Sunday night (April 21), Sacramento audiences will have a unique musical experience and that is to meet and experience Canada’s Petunia and the Vipers when they perform at the Torch Club (901 I Street, Sacramento).
Petunia And The Vipers’ name may suggest an L7 covers band, but in actuality they are an altogether more eclectic outfit, combining old-style country, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll with elements of big band and swing. Furthermore, Petunia is the stage name of 100% male frontman, Ron Fortugno.
With a piercing gaze, Petunia looks into the collective soul of the audience, then launches into some high and lonesome vocals that conjure up the ghost of Jimmie Rodgers. Not content with mesmerizing the crowd, Petunia’s tapping boot propels the band into a snarling fire and brimstone rave-up as a wave of frantic jitterbuggers compete for space on the dance floor.
Imagine that David Lynch and Nick Cave had a hillbilly baby. A hillbilly baby that yodeled. That’s Petunia. Now imagine he’s backed by a band whose talents match his own. That would be the Vipers. Imagine that man and that band can step onstage and hold a crowd in thrall song after song, until the last note fades away, and that would be Petunia and the Vipers.
Since forming a few years ago Petunia and the Vipers have been very busy bringing their exciting and highly original brand of roots music to an ever increasing audience. They’ve been on the road almost constantly in Canada and the US, and recently toured for a month in the UK and Ireland to rave reviews. This is their only Northern California date, on their way to several nights in Los Angeles and beyond.
Growing up in rural Ste.-Dorothee, Laval, (Quebec) seems like an obvious connection for a sometimes country blues yodeler. Picture shady creeks with fallen tree bridges, and secret hiding spots. Part wanderer, part musician Petunia has been on the road for full years at a stretch at time — sometimes propelled by nothing more than his outstretched thumb alongside of the trans-Canada highway. He has laid his hat and made his home in many, many spots along the way as befits a wandering troubadou. His traveling libido has led him to secure bands of musicians spanning across three continents. He has played with literally hundreds, and maybe thousands of musicians. Personal highlights from recent California West Coast tours include Phil Alvin (Blasters), Exene Cervenka (X), and country music icon Wanda Jackson.
Petunia loves to keep you guessing, often throwing a Spanish Ballad or Chanson a la Edith Piaf into the set. It’s the spirit of adventure that attracted the high calibre musicians that make up The Vipers. The Vipers collectively have decades of experience working their magic with some of the most exciting names on the country and rockabilly circuits. Some of the Vipers were formerly with the legendary Ray Condo and his Richochets.
Sacramento’s Delta City Ramblers open the show at 8:30 pm. Admission: $8 at the door.