Petunia and the Vipers

(Vancouver, BC)

You don't know how you got here. You've followed untraceable paths through an urban wilderness to a treacherous set of stairs leading down to a basement club with no sign above the door. Enticed in by the sounds of rockabilly and Western swing, you're swept up by a stranger and find yourself dancing. Propelled by the insistent thud of the stand-up bass, you and your mysterious partner waltz and two-step up a sweat in the fervid atmosphere.

Petunia — a natty-suited gentleman with floppy hair — croons, yelps and yodels as the room starts spinning around, and things take a strange turn. His words start to burble into each other in a polyrhythmic, polysyllabic flood that upsets the straight-up flaming roots boogie of the backing band. The lyrics take off down some dark and twisted lane where no love song should ever go. Suddenly you've got a wilting begonia in your hair, and you're enmeshed in a song that sounds like Marty Robbins lost a fight with a Bossa Nova. And now what the — is that a kazoo stealing the solo spot from the pedal steel?

The Vipers are not a troupe of alien gypsies out to steal your mind; they're a star-studded who's who of the West Coast's roots scene. But the mysterious Petunia, this former peripatetic busker from rural Quebec, his motives are more enigmatic. For now — maybe forever — he has you right where he wants you: trapped in a world where the strange is quotidian and all the clocks are perpetually stuck at five minutes to eleven, you've got to keep dancing.


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