Sunday, April 1, 2012

Petunia and The Vipers at The Anchor 3-31-12

Facebook is a marvelous tool. I connect daily to talk with friends, research bands, find amazing new information and post my blogs. It is really a phenomenal way to stay in touch with your world. And you can choose the world you want to participate in; don't like your old school mates religious posts...toast! And if you choose to worship your favorite people in a semi-anonymous fashion, you can do that too.

I have Facebook friends that are big in the music scene, people like Sweet Pea, Roy Kay and Johnny Stuart have their pulse on the rockabilly events in town. They also drive some of the best shows that grace the small clubs here in Seattle. I always pay attention to their recommendations.

So when I saw a post by Roy mid-day on Friday I took notice. He had noted the Rosie Flores show at Slim's on Friday night and a show at The Anchor on Saturday night. Petunia and the Vipers? Who was this girl and why was she playing with snakes?

I had committed to see a show that had some of my fellow employees at The Mars Bar. The Jimmystuarts and Killing Jenny were going to rock the house, I was looking forward to it and then Roy upset the apple cart.

I took one look online at Petunia, quickly discovered that she was a he and that this was going to be a special Everett.

It is a long slog to Everett 30+ miles north of big town and I live in North Seattle. It is all freeway and so it wasn't an especially challenging drive. But hey, anytime you get in your car after 9 in the evening you never know what you may see. I don't drink anything of consequence...I may have a beer. As I drive I pretend that there is a cop driving right behind me. I occasionally wave and he waves back...we have an understanding. I stay between the lines and never speed and he escorts me safely to and from my event. Thank you imaginary gendarme.

On Friday nights I prep with Shake the Shack; the best of rockabilly, R&B, surf, and boogie woogie. Leon and Mike put me in the mood to move, by the time I hit the bar I am already in the groove.

I have a totally different ritual on Saturday night. After watching a comedy movie with the family (usually something like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein or The Producers [can anyone see the common link in those?]), I get in the car and head to the chosen show. I always tune into The Swing Years hosted by Amanda Wilde on KUOW 94.9 FM.

I am a baby boomer; my mom hummed everything from Elvis to Glen Miller. She was an artist and music lover so we always had great music in the house. In the 50's she loved Big Band and Swing. So hearing Amanda spin the same on Saturday night is refreshing and nostalgic. I love to go out to the car at a break during a punk show and listen to Wilde Amanda. I had to text her when I was at a show, it was between The Mothers Anger and Brett Netson as I sat in my car and listened to Over The Rainbow, it as just so surreal. She got a big kick out of it, noting that she liked to juxtapose different music genres herself.

The long drive to BF Egypt gave me the chance to get a big dose of Swing. She played Fats Waller, Frank Sinatra, Xavier Cugat, Artie Shaw, Rosemary Clooney and many other greats. These are the roots of what we are listening to today.

They are having a Pledge-Drive this week. I made sure to pledge in support of Amanda and The Swing Years. I am a big supporter of public radio, I am a member of KUOW, KBCS, KEXP, KPLU and contribute to NW Public Radio. I also purchase every cd I can from the bands I see. Support the things that are important to you and to the community at large. See Amanda here:

Everett has grown up since the last time I was there. I had to drive through the center of town to get to The Anchor, this is a big town now; large skyscrapers and lots of retail. There were a lot of clubs too; the bars were full, parking spaces packed.

The Anchor is an ancient establishment on the other side of the tracks. Well not quite on the other side, more like right on top of them. As I pulled up I couldn't help but notice the 75 plus motorcycles on the other side of the street. It was a cool neighborhood and The Anchor has served the roughnecks that worked in the Port and related business for decades. Its is now a really cool bar and a great venue for music.

See them here:

The crowd was good, a lot of pretty girls dressed to the nines. Some wore big full skirts, some in tight 50's style skirts. I took note of some regular rockabilly dancing fans that I see at a lot of places in the city. And of course Roy was there in his signature jean jacket and cowboy boots dancing with all the cute girls.

Petunia and the Vipers took the stage; 5 guys who had the everybody paying very close attention. He doesn't come this way often and the kiddies were ready for him. Petunia yodels, plays kazoo, hoots and yelps, plays guitar and sings in a beautiful candy coated voice. His band is a collection of killer musicians; the Vipers are Steven on lead guitar, Jimmy on lap steel, Marc on percussion and either Sam, Patrick or James on stand-up bass (there are 3 listed on his Facebook page).

They reminded me of Ray Condo and The Ricochets right off the bat. They are from BC, and you know our neighbors to the north have a different vibe; in my mind a classier but more relaxed view of life.

The other reason they reminded me of Ray was that here were 2 band members from Rays old group, The Ricochets. Jimmy and Stephen were mates of Rays when he passed away in 2004. I felt privileged to see them here in the Seattle area.

Billed as playing Canadian roots, Rockabilly and Western Swing, their set started off with a mellow instrumental. Petunia eyes down and chewing gum, Jimmy looking down at his lap steel, Steven taking it easy sitting on his amp, the standup bass (name please, use comments below, thx) eyes closed, gently stroking the doghouse, and the drummer barely touching the skins with his brushes; this was a really quiet way to start this show. I expected a wild eyed Canuck that would be all over the stage in true rockabilly style. Instead this was Ray Condo Light; technically lovely classic western swing for the nap hour.

Keeping it mellow but killer, they took a break 4 songs into the set. Apparently they had some kind of technical problems and as they tried to find the solution they cracked some eardrums. I was glad to be standing off to the side.

Petunia and the boys made it back to the stage and with renewed vigor started hitting all my buttons. Petunia sang a high lonesome voice as his band mates made beautiful music behind him. Jimmy played some spectacular licks on his Fender Lap-Steel trading off with the very talented lead Steven.

As an example of the notion that they had a little classier and classic tone, Steven stood during his solos, sitting down after in deference to his fellow babies. The more they played, the better they got and the happier I was. My feet started moving, my big butt started swaying and I got up to do a little hip shaking. As it happened Petunia played a great version of Shake Your Hips, made famous by the Rolling Stones. I was sold and so was Petunia; his hair now falling in his face, the band rocking and the dance floor filled.

I loved the stand-up bass player, an obviously classically educated musician he kept a bow close at hand. He alternately stroked, plucked and sawed at his doghouse. He was great and even mugged for my camera.

Just when I thought that they were finally channeling Ray Condo, they played a Ray Condo tune. Better or equal to Ray's version he was having his way with us. The whole place was in his hands; we were his willing slaves.

The second set made up for the technically shortened first one. They kept up the dynamite music and made me crazy 'til just short of midnight. The lead guitar was making some great sounds with his guitar; groans and grunts I had never heard before. Jimmy was killing the steel, the crowd applauded after each solo. And Petunia was just warming up, he was a one of a kind original.

See Petunia and his great band here:

I cannot remember a funner show from a unknown (to me), I had already ordered his new cd online so I left happily knowing I would have more of Petunia and his mates for my very own. They were taking a short break but I was done having been up till 2 the evening before and having worked a major portion of the day.

I hope to see him again soon; I thanked Roy for the tip on the way out, got in my car, waved to my personal sheriff and headed home. Life is very good.

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