“In my career, every show is different and surprising,” says Vancouver’s roguish folk-rock songwriter Geoff Berner. “This past year I played a punk rock squat in Berlin, a recently restored synagogue, a folk fest in the woods of Ontario, a hockey arena in Norway … and now a bookstore in Cranbrook!” And so it goes that Berner brings his accordion-driven tales of love, life, lust and lager to the intimate confines of Lotus Books the evening of Saturday Feb. 8.
Geoff Berner has been a staple in Vancouver’s music scene since the 1990s, when he fronted the punk band Terror of Tiny Town. After embracing the klezmer music of his Jewish heritage and barging his way into the city’s eclectic indie underground with his accordion Stella as his main instrument, Berner gained much acclaim for his humour-laden songs, which often combine the profound with the profane. Berner’s profile elevated once the Be Good Tanyas’ version of his song “Light Enough to Travel” hit the UK charts.
Having released six albums over the past decade (the latest being 2011’s ‘Victory Party’), Berner has carved out an international fanbase which sees him tromping through Europe on an annual basis.
“My hero Billy Bragg curates the Leftfield Stage at the Glastonbury Festival in England,” Berner said. “This last summer, he invited me and my trio out to play there. Playing this giant legendary event with my pals, to a huge crowd, with the idol of my teenage years looking on? That was pretty good!”
Berner’s current Canadian tour comes in support of his newly-released début novel “Festival Man.” A fictional first-person memoir of a rather unpleasant music manager, “Festival Man” is reminiscent of Charles Bukowski’s work, and is described by author Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall as “the best rock’n’roll novel since Whale Music” Berner’s Lotus Books performance will include select readings from ‘Festival Man,’ as well as full sets of his songs.
Berner looks forward to his return to the East Kootenay. “What I remember is that there was something about the town, where things started out kind of sedate…and by the end of the evening it had all got bit out of control. I wasn’t sure when things had crossed that line, but I wasn’t sorry about it.”
Berner assures us that he has artistic pearls of wisdom worth sharing: “Worry less about practising your instrument. Work more on reading books, watching movies and listening to music outside of your usual comfort zone. Seek out the strange. If you want to get ahead, reach out to people who genuinely share your enthusiasms. People you’ve never heard of have more power than you think to spread the word about your work. Famous people are more accessible than you think to people who truly love the kind of stuff they love. Make something and throw it out there. You never know where it might go.”
Geoff Berner performs live at Lotus Books (33-10th Ave.S., Cranbrook) on Saturday, Feb. 8; showtime 8 p.m. For more information, please phone 250-426-3415.