Geoff Berner is an accordion player.
If you think this might make for a boring evening at the Old Fire Hall, Friday
night, then you don’t know Geoff.
With such songs as “Half German Girlfriend” and “We All Gotta Be A Prostitute Sometimes,” he has been described as “politically inflammatory”.
But Berner would not take low expectations personally. No … instead, he just thinks you don’t know the accordion.
“You aren’t up on how hip the accordion is,” he says over the phone, not sure if I am just prodding him for good quote, and, me, not sure if he is pulling my leg.
“We just had a show and packed the hall.
“We packed places all the way down to LA and back … like the Crystal Door.
“The revival started with Tom Waits records and it has been a slow, smouldering thing.
“You can get a lot more out of it than an acoustic guitar; more romance than someone strumming the boring six strings.
“In six years, people will be embarrassed to admit they took guitar lessons.”
Hmm, what kind of people come out to listen?
“The demographic is odd,” he says. “Bookish people who like to drink.”
He already has a following in the Yukon, having been to the Dawson City Music Festival and Frostbite.
“I did a bar tour up there,” he says. “It’s a great place to play.
“People appreciate stuff that is weird. I think there are more weird people per capita there. People escape to the Yukon from boring normality.
“That’s great because these are my people; it runs across all age groups: mopey goth kids, anarchical communists and alternative kids.
“There’s a range.”
To imagine Berner’s music, just think of a Jewish celebration that includes accordions. That’s Klezmer music and he has embraced it with his politically charged lyrics such as those for Official Theme Song For The 2010 Vancouver Whistler Olympic Games: (The Dead Children Were Worth It!).
He is egging on the Olympic Committee – even including the unauthorized use of the Olympic logo on his website – but, “we can only hope for some free publicity. They’ve either not noticed or they are smarter than I thought.”
Berner is upset that the B.C. government would close a coroner’s office that investigated children’s deaths to save some money for the Games.
Oh, and by the way, he doesn’t agree that his lyrics are “political”.
“Jonas Brothers and Britney Spears are political … I just have politics that are opposite theirs.
“Country music is super right wing; I am anti-Fascist.
“Take Shania Twain’s You’re a fine piece of real estate and I’m gonna get me some land.”
Instead of “politically charged”, he prefers, “a punky, aggressive, irreverent approach” to music that aims at sacred cows (no offence to Ms. Twain).
“But that depends on what people think is sacred,” says Berner.
“People who have fundamental religious beliefs won’t enjoy it.
“But I did perform in the Catholic church in Dawson City and the priest was right there and he was cool with it.
“He’s a cool guy.”
For a taste of what Geoff Berner has to offer, have a listen at www.geoffberner.com.
He will be at the Odd Fellows Hall in Dawson City on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at Maximillian’s or at the door.
The next evening, he will be at The Old Fire Hall at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets for this show are available at the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office, Arts Underground and at the door.
“Come out to the bar and have some drinks,” says Berner. “I’ll play some music, and you bring your perspective and I’ll bring mine.
“It’s better than watching TV.