(tha rula) B.A. Johnston vs. (rumoured) Teenage Wasteland

“…You just cant get any better than a captain’s hat and a handkerchief.”
– J. Prudhomme

B.A. Johnston show last night. Imagine a small—tiny, really—man in tight-fitting 70’s leisure wear, a captain’s hat, and white dress shoes crawling on the night club floor, through the legs of patrons, dragging a 100ft. mic cord, singing all the way, blowing snot balls in rapid succession, dragging the entire bar into the ladies’ room for encore une fois! and you might BEGIN to get a feeling for the one-man insane-o-cane from Hamilton, ON. He’s been called “gross,” “the new Stompin’ Tom” and many other, less imaginitive expletives.

Love him or hate him, B.A. was a tour de force last night: out in traffic, waving and singing (with mic) to the giant trucks they be havin’ around here, crawling on tables, laying on the service bar, doing the worm (old skool breakin’ technique, yo), even steam-rollerin’ this writer all in a (perhaps) vain attempt to bring a taste of the holy city of Hamilton to the fine people of DT Kelowna. What he DID manage was to astound, boggle, and thrill-a-zilla. My favourite move was when he tore off his 70’s ski sweater (while complaining about the heat) only to reveal another, identical number (this one with short sleeves).

I managed to talk to B.A. on the street after the show. Here’s a bit of what I remember (the creamy shooters at Sturgeon Hall in no way helped my hangover nation):

Clay: So, you’re playing Nelson this weekend?
B.A.: Oh, man, I have to play Victoria and Langley first. Give me a fucking break.
Clay: That’s a lotta driving.
B.A.: Yeah, my mom’s minivan is really racking up the kilometers.
Clay: Do you still live in Hamilton?
B.A.: No, I moved to Invermere.
Clay: Is that near Guelph?
B.A.: No. It’s up by Collingwood.
Clay: Oh, you got some land and goats?
B.A.: Yeah, we’ve got five acres–
Clay: You’re the Will Oldham of the Simcoes!
B.A.: Exactly.
Clay: Have you seen the giant painting of Raymond Burr on that guy’s barn up there?
B.A.: What?
Clay: There must be the world’s biggest Ironside fan living near Collingwood. He painted this huge face on the highway-side of his barn. A young Raymond Burr. Not the older, more wheelchair-bound Raymond Burr.
B.A.: I have not seen that.
Clay: You should.
B.A.: I have to go.

I thank you, B.A., for your brand of zany, for your ghastly urban nursery rhymes, and for the hope you distill in all who behold you that the night might not collapse under the weight of our excess. That this joy isn’t chemical, it’s inimical to evangelical apotheosis. And I thank you, Julia and friends, for joining my investment banker and I for an evening of booze, shmooze, and tail-gate fast foods.


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