Celebrating romance with power ballads, Spandex leggings, fancy panties
Although there are about 364 days of the year when I can do without it—one day of the year seems custom-made to celebrate the ignoble rise of hair metal and its greatest contribution to the musical landscape -- the power ballad. From “Love Bites” to “Is This Love,” “(I Can’t Live Without) Your Love and Affection,” to “The Power of Love” -- all the saccharine sentiment of brooding, pouty millionaires in ripped jeans, tight leather, and all those glorious manes -- power ballads can and probably should form the soundtrack to Saint Valentine’s Day now and forever. They so perfectly tap into both the cynicism of the single person facing “the dread VD” alone, as well as offering a soaring guitar-solo boost to the cuddly nostalgia of the happily coupled.
While innamorati for hundreds of years have used February 14 as a date to shower their beloved in flowers and cards, Jeff Ross and the SF IndieFest team have used it as another excuse to party, with an annual Power Ballad Sing-along at the Roxie Theatre. Just three years after its San Francisco debut (a similar party tears it up each year in Brooklyn), PBS pours its sugar and motors through the packed house, screening subtitled MTV videos turned up to 11 of all the best bands you’d love to forget to a theatre full of eager inebriates, cutting loose in a veritable bacchanalia of communal song.
If you’re lucky enough to squeeze into the perpetually sold-out event, you’ll be handed a lighter at the door, the essential prop of the power ballad lover and although no extra credit points are handed out for costumes, this being San Francisco, plenty of people do show up in them. Spandex leggings, ripped stonewash denim, studded wristbands, and plenty of Aquanet. One enterprising soul even comes dressed as Slash -- right down to the guitar -- a handy prop during the obligatory screening of Guns ‘N Roses’ nine-minute orchestral dirge “November Rain”.
Unlike a karaoke night full of awkward people who have to be cajoled into singing at all, let alone bellowing REO Speedwagon songs at full volume, a sing-along allows everyone to a) hide in the dark and b) therefore sing with the full confidence that almost everyone around them sounds even worse than they do, especially after the effects of cheap whiskey and rampant silliness settles in. It’s about as egalitarian as it gets, and even though this year’s blowout was marred by technical difficulties, my sorrow at missing out on the ultimate elation of singing “You Give Love a Bad Name” en masse couldn’t spoil the gleeful satisfaction of mangling an otherwise extensive playbook of all the worst bands with the best hair: Def Leppard, Cinderella, Whitesnake, Journey.
Meantime, just up the block at the Little Roxie, Liz Worthy’s window display aka “Heist Boutique” offers a poignant love letter to the ever-changing landscape of the Mission district via a few carefully-curated *objets d'art* used to represent a psychogeographical survey of “old-school” Mission businesses taken over by others in recent years. There’s the Self Edge VHS tape (asking price $714, in honor of the address), commemorating previous tenant and nostalgic favorite Leather Tongue video store (represented cheekily by a pair of red jeans), a pair of Modern Times sunglasses ($888) named for the bookstore that until recently inhabited the space where Fine Arts Optical now resides, a Wang Fat Fish Market bikini in turquoise and red ($2199) honoring the fish store of yore, (now Zoe Bikini). The display will be up until at least the middle of March, so swing by soon to relive your own fond memories of a Mission gone by. It may be too late to hang out at the Café Macondo or Jivano’s Cutlery, but, like the power ballads of the past, it’s still not too late to reminisce about them awhile.