Entertainment writer, Mark Perschbacher takes us on an unusual ride through the countryside down a winding road leading to The Muse.
While querying all my favorite Skagit live music joints this week, I was overjoyed to see Petunia and the Vipers booked at the Conway Muse. On the way to the show, daffodil fields blazed bright yellow in the fading, wet light. Giant flying V’s of snow geese swept over head on the far side of Fir. Just when we thought the last group had sailed by honking happily, another squadron would appear.
The Conway Muse is a massive converted barn plunked right next to the south fork of the Skagit River. While The Colonel and Double Shot laid down their bluesy sound in the parlor, we made our way up to what was once the hayloft. Experience has taught us show up early for the Viper’s shows, and thankfully we managed to snag one of the few remaining tables.
First of all readers may ask and rightly so, “Did you say Petunia and the Vipers? Sounds like an ‘80’s punk band.” Well, Petunia and his band are anything but a punk band, although there is an element of chaos and unpredictability to them.
Petunia and the Vipers are a crack outfit that easily moves between classic western swing, 1930’s viper songs, rockabilly, and lots of their own original tunes which mash all these together. Top that off with the front man who looks like he walked right out of a vaudeville stage. His fedora hat, high water tuxedo pants held up with leather suspenders, and nasally, powerful voice takes you back to the days when radio ruled. Oh, and by the way, did I mention dancing? Every time I’ve had the pleasure of catching their show the dance floor is always packed.
Petunia hails from Montreal, and playfully mixes some French lyrics in. The band is loosely based in Vancouver, Canada. One of the highlights of the group is ace lap steel guitar player Jimmy Roy. A couple years back, Petunia introduced him as the “Rockabilly King of Canada.” His expert playing and clean, sharp hooks attest to years of work learning to coax great sounds out of what is a difficult instrument to master.
The band launched into their first set, warming themselves and the dancers up with a couple lively western swing tunes. They followed that up with a rocking version of “Six Days on the Road”, and then what Petunia described as a Jamaican country song. Now that the dance floor had been taken over by swinging couples, the band roared through a couple rapid fire rockabilly tunes and finished the set with a somewhat mournful prairie tune from their new album about sitting under the naked stars.
From Zigzag, Oregon to Bristol, Tennessee, Petunia and The Vipers tour far and wide across North America. They’ll be back in the neighborhood at EAT in Bellingham on May 13, and the Rabbit Farm in Mount Vernon on June 3. Make a date with Petunia and The Vipers. 2017 Tour Schedule
After a short break, they came firing back with more hard hammering rockabilly tunes and fast swing. When asked if the crowd was up for a third bonus set, the room erupted with shouts of approval. Their last set kept the rhythm moving while also laying down a beautiful version of “Stardust.” Petunia showed off his yodeling skills on one of the last songs and ended the night with several signature manic originals that we recognized from year’s past. They will be returning in June after a busy touring schedule including shows in LA and western Canada. I strongly recommend going out and catching a performance from this highly entertaining and red-hot hot outfit next time they are around. Check them out at www.petuniaandthevipers.com.
Meet contributing writer, Mark Perschbacher… A man who will cross great barriers to find exceptional music, Mark’s recent musical journey to The Conway Muse took place on April 8th. Known to his friends as “Mark”, Mark is a longtime Skagit County resident, contributor to, and supporter of local arts.
Questions for Mark or The SAM Project should be sent without haste!