There’s a community hall right in my neighbourhood that’s always booking travelling musicians from all over Canada to stop in for an evening and play. With a steady parade of folk and bluegrass touring through, the doors to the Cranberry Hall are most often like a time-machine to an era I’d only ever experienced through books and old recordings (or possibly the Cohen Brothers’ “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?”).
The performers are young, and yet they look and sound as though they’d stepped out of old vinyl and the family photos of our great grandparents. Often unplugged, and sometimes lit by candles, sitting in the small, church shaped hall and listening to the hushed and natural sound of voices and strings is completely transporting. I never miss a show there if I can help it.
One of my all-time favourite performances there was by a guy called Petunia. I hadn’t heard of him prior to seeing him play, but afterward I became a huge fan. He opened as a yodelling cowboy singer in the vein of Jimmy Rogers (listen here), then carried on through a range of hill-billy and ragtime to early rock and calypso. It was astonishing.
Afterwards I bought his record, shook his hand, and made sure to see him play whenever I could. The last time was at Slickety Jim’s in Vancouver for my birthday, in which the whole restaurant joined in for a sing-along of “Minnie the Moocher“.
Now, and for the past couple of years, I’ve been painting portraits of musicians that I’ve seen perform live, or that I otherwise find inspiring. I’d hit a bit of a creative drought during the Winter, but I had just finished a quick Tom Waits, and decided to keep my momentum and follow it up immediately with a painting of Petunia. No real reason. I just felt like doing it.
Now this is where things get a little spooky.
As soon as I had finished – like within the next 10 minutes – I was told he had been booked to play that same community hall just down the road from me.
How weird is that? A guy that plays all over the world is playing in my neighbourhood, and I find out about it just minutes after I finish painting his portrait.
Coincidences are funny things.
In any case, I figured it might be in my best interests to paint a huge bag of money and a sail boat. Y’know. Just in case. For now, I’ll just be satisfied to know that I get to see Petunia play at the Cranberry Hall again in just a few weeks.
And hey, if you’re interested in having a print of this painting of mine, you can grab one here, or here. If you do get one, I’d be curious to know if having it magically summons the musician himself to your town for a gig.