B.A. Johnston has become one of Canada’s most cherished cult musicians. His shows in Saskatoon are received with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for New Year’s Eve or a good-looking cousin’s Bat Mitzvah. But why is a rotund, sweaty, short dude with a Casio bringing out the kids?
“I was in three choirs as a teenager. I can actually sing,” explained Johnston. “But I get nervous so I kinda sing too loudly. I describe it as a really low rent Vegas floor show. I don’t call myself a musician as much anymore. I decided that would be unfair to actual musicians. I’m a dance man.”
Yet Johnston’s showmanship makes him stand out against the current indie rock claptrap, many of whom spend too much time posing in swooping hairdos. Johnston, on the other hand, admits in song that he’s a “Hobo 4 Life” — a refreshingly honest admittance of life on the road.
“There’s trickery to get people to pay attention. I got to have a lot of flash to sell the sizzle,” said Johnston. “It was a slow evolution. I started playing guitar, then I found the white keyboard under the stairs at my mom’s house,” said Johnston.
Johnston’s mom’s house is probably the most ubiquitous image conjured up in his lyrics. He has gone on record describing his mom’s house as “a life-draining spa.” But eating instant noodles, keeping a deep fryer in his bedroom and failing to make out with a girl because her roommate is a “couchetard,” are other great images that display the breadth of Johnston’s creative output. He draws artistic inspiration from what many would consider failures.
“Not many are doing it at the level I am,” argues Johnston. “Usually people get real lives… but I’m not the Grateful Dead so (the show’s) pretty similar — a new suit, but that’s about it. It’s the same dog and pony show but the dog has a different collar.”
With the crazy energy of his past shows in Saskatoon, Johnston has had to take some precautionary measures this time around. It seems that impromptu mosh pits have left a few injured in his tremendous wake.
“Last time I played Saskatoon people got hurt. So I’ll save the inner tube — not for Saskatoon.”
Johnston is currently touring on his old records, but plans to release two new ones next September. Despite abandoning the inner tube crowd surfing, one can be sure Johnston will deliver one hell of a party. And his love for Saskatoon has not diminished.
“I’m just touring cause I love being out here. Who doesn’t love Saskatoon? Well, Regina.”[box type=”info”]B.A. Johnston plays Amigos Cantina April 3 with Jeanette Stewart and the Brodeo and Miles and the Blanks.[/box]