yes, and yes, kghyt kqhyt — provide the soundtrack; MOGO Korean Tacos provides the foodstuffs, and an onsite flea market, raffle and bake sale complete the scene, for which a $10 donation is suggested.

Sunday afternoon affords audiences one more opportunity to Give Love — this time for the benefit of rescue and lifesaving services dealing with the (still very much ongoing) aftermath of the recent devastating wildfires in Australia — as a collection of some of our favorite alterna-bands on the Asbury scene (The Cold Seas, The Tide Bends, Lyons, and Yawn Mower) play beneath Tillie’s approving grin on the Wonder Bar stage, with donations of $20 to $50 suggested.

Lovers of all things Dead might be forgiven to think they’ve gone to heaven this weekend, as the Stone Pony welcomes back The Englishtown Project in a Valentine’s Night stand that finds the supergroup collective (dedicated to the everlasting observance of the Grateful Dead’s now-legendary 1977 heatblast at Monmouth County’s own Raceway Park) paying tribute not only to that event’s headliners, but to the supporting acts New Riders of the Purple Sage and The Marshall Tucker Band. The Shore’s own Cosmic Jerry Band takes the spiffy stage of Asbury Lanes on Saturday, while professor Marc Muller (who flies solo at Robinson Ale House on Friday night) reconvenes his detail-intensive Dead On Live for a Sunday night exploration of a classic set from the vaults, at downtown AP’s all-purpose auditorium House of Independents.

But wait, there’s more — order in the next ten minutes, and you’ll get a preview blast of endless-summer vibe, courtesy of Cali/ Hawaii trop-rock trio Pepper, hitching their horses to the Pony on Thursday (in a followup to frontman Bret Bollinger’s recent solo stopover in AP)…the Disney-On-Ice-On-Acid feverdream that is The Little Mermen becomes part of your world once more in a Valentines vaudeville at the House of Indies, while two localoid favorites, Lowlight and Daughter Vision, entertain at Langosta on Friday. Saturday the 15th brings a pair of record release events to the turntable, with Clementine in a darlin’ date at The Saint, and Tight Lipped revealing all at Long Branch’s Brighton Bar. Hailing from The Big Easy, alterna-Americana combo Motel Radio takes a Saturday station break at the Wonder Bar, while devilishly delightful drumminatrix Reg Satana presents and promotes a Saint-ly Sunday smorgasbord in which her engagingly gruesome threesome 19DRT shares the bill with Park Ape and two others. Just in case you thought you were getting out of this weekend in a state of peaceful reflection, the frontguy of the veteran Philly pop-punks The Dead Milkmen, that’s Joe Jack Talcum, makes a delivery at the doorstep of that selfsame stage on Monday night, February 17.

Check the Music page in the February 13 print editions of The Coaster (Asbury Park) or The Link (Long Branch), for ticket details and contact info on these (and a whole lotta other) passionately purveyed offerings — right here in the epicenter of all that’s shaking on the regional scene. Then meet back here next week, when that seasonal aisle gets decked out in the splendor of Mardi Gras and Saint Patrick’s Day.