Belle Plaine’s Blue Valentine’s

The singer assembles Unrequited Love for a V-Day bash

by Chris Morin

photo by Darrol Hofmeister

Belle Plaine & The Unrequited Love
Artesian on 13th
Friday 14

Is there anything more puke-inducing then seeing two people totally head-over- -heels in love? Probably not. Walks on the beach and holding hands? Mortifying. Two straws and one soda? Choke on it.

Love is just gross at the best of times. But what if you happen to be one of those dateless wonders we’ve heard about? And what if it’s Valentine’s Day? If that’s the case, then you, my friend, can take this already stomach-churning experience and multiply it a half dozen gut-punches.

Happy couples projecting their human feelings are pretty much the scourge of the earth when you’re not one of them.

So if you are looking for a reprieve this Valentine’s Day, then look no further than Regina’s own jazz chanteuse Belle Plaine — a.k.a. Melanie Hankewich.

Hankewich’s idea for the performance came as bit of an accident.  After assembling a backing band for a gig at Swift Current’s Lyric Theatre that fell on a mid-month Saturday, the group figured they might as well book a Friday night show as well. Of course, it happened to fall on Valentine’s Day — and Lo, Belle Plaine and the Unrequited Love were born.

Don’t expect an evening filled with saccharine candy hearts, kissing booths and cupids, says Hankewich.

“I am quite cynical about Valentine’s Day,” says the singer. “I want to provide a place where the dejected, the sad and the lonely can go to have fun.

“We all feel heartache and it’s such a rough holiday to go through because it’s such a farce,” says Hankewich. “And if you don’t fit the mould of what the day is, then you’re left out. So I wanted to have something where you can come, have fun and shake your fists at Valentine’s Day.

“I resent any holiday that tells me to feel a certain way.”

The show also marks the debut of The Unrequited Love, which features several familiar faces from Regina’s music community.

“They are all my favourites,” says Hankevich. “They’re people I’ve worked with from the 13th Ave Records community. There’s Jeremy [Sauer] and Beth [Curry], who are my regulars. There’s also Anna Rose, who is singing backups. There are a couple of horn players, Cheney [Lambert] and Karl [Valiano], who play in the Pile O’ Bones Brass Band. And we also have Chris Sleightholm and Tyler Hammer who both play in several other bands.”

Belle Plaine recently performed alongside several of these musicians (who also play in groups such as the Lazy MKs and the Lonesome Weekends) at the closing gala of Buy the Book. It was a bittersweet moment for the community, but Hankewich says she’s thankful that the music will continue.

Especially considering that her Valentine’s Day show is also being recorded for a live album.

“Everyone’s necks are on the chopping block in terms of performing that night,” says Hankewich.

Belle Plaine’s previous album, Notes From A Waitress, features songs that range in style from jazz to country. It’s a sound that has its heart firmly rooted in the Prairie fields and small towns where she grew up.

Having honed her rootsy, Prairie-style folk sound for the past decade, including gigging all over Canada and as far away as Australia, Hankewich has set her sights on America. She recently made an appearance in Los Angeles for a SaskMusic showcase, and later this month will fly to Kansas City for the upcoming Folk Alliance Conference and festival.

“We’ve never gone down to the U.S. before to do anything like this,” says Hankewich. “We had gone to Toronto last year — there was a lot to take in with the conference.

“We’re going to be more strategic about it this year. It’s a different scene in the States, but we are hopefully going to reconnect with everyone we met with last year.”

*  *  *

THE UNREQUITED LOVE OF MELANIE HANKEVICH

“I left Calgary and had moved out to the West Coast. I was young and I thought I was going to take on Victoria. I’d come out of a long-term relationship and I thought I knew the rules of the game. But even at 23 you realize you can lose it pretty fast. There were a few guys in university I didn’t connect with. I didn’t say the right things when I was talking. It was near-miss after near-miss.

I think that’s the point of unrequited love — you feel like you dodged a bullet.

Unrequited love is that strange attachment to someone even though you don’t know them very well. For me, it was this guy who was tall and had dreads. He ended up being in my environmental philosophy class. He sat at the back and I sat at the front and I started doing that thing where you slowly move seats every week until you are more less sitting beside him. And I figured that this was it. So I struck up the awkward conversation with this person who I had been projecting my trajectory towards for months and suddenly they’re beside me. And this conversation continued for the next while before class and it was always so charged with energy. And he had these dreadlocks and I had shared this with my friends and it was that devastating moment because they told me that I wasn’t a part of the dreadlock community. And I said that it didn’t matter because we were in our 20s and we were mature.

And sure enough I finally saw him walking through campus with this gorgeous girl who also had dreadlocks. I never had a chance. I was just some girl who had hair that I could comb. And he would never love me because I shampooed.”

THE UNREQUITED LOVE OF ELIZABETH CURRY

“When I was in grade six, there was a girl I had a crush on who lived between me and my school. So whenever I would bike past, I would stare at her house hoping that she would come outside. And one of those times I biked into the mirror of a car. I was lucky I didn’t injure myself too badly but I totally shattered the mirror. And then I had an ethical dilemma about telling the owners of the car who lived across the street — which I did. I never told her that happened”

THE UNREQUITED LOVE OF KARL VALIAHO

When I was doing my undergrad out east, I don’t know if I knew anyone, but a lovely young woman came and sat down next to me on the first day. She was attractive and I thought ‘wow, this is great!’ So we start chatting and she says that she’s from New York and she wanted to go to school in Montreal because she knew people in the class. And I was floored because she knew people but she sat next to me. A few classes go by and she still comes and sits next to me and waves at her friends and eventually she asks me for my number, ‘in case I need notes,’ she said. Finally I get up the nerve to call her to go for coffee and I ask if she wants to get together on the weekend. And she tells me that she’s hanging out with her boyfriend. So it was a pretty short call. And sure enough, once the class is done I never see her again. It was kind of funny.

THE UNREQUITED LOVES OF TYLER HAMMER

I fall in love a dozen times a day. Or, rather, I inappropriately fall in love a dozen times a day. Every day.

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For more information on this show visit www.artesianon13th.ca. Doors and lounge at 7:00; show at 8.

2014-02-06

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