Tuesday evening is not a night I, nor other people would anticipate being anything but mundane. After all, the week has only begun, and the weekend seems like an eternity away. However, that was not the case at Mel’s Tea Room on September 21. Two worn red couches surrounded a fireplace to create a welcoming atmosphere, and anticipation buzzed among the excited crowd for the main event. A man with slicked back brown hair and a bolo tie picked up his guitar and began to yodel. So no, it was not your typical Tuesday night.
Petunia is a solo artist as well as part of the acclaimed musical mystery Petunia and the Vipers. He grew up in rural Quebec and spent most of his childhood surrounded by the classic country lifestyle. As an adult he became a self-proclaimed “restless wanderer,” travelling all over the world; however, music was not a big part of Petunia’s life. It wasn’t until an acquaintance taught him how to play guitar and introduced him to classic hillbilly music that his love for music truly started to form. This was the catalyst for the rest of his musical career.
Now, he has travelled all over Canada, parts of the United States, and even to Britain to perform his music. He presently resides in Vancouver, BC, which is where his band Petunia and the Vipers is based. He is also heavily involved in the theatre world, collaborating with artists or performing solo acts.
Petunia has been described as “a modern musical enigma,” to which I have to agree. All of the songs he played at Mel’s shared one common theme—they could not be pigeon-holed into one genre of music. Imagine if the soul behind country music was mixed with the music of folk and the lyrics of an Indie band. This created an indescribable sound. That is the best way to define Petunia’s music. It was an interesting experience to say the least. The songs he sang were reminiscent of a time I could not place. They sounded familiar but disjointed and haunting because they were clearly from a bygone era. His repertoire ranged from a serious ballad about loss to an upbeat jig about absolutely nothing; one could say there was something for everyone attending to enjoy.
Listening to his music was like going down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. You start off with “How would you like to live in a deep dark hole?” and somehow end up at, “There’s a jockey man, he’s got Jesus tattooed on his back.” Both are real song lyrics that I heard that night, and yes, the tonal whiplash from song to song was astounding. It should be said though that each song was unique; I never knew what words were going to come flying out next.
There is an excitement to seeing Petunia perform because much like his musical style, it is an absolute wild card. At one point during the show, he pulled out what I can only assume was a kazoo. It had a small horn at the base to better project sound at the beginning of a song. Move over “Welcome to the Black Parade,” Petunia’s kazoo is one of the best song openers I’ve ever heard. He brought fun to the performance and life to a dead audience on a Tuesday night, which is not an easy feat.
I believe everyone should experience the musical marvel that is Petunia at least once in their lives because it is more than just music, it is an adventure. If you are interested in learning more about Petunia (or about Petunia and the Vipers) their songs can be found on YouTube, Spotify, and on their website.
Petunia played as part of Mel’s musical line-up with more acts to follow in the month of October. The next performance at Mel’s is Aaron MacDonald on October 3 at 3 p.m. You can check out Mel’s Facebook page for more details.