La Vie En Noir: Falling in Love to Sad Songs

Syd Straw presents her 14th annual Heartwreck Show at the Bell House


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This Saturday at the Bell House in Brooklyn, a venerable alt-Valentine’s Day tradition continues as singer-songwriter Syd Straw presents her 14th annual Heartwreck Show. As usual, the golden-throated and quirky Straw will team with a first-rate band and various surprise guests to perform songs about the multiple aspects of love that have little to do with roses, champagne, bon-bons or anything sweet or bubbly. If you’re lucky, you might get to hear the number about Straw being kidnapped by her mother (on Valentine’s Day!), or maybe about the death of her dog.

As much as I love sad songs, my own sentimental connection with Straw and her music isn’t rooted in relationship-fueled misery. Quite the opposite, in fact: I took the woman who is now my wife to a Syd Straw show at the Mercury Lounge for our first date. It wasn’t Valentine’s Day, and it didn’t even start out as a date. We met by chance at a party, and I had an extra ticket to the show afterward. When the evening started, we were professional acquaintances; nearly 18 years later, we’re still together. Straw sang a song that night—sad, of course—called “Almost Magic,” but there was no almost about what happened to me at her show. So thank you, Syd, for being there at the right time. Every once in a while, heartbreak can lead to better things. 

I’ve heard rumors that this Heartwreck Show may be the last. That’s all the more reason to go, and to celebrate a distinguished history of torment in song by seeking out some of the many highlights from previous years’ events that are circulating online. I suggest starting with this superb cover of Tony Christie’s “Love Is a Friend of Mine,” from 2004.

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La Vie En Noir: Falling in Love to Sad Songs