By Lukas Spencer
This Ain’t Hollywood (TAH), Hamilton’s home to rock ‘n roll and life-long angst, vibrated wildly last Saturday night on the corner of James North and Murray St. Raw musicality and aggressive power radiated from one man—B.A. Johnston.
Although not an official part of Supercrawl, TAH housed a “Supercrawl Cash Grab” showcasing a variety of Hamilton-bred acts at a price of $10 a head. The line up: the Crowleys (at the intersection of David Bowie and Pink Floyd), the ferocious and meaty Beef Boys, Flesh Rag—a trio of rock-demon summoners—and the Pucumber Sasssquatch Family Band.
The night ended with B.A. Johnston—the Steel City’s pride and joy.
Johnston kicked off his set with arcade music, sparklers and blasphemy. “Why was Jesus not born in Oakville?” asked the multi-sweatered Johnston. “He couldn’t find a virgin or three wise men.” Groans and giggles could be heard for miles around.
Johnston made sure that every throat was rinsed with alcohol. At one point, he ran behind the bar—microphone still in hand—to snatch a bottle of Jack Daniels, poured a generous amount into the bartender’s mouth, and emptied the bottle by walking aimlessly throughout the crowd and serving several audience members shots.
B.A. Johnston is short for Bryan Adams Johnston, with no relation to the Canadian singer song writer of course.
He is a devoted fan and student of ‘80s, ‘90s and millennium pop culture, and his March 2017 album does not retreat from that front. He described his attempt to keep the name of his newest album, “Gremlins 3,” in tact while music streaming sites could not decide whether they could legally allow that title in their catalogues. He ultimately changed the name online to “Grmlnz, Vol. 3: Donairs After Midnight” to avoid litigation.
For those of us who frequent McDonalds, that “temple of mediocrity” Tim Hortons and shawarma huts (who doesn’t, really?), tunes from his new album like “Drivethru Beef” and “I Need Donair Sauce” will speak directly to your budgeted foody soul.
B.A. and I exchanged thoughts on our mutual love for alley beers — those inelegant yet vital beverages one chugs outside a bar to avoid expensive draught prices.
In collaboration with Sawdust City Brewing Co. located in Gravenhurst Ontario, B.A. provides penniless students and forty-somethings still living in their mother’s basement with an affordable high-alcohol-level beverage, called “Olde B.A. Johnston’s Finest Malt Liquor”.
B.A.’s brew will soon be available at your local LCBO.
Despite the notoriety Johnston garnered from the Globe and Mail and Vice who compared him to Stompin’ Tom Connors and GG Allin remains humble.
“[The interviews and articles] are all the same. They all feel great. I’m just happy someone’s talking about my dumb show.”
Johnston, having never performed at Mac, looked palpably disappointed when the topic arose. He said he would love to play at Mac but they never call—the phone never rings.”
The city of Hamilton ought to be proud to have B.A. Johnston as one of its musical ambassadors. You can catch B.A. in Hamilton on December 23rd at This Ain’t Hollywood for a “Christmas-time, food-drive deal-y.”