To those who think the celebration of romantic love is just a Hallmark company construct: not quite. Since the 1700s, lovers have been giving each other handwritten cards, flowers and sweets. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Valentine’s Day cards were mass-produced. But 200 years of tradition doesn’t mean you have to give in to pressure.
In Slovenia, St. Valentine is associated with good health and beekeeping. In South Korea, it’s the women who buy chocolate for the men. In parts of Latin America, the day is commemorated with Amigo Secreto (“secret friend”) — a ritual much like secret Santa. And in Finland, Ystävänpäivä, or “Friends Day,” focuses on pals rather than romantic interests.
However you celebrate (or choose to ignore) Valentine’s Day, here’s where you can pass the time. Events take place on Saturday, Feb. 14, unless otherwise noted.
• Looking for an early show? Athens, Ga.-based Wrenn (“the personality of a firefly and a voice like holiday pudding,” according to her website) is currently on tour in support of her debut album, Hi. A string of regional shows brings her to the French Broad Brewery for a 6 p.m. set. Free. frenchbroadbrewery.com
• It’s “a Valentine’s ride for couples with several treats along the way and LaZoom’s special brand of heartwarming mayhem just for you and your love (or your mom or that awkward situation with your neighbor — we’re not picky),” says LaZoom about its Let Your Love Roll Ride. Augusta Wind and her sidekick (“whoever she hires off Craigslist this week”) host; the bus departs from Asheville Brewing Co. on Coxe Avenue. Friday, Feb. 13, at 6 and 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 14, at 5 and 6:30 p.m. $42 per couple, no single seats available. lazoomtours.com
• Due to rumors that the way to a man’s or woman’s heart is through his or her stomach, White Horse Black Mountain offers up its ValenDine event. A farm-to-table four-course meal (vegan and gluten-free options are available) is accompanied by dinner theater from Les Femmes Mystique with poetry, music and dancing. 7 p.m., $50 per person for dinner and show/$20 show only. whitehorseblackmountain.com
• New to town? Looking to make friends? Asheville Professional Singles hosts a meetup for local singles ages 25-45. The event takes place at Twin Leaf Brewery (which will be debuting its chocolate cherry stout), with Roots hummus and Vortex donuts to snack on. 7 p.m., free. meetup.com/Asheville-Professional-Singles
• Early influences on Jesse Earl Junior included the heady mix of Polish polka and African-American gospel music — out of which he became a jazz singer. “His defining musical moment occurred the night he first heard the Miles Davis album Porgy and Bess,” says his bio. Junior performs an evening of jazz favorites with Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), Mike Holstein (bass) and Justin Watt (drums) at the Classic Wineseller in Waynesville. The event includes a four-course dinner. 7 p.m. $45 per person. 452-6000 for reservations. classicwineseller.com
• Here’s a night out that benefits local theater. Hearts for SART, held at Asheville’s Masonic Temple, raises funds for Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre. The event includes a performance by cabaret act Forte (Liz Aiello, Carol Duermit, Katherine Sandoval Taylor and Beverly Todd), a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres, desserts and a cash bar. 7 p.m., $25. sartplays.org
• The best way to get through V-Day might just be to laugh at it. Funny Business at The Millroom makes that easy with two comedy shows. Ryan Dalton (a regular on “Bob and Tom’s Radio Show,” a writer for Comedy Central’s “Roast of Charlie Sheen” and grand prize winner of the 2011 World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas) headlines both shows; Sonya King is the special guest. 7 and 9:30 p.m., $15 advance/$17.50 at the door. ashevillemillroom.com
• David Bromberg‘s career reads a bit like a movie script — he discovered Chicago blues and bluegrass at the same time, was a musicology major at Columbia University during the Greenwich Village folk heyday of the 1960s, played the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 and recorded with the likes of Bob Dylan, The Eagles and Willie Nelson. During the 1980s, Bromberg learned to build violins, and in 2002, he opened his own retail store and repair shop — and then found his way back to the studio. His most recent offering, Only Slightly Mad, is “a return to his genre-bending albums,” according to a press release. Make it a date: David Bromberg plays a solo show at The Grey Eagle at 8 p.m. $18 advance/$20 day of show. thegreyeagle.com
• Patsy Cline may have been crazy for lovin’ you, but there’s nothing crazy about loving the classic hits of the country music superstar. Asheville’s own Sweet Dreamers (featuring vocalists CaroMia Tiller and Kate McNally) pay tribute to Cline at The Altamont Theatre. The seated show starts at 8 p.m. $15. thealtamont.com
• Pianist Jeremy Denk is the featured musician at Asheville Symphony Orchestra‘s Masterworks 5 concert. “On Valentine’s Day, we present a program inspired by the beauty of the Earth and how the special qualities of nature inspired composers to create works of unique beauty,” says the symphony’s website. The program includes Zhou Tian’s “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” Bela Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. The concert takes place at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at 8 p.m. $22-$62 adults/$11-$43 students. ashevillesymphony.org
• Waveforms, the electronic music series curated by local collective Aligning Minds, holds a special Valentine’s Day edition at The Orange Peel. The lineup includes Medisin, In Plain Sight and Shuhandz, with dance and performance art by Kristi Wrolstead and live visuals and projection mapping by TwentySevenFolds. 9 p.m., $8 advance/$10 day of show. theorangepeel.net
• “The event is superfun and goofy and is a mix of Napoleon Dynamite and Grease,” says a Bywater representative of the venue’s third annual Valentine’s Day prom and dance-off. To participate, “bring your iPod or music player solo or with a group, and compete American Idol-style to win the entire $5 per person door charge. Winner takes the pot, so the more friends you invite, the bigger the prize.” There will also be second- and third-place prizes, and points are awarded for creativity, costume and choreography. 9 p.m. start time with dance-off at 10 p.m. bywaterbar.com
• “Tight harmonies and sweet melodies” are being offered by local folk duo Tina & Her Pony. The band — Tina Collins (tenor banjo, tenor ukulele, guitar, vocals) and Quetzal Jordan (cello, guitar, vocals) — plays an intimate show at The Crow & Quill; Sweet Water Revolver shares the bill. 9 p.m., $10-15 suggested donation. thecrowandquill.com
• Never mind roses and chocolate — real love means giving to a worthy cause. For the Love of Music, a local showcase, does just that, raising funds for LEAF Schools and Streets, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue and the Jewish Community Center. The formidable lineup includes Free Radio, Fist Philo, Foul Mouth Jerk, Alpha Lee, Chachillie, Crazyhorse & Colston, Martin Snoddy and DJ Ra Mak. “The show will consist of Asheville’s top emcees all backed by local jam band, Uprock Citizens Brigade,” says a press release. The show starts at 10 p.m., at New Mountain. $10 advance/$12 day of show. newmountainavl.com
• It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day in Asheville without a burlesque show, and The Mothlight offers up “an all-star showcase of Asheville’s hottest burlesque performers.” The evening includes acts from Caelum, Deb au Nare, Memphis Moonshine and Queen April. 10:30 p.m. $15. themothlight.com
• Stretch the day of love into an entire weekend of love (and sweet treats) with The Food of Love, a fundraiser for FEAST, an organization that teaches students to grow and prepare healthy food. Support that cause at West End Bakery on Sunday, Feb. 15, 5-7 p.m., with desserts, drinks and music by the Café String Quartet and a 50/50 split cash raffle. $5 suggested donation. feastasheville.com
• Anam Cara’s Grand Guignol Ensemble promises “something that Asheville has never seen before: an evening of classic horror theater scripts that will push the very limit of decency and morality all in the name of love … or at least lust.” The showcase, A Night of Passionate Violence, is staged at Toy Boat Community Art Space, on Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m. $12 advance/$15 at the door. anamcaratheatre.org