If you want live music the week before Valentine’s Day, you get two choices, really, and two opposing moods: punk or Americana.
The biggest name by a large margin is Leftover Salmon, the longtime Colorado “slamgrass” band, which is kicking off a North American tour with a stop on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Wilma Theatre.
The group is touring behind “Aquatic Hitchhiker,” its first release since 2007. In the interim, members busied themselves with well-traveled side projects such as Great American Taxi and the Drew Emmitt Band.
The new album isn’t a departure from their previous work, and indicates new banjo player Andy Thorn fits in fine with the group. On the title track, for instance, he rips through some dizzying runs along with Emmitt’s fiddle.
Leftover Salmon plays Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Wilma Theatre in downtown Missoula. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the music starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $21, available at ticketweb.com or Rockin Rudy’s.
Gypsy Lumberjacks, meanwhile, are a different strain of string music entirely, one that peeks over the borders of America and Americana.
While the band can spin off into respectable Spanish-influenced guitar jams courtesy of Leif Magnuson and Bobby Patrick, the most unusual part of their sound is in the rhythm section.
Cliffy Smyrl’s accordion swirls in the background of the songs, hinting at Zydeco or Argentine music depending on the mood of the song. Peter Verdin’s bass, meanwhile sounds more influenced by African pop than traditional American funk. “What You Wanted Here,” from their 2011 live recording (bit.ly/VCBjVV) in particular sounds indebted heavily to Paul Simon’s “Graceland.”
Show notices have warned that they don’t use set lists, so take that link as a sample, not a set menu.
Gypsy Lumberjacks will perform with local openers the Hasslers on Thursday, Feb. 14, at the Ole Beck VFW Post 209 in downtown Missoula. Doors open at 9 p.m., with music at 10. Tickets are $5 for 18 and older. Advance tickets are available at stonefly-productions.com.
On the rock side of the equation, there’s the Menzingers, a Philadelphia quartet that released its debut on Epitaph Records last year.
In order to avoid the wormhole of argument that accompanies a pop-punk song when it enters the world and is posted on YouTube, I’ll mention only that they’ve toured with Against Me! and the Gaslight Anthem. If you enjoy those groups, and are predisposed to a highly melodic variant of the genre with multiple hooks per song and a fair bit of shout-along choruses, Menzingers might be for you.
The new record “On the Impossible Past,” holds to that description, with a few mid-tempo songs like “Gates” that sound more geared toward radio.
The strangest moment occurs on “The Obituaries,” a straightforward rock song with anxiety-ridden lyrics about making mistakes. On the last verse, singer Greg Bennett inexplicably quotes the first lines of “Pale Fire,” a poem from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel of the same name:
“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
“By the false azure in the windowpane”
Menzingers will perform with locals Buddy Jackson and Whoopass Girls at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Palace Lounge in downtown Missoula. Tickets are $8 for 21 and older, $13 for 18-21.