NEW Video “When DD Gets Her Donkey, Everything Will be Alright”

Posted in News | Comments Off

DD Donkey Tour Cancelled

With great regret, I have to cancel the tour. My mom is very sick and I had to return home. This is a sad time. Thanks for your understanding. Sorry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Parts I and II, Drinking With The Norwegians During the Breivik Trial

Drinking With the Norwegians During the Breivik Trial

Part One, Arrival: The Darkness and the Politeness

This is about my Norway, and their monster. I’m not Norwegian. I’m an outsider. But I’ve been observing it for 12 years as a touring musician. It’s a very particular way to see a country and its people. It might not align with your particular Norway.

I’d describe myself as a Known Unknown in Norway. I’ve never had a hit there (or anywhere) or anything, but I get a lot of people out to my shows, and I manage to get on NRK, their national radio, pretty much every time I play there.

I’ve built my following brick by brick, or maybe drink by drink, returning once a year. It helped that on my first trip, I became friends with two young bands that are still together, and have gone on to become among the most-loved acts in the country—the Realones, and Kaizers Orchestra.

Let me just say right away that I do love Norway. This was the first country to play my songs on national radio—before my own country. From the very first live show, the audience seemed to “get” my sick sense of humour and allusions to battles with depression. There is a strain of Norwegian culture that has a cheerful darkness about it. It speaks to me, and I guess I speak to it, sometimes. I guess I’m partly trying to speak to it right now.

Ten years ago, on one of my first European tours, I was refused entry to the UK because I was caught trying to get in without a work permit. I’d flown into London from Norway and so was sent back, broke, to Oslo. I was in despair about my career, my life. The people at the bars MIR and MONO took me in, let me play impromtu pass-the-hat shows and gave me the whiskey I needed to cope with my situation. At the end of one night’s show, my friend Herjulv sat down across the small round table from me, set down the first bottle of red wine, and proceeded to drink in sympathy with me for a very long time. “You know,” he said, “in this country, we have an old saying: ‘Don’t worry, because it’s never going to work out.’” Somehow, that night, that saved me.

I’ve made a lot of Norwegian friends, real friends. Friends who’ve saved my life, emotionally, at times, and some who saved me from a vicious beating or two (thank you Benny). I’ve and gotten a better and better feel for what the place is really like. At first it seemed like a Canadian leftwinger’s ideal–what Canada might be if Tommy Douglas had become Prime Minister in the 50s and his semi-socialist N.D.P. had stayed in power for most of the last 60 years. Over time, the picture has become more nuanced. Not everything there is paradise.

Last summer, along with millions of others, I experienced an extra-intense version of the familiar overwhelmed, helpless, sad and angry massacre feeling, as a result of the actions of Anders Breivik, the ultra-right terrorist who blew up a government building in Oslo, killing 8, and then went to the island of Utoya, just outside of Oslo, and shot over a hundred people at a retreat for Labour Party youth activists, killing 69 of them. I wondered if I knew any of those teenagers, if any of them had been at the shows, sending shots up to the stage, or maybe some were once the little kids of the middle-aged punk rockers I know, the little kids who shock you when you only return once a year, by suddenly being a foot taller than you with a beard and quoting the Simpsons at you in Minnesota English.

Citing the boring-but-still-nasty clichés of the anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant parties that have risen up in the last 10 years in Europe, Breivik said that he was fighting to preserve Norwegian culture against a flood of immigration, and that he blamed the Norwegian Labour Party for opening the floodgates.

It seemed so un-Norwegian. In a few hours, Breivik beat the average annual Norwegian murder rate by more than a factor of 10. Norwegians, like Canadians before the Harper government, like to think of themselves overall as a force for peace and rationality, as non-imperialist Good Citizens of the World. But here was a side of Norway that the world hadn’t anticipated. I mean, people hardly think of Norway at all. Now, when they think of it, they think of Breivik, with his odd blond comb-over. Which is weird. Most Norwegians are very stylish–although not frighteningly so, like the Swedes. Yikes.

By coincidence, my first comprehensive, soup-to-nuts, tip-to-tail Norwegian tour in years was planned for May, when the trial was in full swing. I mostly play in bars. I like to hang around in those bars and have a few drinks and chat with people after I play. Sometimes the staff locks the doors and we do that until 5 in the morning. People tell me stuff at these times that they don’t tell anybody else, ever. And Norwegians speak better English than most Anglo-Canadians, even when very drunk, so language is not a barrier.

On this trip, I decided to try to get various Norwegians talking about Breivik, the trial, and What It All Means, and see where it got me.

On May 2nd, I arrived in the former fishing town (now an oil city) of Stavanger, and took a taxi; “The Rock Taxi”, a big black maxi taxi painted with rock n’ roll flames and driven by a big chubby rock n’ roll guy in a black Rammstein t-shirt. The Rock Taxi had a great big rock n’ roll wheelchair ramp in the back, as per Norwegian government regulation. It was early evening. It’s a good idea to fight jetlag by having your first beer at the same hour you would normally have your first beer at home. This teaches your body to adjust to a new “drink o’clock”. So I went straight to Tom Brekke’s new bar.

Tom’s about my age, and looks a bit like me if I was in better shape, taller and Norwegian (Carolyn Mark once joked to me that Norway should have a sign at the border like the ones at midway amusement rides, that would read “you must be THIS tall and THIS good-looking to go on this ride”). Tom has run bars and record companies in Stavanger since the early 90s. He and his wife recently bought “Bøker og Børs“, which means Books and Booze, which is what it sounds like. A really charming cozy place, with lots of old books and lots of the new Norwegian micro-brewery beers that taste so good, not like the old generic pilsners that taste like nothing. Tom poured us a couple of the good ones.

Tom told me that in times past, it was required of a farmer who held a certain number of acres to brew beer on the premises. By Norwegian Law, if a farmer did not brew any beer for 3 years, his lands would be forfeit to the Norwegian Church. Then under Prohibition, the local breweries were shut down by the state, to protect the people from demon alcohol. When prohibition ended, big companies divided Norway up into regions and sold them all the same clear yellow pilsner that tastes like nothing much but gets you pissed after a while. But now the micro-breweries are springing up everywhere, and the oil-prosperous Norwegians have re-developed their taste for beers that taste like something. This is a welcome cultural development, believe me.

Why should we care what’s going on with the Norwegians? Well, for one thing, the Norwegians are the new Princes and Princesses of the Earth. Having discovered oil in the North Sea in the 60s, they have become absurdly rich. Unlike Canada, they retained ownership of their state oil company. As a result, all government services including university are top-notch and pretty much free. They started squirreling away the extra money about 20 years ago, and now their national surplus has gone into the hundreds of billions of dollars. They have tasty tap water and are protected by a wall of money. Refineries in Poland process most of their oil, so that Norway doesn’t become polluted by the source of its mind-boggling wealth. Poles and other foreigners also do a lot of their heavy labour, including fruit picking and the constant replacement of the cute ston e cobbles that make up the cute streets. The stones come from Portugal now, it being cheaper to import stone into this country made of stone. This country that used to only have a bit of farming and forestry and a lot of fishing now processes all its fish in China, then ships it back, frozen, for local consumption.

I was at Justin Newall’s birthday party in Oslo on this last tour (just to jump ahead for a moment) where I witnessed Justin’s visiting Welsh nephew being told about how the Norwegian government, annoyed by the pollution from a nearby Russian factory across their border, just decided to pay for the Russians to build a new, more modern, less polluting factory. It floored him. “Fuck me.” He observed. He suggested that Russia being Russia, they will soon build most of its heavy industry near the Norwegian border. Dont’ rule it out.

With its insane reserves of cash, Norway has influence beyond its size, both as a model of a healthy, socially equitable society, and in a darker way, with its ability to project vast economic power pretty much at will. For instance, Norway has made big investments of its rainy day fund in Canada, where they own a considerable chunk of our Mordor-like Albertan tar sands, and our wild-fish-destroying fish farms.

So I guess I’d say that all means two important things: If a fellow can’t be happy living in Norway, the place with maybe the highest quality of life in the history of humanity, he’s got a serious problem (maybe he’s craaaaaazy, as the prosecution suggested). And if Norway goes seriously wrong, it means a lot more wrong all over the place than you might imagine.

I asked Tom about Breivik. He said “sorry for the poor choice of words”, but he felt that the media had been guilty of “overkill” on the story, constantly casting about for new angles, new people to interview about the case, over-analyzing the question of Breivik’s sanity, which no one really doubted, talking to people who were only distantly connected to the case, people who’d “heard the shots” from their boats or whatever. What else was there to say?

He noted that one of the serious newspapers now had a button you could press on their website, and if you pressed that button then you would not get any news of Breivik, only the other news. I thought that was very interesting. I’d recently been reading Gertrude Stein, so I randomly imagined Gertrude Stein living in her village in France during WWII, pressing the button on her newspaper so that she would not get any news of the war. She probably wouldn’t have pressed that button. She would have understood how to talk about the phenomenon of the “don’t tell me about that” button, though, I bet. She understood modern things before other people did. I don’t understand what that button means, but I suspect it means a new something that I don’t understand.

I mentioned that I had been following last summer’s events online as they happened, and was watching in realtime on the internet during the few hours when no one knew who was doing the bombing, and most were making the assumption that it had been immigrant Iraqi or Somali Islamists who were the culprits. The Norwegians on facebook were instantly facebook debating the question of “Have we been too generous and friendly to the foreigners lately?” “Have we been naive about the Islamist threat?” Of course that is the question that Breivik wanted Norwegians to wonder about, but once they realized that it was one of their own, Tom said that people had “taken a step back” from talking about their worries about foreigners.

I asked Tom if people had turned away from Siv Jensen and her evil nationalist “Progress Party” since the massacre. He said that they had already been turning away from them, partly because of some scandals that played up the sexual hypocrisy of the conservative world-view. People in Siv Jensen’s party kept getting caught high on drugs, having sex with sexy same-sex immigrants, paying for it all with state money. I asked if people couldn’t see clearly that Breivik’s actions are the logical conclusion of Siv Jensen’s ideas? He said that no, in fact, if anything there had been a backlash the other way because people didn’t think it was “fair” to link a mass murderer to a legal political party that doesn’t advocate violence. Tom and I think it’s fair, but apparently many people in Norway feel it’s impolite to say so.

Like the English, Norwegians value their own kind of politeness very highly, and like the English, they see their own kind of politeness as “politeness”, rather than “Norwegian politeness”. For instance, a Norwegian will go into a pub, bang on the bar, and state “Beer”, to indicate that they would like a beer. To say “Beer, please,” is impolite, because in Norwegian that sounds exaggeratedly polite to the point where it appears to be sarcastically mocking the server for moving too slow. Do you see? No? Neither do ex-pat English barmen living in Norway, who are known to often kick Norwegians out of English-style pubs for rudeness when they don’t say “beer, please”.

Here’s another peculiar aspect of Norway: its drug laws are still very illiberal. They’re a highly educated, almost-socialist country, but they have drug laws similar to the worst of the American states. For instance, Tom told me that if he was to be caught smoking a joint, he would have to forfeit his license to operate a bar.

After a few Norwegian micro-brewery beers, I was ready to float my own ideas about Norwegian attitudes towards multiculturalism. I told Tom that my part of Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia, feels like the place in the world that is currently most aggressively chilled-out about immigration. About 5 years ago, Vancouver became Canada’s first majority non-white city. Nobody blinked an eye. As our recent riot attests, people of all colours care infinitely more about hockey. Also, marijuana is our documented #1 industry in terms of income for the province, and no one has been charged with possession of pot in B.C. for at least 12 years. Probably just a coincidence, right?

Could Breivik and Norway have been saved from his years of industrious, obsessive murder-planning by the inevitable result of a flood of B.C. weed—that being a mixture of torpor, memory loss and warm, friendly feelings towards immigrants who will make and deliver endlessly varied tasty food to your door at any hour? We’ll never know. Perhaps it’s impolite to even ask the question. Late night drinking is a good milieu for asking lots of impolite questions. In the morning, we can sort out which ones were useful, and which ones were just stupid. And then we can try again the next night…

Drinking With the Norwegians During the Breivik Trial

Part 2: Ordinary Bigotry versus Rude Musicians

I got on the ferry that motors around the windy, rocky fjords from Stavanger to Bergen.  The passage was comfortable, the wind more subdued than usual that day.  That was good because there’s been times when, hungover and underslept, the rolling of that thing (built completely enclosed so that no one could be washed off it) drove me all the way seasick. All the way. But not on this trip. Smooth sailing.

The tricky part of the journey was buying the ticket online, even for someone experienced at maneuvering in this country. The systems for travellers in Norway can be unconsciously, carelessly hostile to foreigners. Many things that you need to do require you to fill in the “mobile (cellphone) number” box.  And there’s always 8 digits in the space to fill out.  So unless you have a Norwegian mobile phone, you can’t, for instance, buy a train or ferry ticket online, or access the free internet on the train.  I’m not complaining, I’m just observing that it hasn’t occurred to the people designing the system that a person would not have a Norwegian mobile phone. Just didn’t cross their mind.

Most Norwegian bigotry is like that.  Like a lot of western European racism, it’s a careless, un-selfconscious kind of racism, akin to the Dutch Christmas Black Peter tradition of dressing up in minstrel blackface and pretending to be Saint Nicholas’ “helper” (re: slave). Once, sharing a taxi with a business man from the train station in Bergen (Norwegian taxi rides can cost you a month’s house rent in Winnipeg, so you look for somebody to share with), he asked me where I was from. “Vancouver!  Such a beautiful city.  I’d like to go.  But tell me,” he asked, with a friendly, open, inquisitive smile, “aren’t there a lot of Chinese there?”  I replied that I’d always been too stoned to notice, but that the Chinese food was excellent.

There’s a common brand of salt here, you can get it on the ferry—“Hindu” brand salt. It sports a caricatured picture of a happy Hindu.  While I was examining the salt on the ferry, back home in Vancouver a couple of people with albinism were taking the owners of a restaurant to the BC Human Rights commission for selling “Albino Rhino” beer.  Yeah sure, we have tons of bigotry in Canada. It’s just a different flavour.

I met some young friends at a cafe bar in Bergen where the beer is reasonably enough priced for students to drink at. Why? Because the place is run by immigrants. Among our party there was a young guy who said he went with his teachers’ college class, to go to the main Mosque in Oslo, as an exercise in cultural sensitivity training. The Imam finished his little talk, and asked if there were any questions. My young friend joked, blithely oblivious to the level of offense he was giving: “So-where do you do the stoning? Ha ha.”  He told me this as a funny story to demonstrate his happy-go-lucky irreverence toward organized religion, not to articulate some aggressively anti-Muslim, pro-Breivik stance, or to demonstrate the futility of the school’s efforts to make him culturally sensitive.  He’s a big believer in immigration, as a matter of fact, as are his friends. He and they are actually really nice, smart, people.  But when I tried to explain to him why what he said was so amazingly offensive, he just thought I was making a big deal out of a little joke, for God’s sake.  I felt like a bit of a jerk for making such a stink over it.  Not for the first or last time, I realized that the combination of the beer and my frustration at not getting my point of view across was making me shouty.  Why was I shouting at these people, who were really very intelligent, decent people who generally shared my views and sense of humour?  What a jerk.

One of the young ladies present, Sara, sensed that I was losing my curiousity and sense of humour and came to my rescue, by steering the subject in another direction. She pointed out that there are other extremists in Norway.  She said she recently found herself at a Stalinist’s birthday party.  She’s school friends with the Stalinist’s girlfriend.  “She’s very nice.”  Apparently there’s been a recent upsurge in popularity for the “Serve the People” Stalinist communist group. Sara says they claim to be plotting violent overthrow of the government, even going so far as to go out in the woods together for armed target practice. They haven’t done anything yet, except a bureaucratic takeover of a legit anti-racist group, through which they siphoned off a bunch of government funding.  But they claim to be working on doing more.  It would all be laughable except for the fact that it’s losers like this that actually do occasionally kill bunches of people. Hell, Stalin and Lenin were losers like this, before the Czar handed them their big opportunities.  At the Stalinist birthday party they didn’t have cake, but they drank booze and sang communist fight songs.  Sounds like a helluva party.

Later that evening I met up with my friends from the band Kaizers Orchestra. The Kaizers were in Bergen recording their latest album, destined for #1 on the charts. They are rock stars. They’re rich enough to buy shots of decent whiskey at Norwegian bars. We’re talking 10 dollars a drink, easy, and no American freepour—these are carefully, metrically measured 20cl thimbles.  The Kaizers were buying, and they always remember I like Jamesons.

After a few of these, my friend Terje, the guitar player, told me a remarkable story about the unique contours of racism and politeness in Norway.

At the nationally televised Norwegian Grammies (the Spellemannsprisen) this year, Lars Erik Blokkhus, lead singer in the band Plumbo, the Winners of the People’s Choice award, received his statue from a black Norwegian rap duo. On the spur of the moment, the young award-winning musician insulted the presenter with a racial slur. People were outraged.

An hour or so later, outside on the street, the award winners were apologizing profusely to the national TV audience. My friend Terje, being somewhat drunk and in a celebratory, rock n’ roll mood, poured a beer on the guys’ heads.

The outrage in the papers the next day was not about the racist slur, but for the most part against Terje, because he had been so rude to pour beer on a fellow’s head in front of the whole nation.  Yes, you read that right.  Terje’s “rudeness” was considered by the Norwegian press and much of the public to be much worse than the slur. They also took Terje to task for being part of the “forces of political correctness”.  Like it’s somehow oppressive that a white man can no longer abuse a black man to his face on national TV without getting a little beer-wet. It was the biggest media/twitter sensation in the country since the slaughter. “Somehow, I became the bad guy!” says Terje, still baffled by it all. So that’s Norwegian politeness.

Geir, Terje’s co-guitarist, and one of two founders of the band, has never been afflicted by Norwegian politeness. In fact, I’d say that the Kaizers built their success by consciously breaking a serious Norwegian cultural taboo—the one against ever talking yourself up as a Big Deal. They even have a word for it, the Jante Law. It’s a reference to some old humourous stories set in a fictional town called Jante, where it was understood, foremost, that nobody was supposed to act like they were somehow special.

Right from the beginning the Kaizers bucked the Jante Law. Going against music industry Known Wisdom and singing nastily in regional Norwegian dialect so thick that it’s incomprehensible even to many Norwegians, they announced that they were “going to save Norwegian rock”, and again and again, like Babe Ruth, they called their shots; for instance, booking the Oslo Spektrum Arena, with its 9000 spectator capacity, 2 years ahead of time, and proclaiming boldly that they were going to sell it out. This is all very un-Norwegian.  Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it was un-Norwegian, but it was maybe the harbinger of a new attitude among younger Norwegians, that perhaps it’s alright to be a bit bold and brassy sometimes.

The Kaizers did sell out the Spektrum.  I saw it myself, because I was a support act for them there.  It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true, as Muhammed Ali used to say.

My point is that Geir, Janove “the Jackal” and the rest, were always very aware of what they were doing to the Norwegian mindset with their aggressive, self-promoting approach.  They always had a profound idea of the heads they were fucking with. So I was interested in what Geir had to say about where Breivik fits in the Norwegian mind. He did not disappoint.

Over more beers and shots, He reported having a discussion with his brother, Jan, a respected writer and journalist, and another artist friend. By discussion, I knew he meant late night after-bar drinking session, a “Nachspiel”, because that’s the only time Norwegians really get down to the business of talking about their true feelings.  Geir set before me what he called the “mother theory”, as they worked it up.

As a child, Breivik was placed in state care by his own mother, because of her mental problems.  But she hung on to his older sister when she gave him up. The estranged father, a diplomat, was off working in some other country. There really is not much in this world that’s sadder than a little boy calling for his mother, and no one answering. One can only imagine the kind of damage that can do. Or one can read the horrific details as they were recorded at Breivik’s trial, no imagination necessary.  That gives you a pretty good idea.

Geir pointed out the significance of the fact that Gro Brundtland, the former Prime Minister and first female PM of a Scandinavian country, had been scheduled to speak at the event for Labour Party youth on the island. Luckily, she didn’t make it. Luckily for her, because Breivik’s plan was to de-capitate her. The significance of this, Geir said, can’t be underestimated, because of Brundtland’s place in the Norwegian public pantheon. Everyone knows Brundtland. Her international reputation is also golden, having authored the definitive, predictive international report on Climate Change back in the 80s, that could have saved the world’s food systems and coastal cities, if we’d listened to her.

Anyway, she is a supremely venerated figure, someone who’s been given the informal title of “landsmoder”, or Mother of the Nation, by the Norwegian media. When complex issues present themselves, the current PM, Jens Stoltenberg, will make a public point of driving to Brundtland’s home and consulting with her as to the best course of action.  There is no counterpart to this in Canadian, American or British life.

So in Geir’s view, Breivik’s motivations are largely personal.  Rejected by his mother, unsuccessful as a business man, he comes upon the Islamophobic Nationalist movements of Europe and finds a route to attack “The Mother of the Nation”, all in the name of defending the Motherland, thus playing out, in the theatre of public ultra-violence, his violently conflicting emotions about his own mother. Nice. In an uncharacteristically (for Geir) typically Norwegian flourish at the end of his explanation, Geir finished by dismissing the entire theory as “probably drunken bullshit, but there you go.”

I again raised the issue of that brief period of a few hours, when most people thought the attacks were by immigrant Muslim terrorists. Geir’s response was more characteristically (for Geir) untypical for a Norwegian, in that it was brutally frank. “God, we all breathed a huge fucking sigh of relief when it turned out to be one of our own, from the west (rich) side of Oslo. That was perfect.  What a fucking relief that was. Because the last thing we wanted to do was to have the fucking anti-immigrant assholes out there, saying ‘see?’  What a fucking relief that was, to find out it was one of our own, and from a rich neighbourhood, no less.”

Kristiansand is a beautiful city on the sea. It’s famous in Norway for having the loveliest flowers, and having denied a pregnant homeless Roma lady access to its hospitals, and having local politicians who tried to introduce an 800 dollar fine for giving spare change to beggars.  The flowers are lovely, though, and there are many lovely people, also.

In Kristiansand, I met Aase.  She’s a political scientist. She wore an attractive, idiosyncratic floppy hat.  Most of her remarks were dark and sardonic, in a very amusing way.  I don’t know what they were because I lost the notes somehow on the way back to the hotel from the bar.  But I do remember the un-sardonic thing she said near the end of the night, when I raised the Breivik topic.  She said that there are a lot of young, alienated Norwegians, mostly men who can’t find a girlfriend, who blame the Muslims, or immigrants in general for their problems. She advanced the idea that we have to find some way to understand and reach these young men, rather than just dismissing them as assholes. She said if Norway is to avoid more incidents, that kind of reaching out has to happen.  I know that Aase, in her floppy hat, is a better person than I am. But I really, really want to dismiss these guys as just assholes. Is that a mistake? Is that rude? What is the right way to understand a monster like Breivik, anyway?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Give Me A Hand With Adding This Star-Studded Album to My Novel?

zunior.com, where you can download all the albums
Dear Everybody,
There’s tour dates and stuff below, but mainly this is the email I was warning you about, the one about my indiegogo project.
Essentially, I’m hoping you’ll help me pay to make an album of my most notorious musician friends, playing my songs, to get attention for my novel that’s coming out next year.

Indiegogo is this website where you can donate money to people, to make their projects happen.  It’s like Kickstart, but you don’t have to have a U.S. address or go through Amazon.

If you want to skip the pitch and just donate money to my project, just click on this link, here.
There’s also a video I made for it, if you prefer.
Here’s a more detailed pitch, which is also on the Indiegogo site:
Short Summary

This is Geoff Berner.  If you know my music, you are probably odd, bookish, and like to drink, like me.

Well, I wrote a novel.  It’s called Festival Man and it comes out in exactly 1 year from Dundurn Press, of Toronto.  I’ll tell you more about it below.

It’s always been a big dream of mine to write and publish novels, in addition to making music. To pull that off, in this tricky time in the publishing world, you have to make a splash with your first one, or people might not take a chance on your next one.

I needed to think of some special thing I could do, to help publicize the book, and give it an extra kick, so it would be more likely to be noticed.  Something good.

Here’s the idea I came up with:

Since Festival Man mostly takes place at a music festival, It makes sense to make an album, a kind of festival in a box, to accompany the novel. I have a lot of notorious, talented musical friends–I want to offer people an album of these friends, playing my songs. This would be an extra incentive to buy the book, and it’s bound to help get the thing promoted on music radio and suchlike media.  That is a big advantage.

Rae Spoon. Kaizers Orchestra. Corb Lund. ESL, Kris Demeanor. Carolyn Mark. Orchid Ensemble.  Dave Lang. Some other people who I won’t tell you about yet. The music will come along as a free download with the book, or separately on a nice, limited edition vinyl LP.

So I wrote to my notorious friends and asked them to do it, and they said yes.  Some of them have already done the recording.  Wow!

Then it was time to pay for it.  Damn.  The problem is: Mint Records, my label, can’t do it, because they can’t afford to make an album that’s mostly given away free with a book.  Dundurn Press, my publisher, can’t pay for it, cause they already paid for the book, and they’re not a record company.

So that leaves you, my friend.

Can you give me a hand?  You could do it because you want to help me realize my dream of being a successful novelist.  Or you could do it to cause a strange and possibly wonderful artifact to come into being.

What’s my book about?  It’s the fictional memoirs of a drunk, psychotic, dishonest, ludicrous, somewhat inspirational music manager named Campbell Ouiniette.  In the novel he explains his ways to humanity: specifically, what, exactly went wrong for him at the Calgary Folk Festival last year, and why.  With digressions.  It’s a book about the power of strange music to change people’s lives.

Sometimes I think it’s a masterpiece, and sometimes I think it’s a bunch of silliness.  But I guarantee that it’s not boring.  It’s funnier than Anna Karenina, and shorter, too.  Hey–I found a Real, Reputable Publisher to publish it.  That in itself is kind of a major achievement these days, eh?

This one guy, Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, an award-winning published author and all, he read it, and wrote to me to say it’s “The best rock n’ roll novel since Whale Music.” So I’ll take that.

What I Need & What You Get

I figure I need about 10 large, in order to cover some of the studio costs, paying musicians, mixing, mastering, art, promotion, and also to press 500 vinyl copies of the album.

If I get more, I’ll pay the musicians more, and maybe make a video.

If I get considerably less than my goal, I’ll skip pressing the vinyl, give back the money people sent to get the vinyl,  and slip into a depression.  That’s my business plan, there.

I’ve been advised to “emphasize how awesome this project is, and how awesome everybody on it is.”

So let me just emphasize this:

Kaizers Orchestra: A Norwegian psychotic cabaret-oompah-rock band that no less than Tom Waits referred to as “Thinking man’s circus music.”  So big in Norway that they fill stadiums, despite the fact that they often spend entire songs pounding oil drums with axe handles.

Corb Lund: Maker of dirty, hairy, dark, real country music about whiskey-swilling, apocalyptic horror, in the fields of both politics and romance.  Managed to hit the #1 spot on Canada’s album chart this summer with that .

Rae Spoon: Trans gay disco singer, songwriter of devastating sophistication and honesty. Catchier than hell itself.  ”Let the Devil into your heart, and you will never be alone.”

Carolyn Mark: The Queen of Vancouver Island.  Described in the New Yorker as Canada’s Boozy Chanteuse.  Can out-party Lemmy.

And many, many more Stars of Today.  About 8 of them.

Perks

Perks are the thingies you can get when you donate.  I’m not a big believer in “multi-tiered” fan perks.  I generally don’t think people should get “special access” to musicians, just cause they have dough.  I’m not gonna charge somebody money to drink with me.  That’s creepy.  You know you can drink with me anytime.

But I will sell you a 2-person pass for all my future shows till I drop dead (except if it’s a big festival that only gives me one pass anyway.  Some of them are tricky that way).  That lifetime pass’ll cost you $400.  If you find yourself thinking, “Holy moley, I’m rich!  How can I help Geoff Berner?” I recommend that option.  But I’m only selling 4 of those 2 person passes, total, cause after that it’s kinda crazy.

The main thing is, though, I’d like to talk you into pre-ordering the book.  If I can sell a lot of those, it’ll impress my publishers, and then they’ll put more energy into promoting the book.  Clever, eh?.  I’ll sign it and write a nice “thank you” in there, mentioning how you’re a true patron of the arts, which you are.  Every copy of the book will come with a code so you can download the album with all the Stars of Today on it.  Throw me 25 bucks for that, willya?

The vinyl LP will sound better and look cool.  And I promise, I will only print one run of 500.  Ever.  Promise.  I will sign and number them. They will have a lovely poster in them.  You can pre-order one of those on its own for 25 smackers, too.

Or consider getting both the book and the vinyl for $50, and I’ll throw in a “How to Be An Accordion Player” instructional booklet, as My Gift to You.

And people have been bugging me to give accordion lessons, which I don’t normally do, but if you toss me $150, I’ll do a one hour lesson, plus the How To Be an Accordion Player instructional booklet.  Plus the novel, of course.

Or you could just press contribute now over to the right, and that’ll take you to a screen where you can donate some money, straight up.  A buck?  A grand?  Don’t let me stop you.  I’ll owe you a favour, that’s for sure.  Don’t feel like you have to.  But it’s an option.

Everyone who donates any amount will be listed (if they want), alphabetically, in the LP, as The Kind of People Who Make Strange Music Like This Happen.  You will be publicly immortallized, for better or worse.

The Impact

There’s two main reasons I’m doing this:

One is to give the book a helping hand.  When you put years of work into something, you don’t want it to just pop up and quickly fade away.  I’ve got more novels in me.  If this one succeeds, I can get the next one published, I figure.

Two is the sheer bizarre glory of hearing and having others hear these amazing artists’ recordings of stuff I wrote.  Whoa.

If you like my stuff, and want me to keep going on what I’ve been doing, this is a chance to really keep me rolling, here.  I hope you’re into it.

Other Ways You Can Help

Just tell everybody.  Post this link on your facebook or twitter or whatever you’ve got.  Talk about it with your fellow weirdos at the bar.  That’d be a great boon to me, and wouldn’t cost you anything.  Thanks.

So that’s the pitch.  You know I don’t usually bug you about this kind of thing. If there’s stuff you see in the pitch that looks dumb, and you can think of a way to improve it, I’m all ears. I really want to make this work.

And now for the tour dates:

FALL CANADA

Sept. 20 – Montreal, PQ – POP Montreal Festival, at The Rialto, with Fanfare-Ciocarlia and Canailles, who are my new favourite band. Wherever you are, you should fly to Montreal and buy tix HERE.
Sept. 22 – Falardeau, PQ – Festival de Valinouet, with Canailles
Sept. 27 – Kingston, ON – Skelly Park House Concert, with Swamp Ward Orchestra. Get in touch with me for details.
Sept. 28 – Guelph, ON – The Square, 86 Wyndham Street N., with Richard LaViolette. Details Here.
Sept. 29 – Still might play a little show in Toronto.

Sept. 30 – Vancouver, BC – The Rio Theatre: Book Launch Show for Rae Spoon’s new book, “First Spring Grass Fire”. I will play some songs and read an excerpt from “Festival Man”. With Cris Derksen. Details Here.

Oct. 5 – Cumberland, BC – Foggy Mountain Fall Fair, at The Waverly
Oct. 6 – Victoria, BC – The Fort Street Cafe, with Meat Draw

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER EUROPE ADVENTURE:
Oct. 25 – Osnabrück, Germany – Unikeller
Oct. 26 – Berlin, Germany – Fischladen
Oct. 27 – Dresden, Germany - Societaetstheater
Oct. 30 – Mainz, Germany - Hafeneck
Oct. 31 – Mainz, Germay – Hafeneck, (with Guro von Germeten)
Nov. 1 – Trier, Germany – Brunnenhof
Nov. 2 – Duisburg, Germany – Grammatikoff
Nov. 3 – Hannover, Germany – Feinkost Lampe
Nov. 4 – Castrop-Rauxel – Bahia de Cochinos
Nov. 5 – Düsseldorf – KIT Café
Nov. 6 – Dillenburg, Germany – Erbse
Nov. 7 - Nürnberg, Germany – MUZ, (with Guro von Germeten)
Nov. 8 – Stuttgart, Germany – Laboratorium, (with Guro von Germeten
Nov. 9 –  Crailsheim, Germany – 7180 Bar
Nov. 10 – Saarbrücken, Germany – dasTiv
Nov. 12 –  Zürich, Switzerland – El Lokal
Nov. 13 – Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany
THE DENMARK PART, all shows with the exciting Kabaret Sybarit!
Nov. 14 – Esbjerg, Denmark – Tobakken
Nov. 15 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Huset i Magstraede
Nov. 16 – Kolding, Denmark - Pitstop
Nov. 17 – Aarhus, Denmark – HQ
Nov. 20 – Skanderborg – Walthers Musikcafe
Nov. 22 – Vostrup, Denmark – Vostrup
Nov. 23 – Randers, Denmark – Cafe Von Hatten
Nov. 24 – Aalborg, Denmark – 1000 Fryd
Alberta
Dec. 7 – Calgary, AB, Probably the Ironwood
Dec. 8 – Edmonton, AB, Probably New City

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Accordion Noir, POP Montreal, and Drinking During the Trial

Dear Everybody,

Thanks again for being on my email list. Below are my tour dates, and some other stuff. There’s a big show in Vancouver coming up Saturday, September 15. Click HERE to buy tix. I’m playing at the prestigious, ultra-hip POP Montreal festival September 20 with people you will not believe. Europe is coming up. There’s loads to talk about.

It’s been a gloriously bizarre festival summer. I played 9 festivals. At both Vancouver and Edmonton folk festival, I was, against all logic, allowed onto the mainstage at the finale to sing a verse of the Theme Song.

In Vancouver, they asked me to write a new verse of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” against the Enbridge Pipeline. That’s the scary thing the Canadian government wants to build from Alberta to the West Coast, ruining the land and water with inevitable tar sand spills. What an honour to be asked to write anti-corporate muckrakery in the style of Woody Guthrie!:

“And as a side note,
I want to point out
We don’t want no
Enbridge pipeline.
This land ain’t gon-
-na be a spill zone
This land was made for you and me.”

At Edmonton Folk Fest, I got to stand up there with the well-liked Albertan country singer Corby Lund and the lovely chanteuse T. Nile, in front of 19,000 people and sing lead for the “If I get there before the snow flies” verse of “Four Strong Winds.” Couldn’t resist changing “By then it would be winter” to “By then it might be winter”. I know. Silly. Mavis Staples heard us rehearsing our harmonies backstage and pronounced it “beautiful”. No, really.

Right before we hit the mainstage, Corb suggested switching in mid-verse to an old cowboy trail song classic, “Winnie the Winnipeg Whore”, but I over-ruled him. Thank God I was there to be the Voice of Reason. It was impressive that he knew all the words to all 6 verses, though. Definitely shout it out as a request if you’re at one of his shows. It’s Part of Our Canadian Heritage, after all.

The summer has been a crazy rush of those kinds of surreal musical moments. Too many to recount all of them. Let me just say that Canailles is my new favourite band. Drunk, dirty Quebecois folk music. Their album is a masterpiece on par with “Rum Sodomy and the Lash”. I can’t wait to play with them in Montreal. Oh! How fun that shall be.

A while ago, I promised you a piece called “Drinking With the Norwegians During the Breivik Trial”. Breivik has just been found guilty, so I should probably post it. It’s turned out very long. I’ve put Part 1 below the tour dates. Part 2 will come soon.

I should also tell you that I am planning an IndieGoGo project. That is, a project that I will be asking you to help me fund. Consider this to be your warning. The project falls between the cracks of record company and book publisher, but still has good reason to exist. In fact, I have been told by those with whom I’ve shared the early drafts that I should “emphasize the awesomeness” of this particular thingamabob. Do you have experience with or thoughts about kickstarter and indiegogo? Any advice would be appreciated.

Alright, enough of that. Here are the tour dates. Below that is the Norway piece.

FALL CANADA
Sept. 15 – Vancouver, BC – Accordion Noir Festival, The Waldorf, with Maria in the Shower and much other fun stuff. Click HERE to buy tix. Click HERE to invite folks to the facebook event.

Sept. 20 – Montreal, PQ – POP Montreal Festival, at The Rialto, with Fanfare-Ciocarlia and Canailles, who are my new favourite band. Wherever you are, you should fly to Montreal and buy tix HERE.
Sept. 22 – Falardeau, PQ – Festival de Valinouet, with Canailles
Sept. 27 – Kingston, ON – Skelly Park House Concert, with Swamp Ward Orchestra
Sept. 28 – Guelph, ON – The Square, 86 Wyndham Street N.
Sept. 29 – Thinking about playing Toronto. Anybody got any ideas?

Oct. 5 – Cumberland, BC – Foggy Mountain Fall Fair, at The Waverly
Oct. 6 – Victoria, BC – The Fort Street Cafe, with Meat Draw

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER EUROPE ADVENTURE:
Oct. 25 – Osnabrück, Germany – Unikeller
Oct. 26 – Probably Berlin. Have almost figured out exactly where. Stay tuned.
Oct. 27 – Dresden, Germany – Societaetstheater
Oct. 30 – Mainz, Germany – Hafeneck
Oct. 31 – Mainz, Germay – Hafeneck, (with Guro von Germeten)
Nov. 1 – Trier, Germany – Brunnenhof
Nov. 3 – Hannover, Germany – Feinkost Lampe
Nov. 4 – Castrop-Rauxel – Bahia de Cochinos
Nov. 5 – Düsseldorf – KIT Café
Nov. 6 – Dillenburg, Germany – Erbse
Nov. 7 – Nürnberg, Germany – MUZ, (with Guro von Germeten)
Nov. 8 – Stuttgart, Germany – Laboratorium, (with Guro von Germeten
Nov. 9 – Crailsheim, Germany – 7180 Bar
Nov. 10 – Saarbrücken, Germany – dasTiv
Nov. 12 – Zürich, Switzerland – El Lokal
Nov. 13 – Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany
THE DENMARK PART, all shows with the exciting Kabaret Sybarit!
Nov. 14 – Esbjerg, Denmark – Tobakken
Nov. 15 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Huset i Magstraede
Nov. 16 – Kolding, Denmark – Pistop
Nov. 17 – Aarhus, Denmark – HQ
Nov. 20 – Skanderborg – Walthers Musikcafe
Nov. 22 – Vostrup, Denmark – Vostrup
Nov. 23 – Randers, Denmark – Cafe Von Hatten
Nov. 24 – Aalborg, Denmark – 1000 Fryd

Dec. 7 – Calgary, AB, TBA
Dec. 8 – Edmonton, AB, TBA

Ok, now for the first installment of what has turned into an Epic Narrative Essay, a boozy political horror travelogue, a something that’s probably not for everyone…It’s–

Drinking With the Norwegians During the Breivik Trial

Part One, Arrival: The Darkness and the Politeness

This is about my Norway, and their monster. I’m not Norwegian. I’m an outsider. But I’ve been observing it for 12 years as a touring musician. It’s a very particular way to see a country and its people. It might not align with your particular Norway.

I’d describe myself as a Known Unknown in Norway. I’ve never had a hit there (or anywhere) or anything, but I get a lot of people out to my shows, and I manage to get on NRK, their national radio, pretty much every time I play there.

I’ve built my following brick by brick, or maybe drink by drink, returning once a year. It helped that on my first trip, I became friends with two young bands that are still together, and have gone on to become among the most-loved acts in the country—the Realones, and Kaizers Orchestra.

Let me just say right away that I do love Norway. This was the first country to play my songs on national radio—before my own country. From the very first live show, the audience seemed to “get” my sick sense of humour and allusions to battles with depression. There is a strain of Norwegian culture that has a cheerful darkness about it. It speaks to me, and I guess I speak to it, sometimes. I guess I’m partly trying to speak to it right now.

Ten years ago, on one of my first European tours, I was refused entry to the UK because I was caught trying to get in without a work permit. I’d flown into London from Norway and so was sent back, broke, to Oslo. I was in despair about my career, my life. The people at the bars MIR and MONO took me in, let me play impromtu pass-the-hat shows and gave me the whiskey I needed to cope with my situation. At the end of one night’s show, my friend Herjulv sat down across the small round table from me, set down the first bottle of red wine, and proceeded to drink in sympathy with me for a very long time. “You know,” he said, “in this country, we have an old saying: ‘Don’t worry, because it’s never going to work out.’” Somehow, that night, that saved me.

I’ve made a lot of Norwegian friends, real friends. Friends who’ve saved my life, emotionally, at times, and some who saved me from a vicious beating or two (thank you Benny). I’ve and gotten a better and better feel for what the place is really like. At first it seemed like a Canadian leftwinger’s ideal–what Canada might be if Tommy Douglas had become Prime Minister in the 50s and his semi-socialist N.D.P. had stayed in power for most of the last 60 years. Over time, the picture has become more nuanced. Not everything there is paradise.

Last summer, along with millions of others, I experienced an extra-intense version of the familiar overwhelmed, helpless, sad and angry massacre feeling, as a result of the actions of Anders Breivik, the ultra-right terrorist who blew up a government building in Oslo, killing 8, and then went to the island of Utoya, just outside of Oslo, and shot over a hundred people at a retreat for Labour Party youth activists, killing 69 of them. I wondered if I knew any of those teenagers, if any of them had been at the shows, sending shots up to the stage, or maybe some were once the little kids of the middle-aged punk rockers I know, the little kids who shock you when you only return once a year, by suddenly being a foot taller than you with a beard and quoting the Simpsons at you in Minnesota English.

Citing the boring-but-still-nasty clichés of the anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant parties that have risen up in the last 10 years in Europe, Breivik said that he was fighting to preserve Norwegian culture against a flood of immigration, and that he blamed the Norwegian Labour Party for opening the floodgates.

It seemed so un-Norwegian. In a few hours, Breivik beat the average annual Norwegian murder rate by more than a factor of 10. Norwegians, like Canadians before the Harper government, like to think of themselves overall as a force for peace and rationality, as non-imperialist Good Citizens of the World. But here was a side of Norway that the world hadn’t anticipated. I mean, people hardly think of Norway at all. Now, when they think of it, they think of Breivik, with his odd blond comb-over. Which is weird. Most Norwegians are very stylish–although not frighteningly so, like the Swedes. Yikes.

By coincidence, my first comprehensive, soup-to-nuts, tip-to-tail Norwegian tour in years was planned for May, when the trial was in full swing. I mostly play in bars. I like to hang around in those bars and have a few drinks and chat with people after I play. Sometimes the staff locks the doors and we do that until 5 in the morning. People tell me stuff at these times that they don’t tell anybody else, ever. And Norwegians speak better English than most Anglo-Canadians, even when very drunk, so language is not a barrier.

On this trip, I decided to try to get various Norwegians talking about Breivik, the trial, and What It All Means, and see where it got me.

On May 2nd, I arrived in the former fishing town (now an oil city) of Stavanger, and took a taxi; “The Rock Taxi”, a big black maxi taxi painted with rock n’ roll flames and driven by a big chubby rock n’ roll guy in a black Rammstein t-shirt. The Rock Taxi had a great big rock n’ roll wheelchair ramp in the back, as per Norwegian government regulation. It was early evening. It’s a good idea to fight jetlag by having your first beer at the same hour you would normally have your first beer at home. This teaches your body to adjust to a new “drink o’clock”. So I went straight to Tom Brekke’s new bar.

Tom’s about my age, and looks a bit like me if I was in better shape, taller and Norwegian (Carolyn Mark once joked to me that Norway should have a sign at the border like the ones at midway amusement rides, that would read “you must be THIS tall and THIS good-looking to go on this ride”). Tom has run bars and record companies in Stavanger since the early 90s. He and his wife recently bought “Bøker og Børs“, which means Books and Booze, which is what it sounds like. A really charming cozy place, with lots of old books and lots of the new Norwegian micro-brewery beers that taste so good, not like the old generic pilsners that taste like nothing. Tom poured us a couple of the good ones.

Tom told me that in times past, it was required of a farmer who held a certain number of acres to brew beer on the premises. By Norwegian Law, if a farmer did not brew any beer for 3 years, his lands would be forfeit to the Norwegian Church. Then under Prohibition, the local breweries were shut down by the state, to protect the people from demon alcohol. When prohibition ended, big companies divided Norway up into regions and sold them all the same clear yellow pilsner that tastes like nothing much but gets you pissed after a while. But now the micro-breweries are springing up everywhere, and the oil-prosperous Norwegians have re-developed their taste for beers that taste like something. This is a welcome cultural development, believe me.

Why should we care what’s going on with the Norwegians? Well, for one thing, the Norwegians are the new Princes and Princesses of the Earth. Having discovered oil in the North Sea in the 60s, they have become absurdly rich. Unlike Canada, they retained ownership of their state oil company. As a result, all government services including university are top-notch and pretty much free. They started squirreling away the extra money about 20 years ago, and now their national surplus has gone into the hundreds of billions of dollars. They have tasty tap water and are protected by a wall of money. Refineries in Poland process most of their oil, so that Norway doesn’t become polluted by the source of its mind-boggling wealth. Poles and other foreigners also do a lot of their heavy labour, including fruit picking and the constant replacement of the cute ston e cobbles that make up the cute streets. The stones come from Portugal now, it being cheaper to import stone into this country made of stone. This country that used to only have a bit of farming and forestry and a lot of fishing now processes all its fish in China, then ships it back, frozen, for local consumption.

I was at Justin Newall’s birthday party in Oslo on this last tour (just to jump ahead for a moment) where I witnessed Justin’s visiting Welsh nephew being told about how the Norwegian government, annoyed by the pollution from a nearby Russian factory across their border, just decided to pay for the Russians to build a new, more modern, less polluting factory. It floored him. “Fuck me.” He observed. He suggested that Russia being Russia, they will soon build most of its heavy industry near the Norwegian border. Dont’ rule it out.

With its insane reserves of cash, Norway has influence beyond its size, both as a model of a healthy, socially equitable society, and in a darker way, with its ability to project vast economic power pretty much at will. For instance, Norway has made big investments of its rainy day fund in Canada, where they own a considerable chunk of our Mordor-like Albertan tar sands, and our wild-fish-destroying fish farms.

So I guess I’d say that all means two important things: If a fellow can’t be happy living in Norway, the place with maybe the highest quality of life in the history of humanity, he’s got a serious problem (maybe he’s craaaaaazy, as the prosecution suggested). And if Norway goes seriously wrong, it means a lot more wrong all over the place than you might imagine.

I asked Tom about Breivik. He said “sorry for the poor choice of words”, but he felt that the media had been guilty of “overkill” on the story, constantly casting about for new angles, new people to interview about the case, over-analyzing the question of Breivik’s sanity, which no one really doubted, talking to people who were only distantly connected to the case, people who’d “heard the shots” from their boats or whatever. What else was there to say?

He noted that one of the serious newspapers now had a button you could press on their website, and if you pressed that button then you would not get any news of Breivik, only the other news. I thought that was very interesting. I’d recently been reading Gertrude Stein, so I randomly imagined Gertrude Stein living in her village in France during WWII, pressing the button on her newspaper so that she would not get any news of the war. She probably wouldn’t have pressed that button. She would have understood how to talk about the phenomenon of the “don’t tell me about that” button, though, I bet. She understood modern things before other people did. I don’t understand what that button means, but I suspect it means a new something that I don’t understand.

I mentioned that I had been following last summer’s events online as they happened, and was watching in realtime on the internet during the few hours when no one knew who was doing the bombing, and most were making the assumption that it had been immigrant Iraqi or Somali Islamists who were the culprits. The Norwegians on facebook were instantly facebook debating the question of “Have we been too generous and friendly to the foreigners lately?” “Have we been naive about the Islamist threat?” Of course that is the question that Breivik wanted Norwegians to wonder about, but once they realized that it was one of their own, Tom said that people had “taken a step back” from talking about their worries about foreigners.

I asked Tom if people had turned away from Siv Jensen and her evil nationalist “Progress Party” since the massacre. He said that they had already been turning away from them, partly because of some scandals that played up the sexual hypocrisy of the conservative world-view. People in Siv Jensen’s party kept getting caught high on drugs, having sex with sexy same-sex immigrants, paying for it all with state money. I asked if people couldn’t see clearly that Breivik’s actions are the logical conclusion of Siv Jensen’s ideas? He said that no, in fact, if anything there had been a backlash the other way because people didn’t think it was “fair” to link a mass murderer to a legal political party that doesn’t advocate violence. Tom and I think it’s fair, but apparently many people in Norway feel it’s impolite to say so.

Like the English, Norwegians value their own kind of politeness very highly, and like the English, they see their own kind of politeness as “politeness”, rather than “Norwegian politeness”. For instance, a Norwegian will go into a pub, bang on the bar, and state “Beer”, to indicate that they would like a beer. To say “Beer, please,” is impolite, because in Norwegian that sounds exaggeratedly polite to the point where it appears to be sarcastically mocking the server for moving too slow. Do you see? No? Neither do ex-pat English barmen living in Norway, who are known to often kick Norwegians out of English-style pubs for rudeness when they don’t say “beer, please”.

Here’s another peculiar aspect of Norway: its drug laws are still very illiberal. They’re a highly educated, almost-socialist country, but they have drug laws similar to the worst of the American states. For instance, Tom told me that if he was to be caught smoking a joint, he would have to forfeit his license to operate a bar.

After a few Norwegian micro-brewery beers, I was ready to float my own ideas about Norwegian attitudes towards multiculturalism. I told Tom that my part of Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia, feels like the place in the world that is currently most aggressively chilled-out about immigration. About 5 years ago, Vancouver became Canada’s first majority non-white city. Nobody blinked an eye. As our recent riot attests, people of all colours care infinitely more about hockey. Also, marijuana is our documented #1 industry in terms of income for the province, and no one has been charged with possession of pot in B.C. for at least 12 years. Probably just a coincidence, right?

Could Breivik and Norway have been saved from his years of industrious, obsessive murder-planning by the inevitable result of a flood of B.C. weed—that being a mixture of torpor, memory loss and warm, friendly feelings towards immigrants who will make and deliver endlessly varied tasty food to your door at any hour? We’ll never know. Perhaps it’s impolite to even ask the question. Late night drinking is a good milieu for asking lots of impolite questions. In the morning, we can sort out which ones were useful, and which ones were just stupid. And then we can try again the next night…

www.geoffberner.com
Geoff Berner on Facebook
@geoffberner on Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

New Song, Thanks Norwegians, Hello Black Sheep

http://www.mintrecs.com/ where you can order the “Victory Party” album.
@geoffberner on Twitter

Dear Everybody,

I’m working on a report from the Norwegian tour called “Drinking With the Norwegians During the Breivik Trial” but it’s ballooned out into something unmanageable that requires some work.  It could wind up being kind of long.  Long like the sort of thing magazines used to publish in the old days.  Sorry this current report is so brief, but that’s why.
In the meantime, here’s a link to a new song I just put on Youtube.  Click HERE to see it.  It’s about how ultra-rightwing politicians have lately shifted from hating Jews to loudly supporting Israel.  It’s like they’re trying to forget that they’re Nazis or something.  Weird. The song’s called “Thank You No Thank You”.
I’m putting it out because of some stuff a young lady said to me in Norway.  She’s a political activist and she said she had been meeting with some of the kids who survived the massacre on the island and she said thinking of this song cheered her up.  She even said she recited a few of the lyrics to the kids and they even laughed.  I feel kind of guilty and vain about telling you about this because I feel like maybe by saying this I’m blowing my own horn too much about a sensitive situation, but I guess I can’t help but take some professional pride in hearing that my song can make distressed, good people feel better, since that’s one of the things you’re trying to do when you write songs, after all.  So there you go.
Below are the shows.  I draw your attention in particular to the show next week at the Black Sheep in Wakefield, just outside of Ottawa, because it’s one of my favourite places to play.  Paul and Steph, who run it, create a perfect setting to hear music in, and they take risks on artists that aren’t popular yet, when their ears tell them that it’s good music that deserves to be heard.  Not only that, but Carolyn Mark is playing the very next day.  Why not make a weekend in Wakefield out of it?  So anyway, here’s to the Black Sheep.  Hope to see you there.  After that is the most crazy jampacked Canadian Festival season I’ve ever booked.  So I might see you there, too.
Canadian Summer Festival Season

June 21 – Peterborough, ON – The Spill, with Kelly Popcorn with Blues in the Bottle

June 22 – Wakefield, PQ – The Black Sheep. with the Weather Station  Buy tickets HERE

June 23 – Skeleton Park Festival (Kingston, ON)

June 27 – Vancouver Jazz Festival – Vogue Theatre, playing support for Balkan Beat Box.
July 6-8 – Courtenay, BC – Vancouver Islands MusicFest
July 13-15 – Vancouver Folk Festival, buy tickets HERE
July 21-24 – Brandon Folk, Music+Art Festival
July 25 – Possible Mysterious Show in an unnamed Elevated Place that Evokes Solitude, where Chronology May Alter.
July 27-29 – Hillside Festival (Guelph, ON)
August 3-6 – Artswells Festival, (Wells,  BC)
August 9-12 – Edmonton Folk Festival. Sold Out.
August 17 – Saskatoon, SK – Gillian’s House
August 18 – Mistahiya, AB – Come By the Hills Festival
Sept. 13-16: Accordion Noir Festival, Vancouver
October-November: Planning European Tour
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Normay in a Nutshell, Belgium, Fleas, Etc.

http://www.mintrecs.com/ where you can order the “Victory Party” album.
@geoffberner on Twitter

Dear Everybody,

I’m at home now, resting up in preparation for the next big trip—Norway in May (plus Brussels, Liège, Middelburg and Mainz at the end there). If anybody out there in Norway or Belgium knows anybody who works at the radio or in the papers that I could hit up for an interview, I’d be happy to know about it.  I know, I’m a terrible publicity hound, but it’s so irritating to return home from a place and receive letters asking me when I’m going to please come and play there.

I’d like to get the word out in advance, especially since I’ve long promised to do a proper tour of Norway, hitting every spot that I can, rather that just zipping through Oslo and Bergen and out again, so this is it:  Norway, from Soup to Nuts.  11 shows.  Playing places like Bryne.  Halden.  Hammerfest.  Plus the bigger cities, too.

All the dates are below.  But first, a few highlights from the most recent tour:

I got to play a few shows with Michael Tuttle on bass and Hampus Mellin on drums backing me up.  They’re based in Berlin, although Michael is American and Hampus is Swedish.   (Actually, I don’t think there’s more than 50 German citizens left in Berlin at this point.)  A true rhythm section, they play as a unit with several different outfits, but mainly with the brilliant Dan Kahn and the Painted Bird.  Musically, they mesh perfectly, or imperfectly in just the right way.   I love their dynamic together, on and off stage.  They’re like a happily long-married couple, complete with enjoyable mildly sniping banter.

For instance,

We were up late at the place we were staying at after the show at the Musikbunker in Aachen (which is actually a WWII Bunker, by the way, walls 3m thick, sustained a direct hit in the War, etc.), finishing the whiskey and brandy.   But we had to get up fairly early to get to the next gigs.  Hampus is usually the last man standing at the end of these sessions.  Michael is somewhat saner and decided to go to bed at 3-ish.

Micheal: I’m hitting the sack.  (getting up to leave) ‘Night.
Hampus: Can you, like, elbow me in the morning when it’s time to get up?
Michael: Sure!  It would be my pleasure.
Hampus: Where will you be in relation to me? If I’m lying here, where will the elbow come from?
Michael: We can act it out.  I’m you and you’re me, ok?
Hampus Ok. (adopting a silly, high-pitched voice): Hi! I’m Michael and I play the double bass! I do Akido!
Michael (affronted): Ok, if you’re gonna go there, just forget it! (Starts to leave the room.)
Hampus: Oh, come on.  Don’t be like that! You didn’t get to do me!

Michael (leaving): Oh, I’ll do you later.
Hampus (realising he’s been punchlined): Son of a–!  He always gets me.

When drinking, Hampus likes to tell anecdotes about a dead Swedish jazz trumpet player and his exploits, including the time he ordered his band to do a dine-and-dash at a Chinese restaurant in Berlin, and then wept openly when the waiters caught him and insisted that he pay.  Also, ask him about his “genius” idea for a marketing slogan that will sell any product.  I dare you.

If Dan Kahn was annoyed that I kind of stole his band for a little while, he sure didn’t show it.  He played “klezmer d.j.” at the Berlin show, (which, near the end of the night, just involved leaving “Rum Sodomy and the Lash” by the Pogues running) and then a couple days later invited us all out for a look at the flea market at the Wall Park.   He pitched the plan by evoking the stirring words of George H.W. Bush: “Flea markets make flea peoples.”

Fleas came up again, when my pal Matthias was driving us in his old reconditioned 1950s Peugot taxicab.  It’s a pretty cool way to see the city.  His one-car-company is Klassik-Taxi-Berlin.  I complemented him on this beautiful car as we drove towards the Tikki Bar, and he observed, “Yes, well, it’s not running quite as it should right now.  You can hear the fleas coughing.”   Apparently, this is a common expression in German.  I hereby propose that we adopt it in the English language on a trial basis.  I think it’s very promising.

When Justin and I got to Lyon, there was a large squad of riot police in the square outside the station, in full body armour, with automatic weapons and plexiglass shields.  We asked our lovely host about it.  “It’s because it’s the end of school vacation.”  Wow.  Justin observed that back in Wales, kids also dislike having to go back to school, but perhaps not as much as French kids.

The gig in Lyon, at the Quand Les Souris Dansent Festival, was a lot of fun.  I got to play with another outfit with its own history, running gags, inside jokes and particular style of humour.   The Michael Winograd trio consists of himself, Benjy Fox-Rosen, and Patrick Farrell.  I’ve played many times with them, and recorded with them, and we always have a grand time.  Sadly, they were unable to party late into the night, because they had to catch an early train to Dijon to play klezmer at a bris.  That’s a male circumcision ritual, in case you don’t know.  I had a horrible moment on stage, when I decide to make fun of Michael and co. for the gig they were going to do.  “So, Michael, does it pay well to play at a bris?”  Without a moment’s pause, he replied, “Well Geoff, the pay’s ok, and they sure leave one Helluva tip!”  Bad-dum-bump!   I had to stop the show for several minutes while I doubled over and hyperventilated from the sheer cheeziness of the borscht-belt moment that I had thoughtlessly wandered into.

Benjy now speaks fluent Yiddish, having aquired the language and a slight belly protrusion made entirely of pickled herring, in Vilnius, Lithuania, in their Yiddish-and-Pickled-Herring Immersion Program.  This new gift of his has given him an amazing ability to flirt with nonaganerians.  After the show I caught up with him in the lobby chatting up a 90-year-old French Jewish lady.  She had danced while the Winograd trio played.  When she told him, “I’m 90 years old, you know.” He immediately responded in perfect Yiddish, “May you live to be 120.” I believe that she blushed.

A few more observations from Europe:

–People in Feldkirch, Austria really like the band the Weakerthans, from Winnipeg.  Weakerthans: Tell them to stop drinking “Mohren Gambrinus” beer.  See, the guy who made it was named “Mohren”, and it’s a Dark Beer. So they thought if would be funny to put a racist caricature of a black man on it.  We don’t do stuff like that anymore.  Right?  We don’t, right?  Well, we do, but we’re trying to stop, right?

–Justin and I have developed a theory that people who live in certain European countries always keep their faces slightly pouty, in case they have to kiss someone on their cheeks 2 or 3 times, and this alters their muscular-facial structure.  I’ll leave this incredible breakthrough to you anthropologists to sort out.

–Berliners love Scottish stepdancing.  If you’re a girl who can do it, you should move there immediately.  You will be very popular.

–At the Tikki Bar that Matthias brought me to, there’s a German guy who sings Frank Sinatra tunes to a backing tape.  He’s remarkably authentic, although he didn’t hit anyone, which was a bit disappointing.

–I’m really looking forward to returning to Belgium.  I’m thinking of moving there.  Belgian beer is inexpensive, Klezmic Zirkus is a truly great band, and the Belgians have survived the economic crisis remarkably well, possibly partly because they didn’t have a government for almost 2 years.

Here are the shows:

April 16 – Penticton, BC – The Elite
NorMay in a Nutshell
May 3 – Kristiansand, Norway – Trashpop @ Javel
May 4 – Stavanger, Norway – Cementen
May 5 – Bergen, Norway – Chagall. Buy tickets!
May 6 – Bergen, Norway – Logen, with Heidi Goodbye.  Buy tickets!
May 9 – Bryne, Norway – Thime Stasjon
May 10 – Trondheim, Norway – Familien
May 12  - Oslo, Norway – Manefisken.  http://www.manefisken.no . Tix on sale at Manefisken, May 1.
May 13 – Halden, Norway – Siste Reis
May 16 – Arendal, Norway - Cafe Lindvedske
May 18 – Alta, Finnmark, Norway – Barlia Pub
May 19 – Hammerfest, Finnmark, Norway – VERK
A Little More Europe
May 24 – Brussels, Belgium, Jewish Museum, Belgium, with Klezmic Zirkus
May 25 – Middelburg, the Netherlands – Kaffee ‘t Hof
May 26 -Liège, Belgium – Fêtes en Pierrieuse, with Klezmic Zirkus
May 27 – Mainz, Germany – Open OHR Festival, with Klezmic Zirkus
Canadian Summer Festival Season

June 21 – Peterborough, ON – The Spill

June 22 – Wakefield, PQ – The Black Sheep

June 23 – Skeleton Park Festival (Kingston, ON)

June 27 – Vancouver Jazz Festival – Vogue Theatre, playing support for Balkan Beat Box.
July 6-8 – Courtenay, BC – Vancouver Islands MusicFest
July 13-15 – Vancouver Folk Festival
July 21-24 – Brandon Folk, Music+Art Festival
July 25 – Possible Mysterious Show in an unnamed Elevated Place that Evokes Solitude, where Chronology May Alter.
July 27-29 – Hillside Festival (Guelph, ON)
August 3-6 – Artswells Festival, (Wells,  BC)
August 9-12 – Edmonton Folk Festival
August 17 – Saskatoon, SK – Gillian’s House
August 18 – Mistahiya, AB – Come By the Hills Festival
October-November: Planning European Tour
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

A Novel Announcement, and a Warm Feeling

Dear Everybody,
As I type, I can hear the familiar, gentle hissing of the hydrogen in the hoses as the crew fills the auxilliary tanks of the trusty Berner Industries Blimp, which will once again be flying me to Berlin.  My show there is at Kaffee Burger on Thursday.  Hopefully all the patches will hold for the trans-Atlantic journey.  I’ll be floating through Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands on this tour.  I hope to see you out there.
I have an announcement to make: I’m an Author.  Or I will be in 2013.  I’ve done the impossible–I’ve signed a publishing deal in this current terrifying state of the Book Industry.  Dundurn Press of Toronto will be releasing my first novel, “Festival Man”, in September 2013.  Why wait that long?  Well, this is how stuff works in Publishing, they tell me.  Anyway, it’s very exciting.  Special thanks to my new Editor, Shannon Whibbs, for championing the book with her colleagues. Because of her, whenever I’m feeling sad and lonesome, I’ll be able to go visit my book at the library.  I’ve observed before that my audience base consists largely of Odd, Bookish People Who Like to Drink–so if you’re reading this and (likely as not) you work at a book store, library, university, or some combination of the three, I hope you’ll get in touch with Dundurn and bug them to send you some copies.
Those of you in Edmonton will already know about all this, as I may have let it slip from the stage during the ebullient encore.  Needless to say I had a wonderful time out in Alberta, where both Calgary and Edmonton were bona fide sellouts.  Carolyn Mark took me to Lance Loree and Toby Malloy’s house in Nanton for the start of the trip.  Their hospitality was supreme.  Lance drove us out to his farm and we skated on the creek.  It surprised me, how much good it did me.  We did not fall in, although there were times when the ice made an exciting cracking sound.
Lance, also known as “Uncle Thirsty” in Canadian legend, is part of the famous musical Loree family of Alberta, the many branches of which have contributed so much great playing and songwriting to the world.  He’s also always good for a corker of a phrase or two, and he did not disappoint.  Referring to some shows he’s played in a bar in a town on the outskirts of Edmonton, he observed,  ”That gig is like pissing yerself in a dark suit.  You get a warm feeling, but nobody notices.”  He looked at me meaningfully, confident in the assumption that I would know exactly what he was talking about.
But don’t let that stop you from coming up and saying hello to me on this upcoming tour.   It should be an interesting one.  Dachau is on the itinerary.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Tour dates are below.
Yours,
Geoff
Europa Mania
Feb 23 – Berlin, Germany  - Kaffee Burger, with the Painted Bird on backup.  Part of the Klezmer Bund concert series.
Feb. 24 - Greifswald, Germany – IKuWo, with the Painted Bird on backup.
Feb. 28 - Mainz, Germany – Hafeneck
Feb. 29 – St. Gallen, Switzerland –  La Buena Onda
March 1 - Feldkirch, Austria – Graf Hugo
March 2 –  Innsbruck, Austria – Bäckerei-
March 3 – Dachau, Germany - Café Gramsci
March 4 – Munich, Germany – Corleone
March 5 – Trier, Germany – Brunnenhof,  with Jon Cohen Experimental
March 6 - Duisburg, Germany – Steinbruch, with the Painted Bird on backup
March 7 – Aachen, Germany – Musikbunker, with the Painted Bird on backup
March 8 – Belfort, France – Roger’s Cafe
March 9 – Basel, Switzerland – Zum Goldenen Fass
March 10 – Lyon, France – Quand Les Souris Dansent Festival
March 13 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Nieuwe Anita
March 15 – Haarlem, Netherlands – Patronaat, with Klezmic Zirkus
March 16 – Liege, Belgium - Cinéma “Le Parc” (Droixhe), with Klezmic Zirkus
March 17 –  Groningen, Netherlands – Vera
April 16 – Penticton, BC – The Elite
NorMay in a Nutshell
(More dates to come.  Contact me with any ideas)
May 2 – Bryne, Norway – Thime Stasjon
May 3 – Kristiansand, Norway – Trashpop
May 4 – Stavanger, Norway – Cementen
May 5 – Bergen, Norway – Logen
May 6 – Bergen, Norway – Logen
May 10 – Trondheim, Norway – Familien
May 12  - Oslo, Norway – Manefisken.  http://www.manefisken.no
May 16 – Arendal, Norway
May 18 – Alta, Finnmark, Norway – Barlia Pub
May 19 – Hammerfest, Finnmark, Norway – VERK
Canadian Summer Festival Season
June 21 – Peterborough, ON – The Spill
June 22 – Wakefield, PQ – The Black Sheep
June 23 – Skeleton Park Festival (Kingston, ON)
June 27 – Vancouver Jazz Festival – Vogue Theatre, playing support for Balkan Beat Box.
July 13-15 – Vancouver Folk Festival
July 21-24 – Brandon Folk, Music+Art Festival
July 25 – Possible Mysterious Show in an unnamed Elevated Place that Evokes Solitude, where Chronology May Alter.
July 27-29 – Hillside Festival (Guelph, ON)
August 3-6 – Artswells Festival, (Wells,  BC)
August 9-12 – Edmonton Folk Festival
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Embarrassing Carolyn Mark in Alberta, Then On To Europe

Dear Everybody,
I hope you got to have a good winter vacation, and the February blahs aren’t bringing you down.  If they are, please consider going out and having some drinks and making a spectacle of yourself as a possible remedy.
The shows start again for me, shortly, with spectacles this week in Alberta with Carolyn Mark (see A Short Treatise on Carolyn Mark, below) and a fresh trip to Europe in February/March.
I had a show in Chemnitz drop out at a late date, and there’s been no luck filling it.  Saturday, Feb. 25.  I know it’s very short notice, but if you know anybody who runs a bar or something, somewhere in Crisis Europa, I’m available.  It seems a shame to be out on the road on a Saturday Night and not be playing.  Nights without shows…
The Norway tour is coming together nicely for May.  I’m planning to tour every single damn inch of the country, so if you live somewhere isolated that needs more accordion, reply to this email.
And now…
“A Short Treatise on Miss Carolyn Mark
Carolyn Mark’s wit is legendary.  I’m not talking about scripted, tested yuck-fodder.  I mean spontaneous, off-the-cuff, whip-smart wit.  I once saw her at a summer festival, and some white hippies approached the stage before she began her set.  They wanted to know if she minded if they “jammed along” with her on their African djembe drums.  She leaned into the mic and earnestly explained to them that she loved “jamming”, but she wouldn’t be able to jam with the djembes, because “both my parents were actually killed by hand drums.  So they’re very traumatic for me.”
Carolyn Mark is not dead.   But I think people ought to be paying tribute to her now, while she’s around to feel embarrassed about it.   And people should be covering her songs.  Say you’re a musician.  Say you’re making an album.  Are you absolutely sure that you could not possibly cut one of the 10-15 songs of yours that you’re thinking of  putting on there, and replace it with a Carolyn Mark song?  A Carolyn Mark song adds Vim, Cleverness and Betterness to any recording–guaran-goddamn-teed! Or your money refunded.
Her work is best described with a phrase that another genius, Sheila Gostick, once used on her own gig poster:  ”Funnier than comedy, sadder than music.”
Here are some samples of her cleverly heartbreaking  lyrics,
“Don’t you worry, it’s not over, it’s just that after last night, I thought I’d take a break from being president of your fan club.”
Or
“I’m too lazy to beat myself up over being too lazy to, you know, beat myself up.”
Or
“Read my lips you fucker: chew that gum again, we’re through.”
Or this classic–
“Don’t come over, baby.  You’re not invited.  Love is so much better when it’s un-requited.  So go to Hell, leave me alone, and please don’t answer, baby, when I call you on the phone.”
And my fellow musicians, no one I know couldn’t identify with Back in Chumpville:
“Just when I think that I’m through with that town, thinking I’m up just to find that I’m down.  I’m back in Chumpville again.”
One time Carolyn and I had a day off in Bergen, Norway.   We decided to try to stay out of trouble by lurking in at Jörgen from Bergen’s house.  Carolyn has a lyric from “Port Moody”:  ”It’s the nights without shows that get me in trouble, restlessness grows, and appetites double.”
Jörgen had a video copy of “Hardcore Logo”.  It’s a movie about a fictional Canadian punk band.  In the movie they make a big deal about how this tough bunch of crusty punk tough guys are gonna take the long hard road across western Canada in their van, in the wintertime!
As the Toronto actors were hyping up the toughness of their western road-warriorness, I looked over at Carolyn, immaculately dishevelled in polka dot pyjamas, sipping red wine.  It occurred to me that the manly fancy-pants fake punkers in the movie were moaning and groaning about doing something that Carolyn had cheerfully done at least twice a year for the majority of her adult life.  And stayed up till at least 5 am each night of each show, partying with her local pals, before the 800 km drive each day, laughing and telling dirty jokes along the way.  For crying out loud.  I promise you that If Chuck Norris tried to live Carolyn Mark’s lifestyle, he’d be weeping like a baby and begging to be taken to a Swiss sanitarium inside 5 days.
Not everyone likes Carolyn.  She is not polished and laquered to a sheen, like the Robot Horror People of New Country.  She’s been “shushed” for talking (loud) in all the finest venues in North America and Europe.   Like love itself, or a hurricane, Carolyn respects no boundaries.  It’s just how she’s built.
Once, in London, Ontario, I watched as she and DD determinedly brought their red wine glasses out to the fire escape to smoke, retreating back inside each time the manager lady came out to scold them about bringing alcohol outside, which you can’t do in Canada, because if you did, society would collapse.  Time and again, as soon as the lady was gone, DD and Carolyn exchanged a solemn look, lit up, and stepped back out with their wine.  Finally, the exasperated lady came out and shouted at them, “Do you two just think that the normal rules of human behaviour just DON’T APPLY TO YOU??!!!!!”  DD and Carolyn responded by solemnly looking at each other again, looking at the lady, looking back to each other and collapsing in a fit of helpless laughter.  The manager lady told them that they should go home.  This of course caused greater laughter to ensue.
That total lack of respect for all the rules about everything is what makes a Carolyn Mark show a True Experience.  It is not like watching television, or even Youtube.  It is spontaneous, unpredictable, full of humour and rueful truth.  And the songs are deceptively, expertly crafted missiles of equal parts nasty observation and strange comfort.  The world would do better to hear them.  So before you go out there and sing bloody bloody “Hallelujah” one more time, think about singing “Edmonton” instead.  ”Hey, do you remember me?  Oh yes, we’ve met before.  I’d like to ride your coat-tails, or just nail them to the floor.”
Alright.  Here’s the dates.
Alberta Bound
Feb. 2 – Twin Butte, AB – General Store with Carolyn Mark
Feb. 3 – Calgary, AB – The Ironwood, with Carolyn Mark.  Phone (403)269-5581 for reservations.
Feb. 4 – Edmonton, AB – The ARTery, with Carolyn Mark. Book tickets here!
Europa Mania
Feb 23 – Berlin, Germany  - Kaffee Burger, with the Painted Bird on backup.  Part of the Klezmer Bund concert series.
Feb. 24 - Greifswald, Germany – IKuWo, with the Painted Bird on backup.
Feb. 28 - Mainz, Germany – Hafeneck
Feb. 29 – St. Gallen, Switzerland –  La Buena Onda
March 1 - Feldkirch, Austria – Graf Hugo
March 2 –  Innsbruck, Austria – Bäckerei-
March 3 – Dachau, Germany - Café Gramsci
March 4 – Munich, Germany – Corleone
March 5 – Trier, Germany – Brunnenhof,  with Jon Cohen Experimental
March 6 - Duisburg, Germany – Steinbruch, with the Painted Bird on backup
March 7 – Aachen, Germany – Musikbunker, with the Painted Bird on backup
March 8 – Belfort, France – Roger’s Cafe
March 9 – Basel, Switzerland – Zum Goldenen Fass
March 10 – Lyon, France – Quand Les Souris Dansent Festival
March 13 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Nieuwe Anita
March 15 – Haarlem, Netherlands – Patronaat
March 16 – Liege, Belgium - Cinéma “Le Parc” (Droixhe)
March 17 –  Groningen, Netherlands – Vera
NorMay in a Nutshell
(more dates to come)
May 2 – Bryne, Norway – Thime Stasjon
May 3 – Kristiansand, Norway – Trashpop
May 4 – Stavanger, Norway – Cementen
May 5 – Bergen, Norway – Logen
May 6 – Bergen, Norway – Logen
May 10 – Trondheim, Norway – Familien
May 12  - Oslo, Norway – Manefisken.  http://www.manefisken.no
May 16 – Arendal, Norway
May 18 – Alta, Finnmark, Norway – Barlia Pub
May 19 – Hammerfest, Finnmark, Norway – VERK
Canadian Summer Festival Season
June 23 – Skeleton Park Festival (Kingston, ON)
July 13-15 – Vancouver Folk Festival
July 21-24 – Brandon Folk, Music+Art Festival
July 27-29 – Hillside Festival (Guelph, ON)
August 3-6 – Artswells Festival, (Wells,  BC)
August 9-12 – Edmonton Folk Festival
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Award-Winning Boundary-Pushing, Etc.

Dear Everybody,
I hope you’re doing well.
I mainly wanted to let you know: “Victory Party” won the “Pushing the Boundaries” category at the Canadian Folk Music Awards last weekend.  Good, eh?  I got an award for something that I was punished for all through school.  That’s justice for you. I bet you’re sorry for kicking me out of Point Grey Mini School now, Mr. O’Connor!  No, probably not.
Extravagant thank-yous go out to everybody who made the shows for the big Europe Victory Party Part II tour a grand success, especially all the nice people who came out to my 40th Birthday Show in Copenhagen.
My pal and erstwhile Tour Manager Justin Newall surprised me by showing up out of the blue, and Diona and Wayne surprised me by having prepared a special Birthday Song with Justin for the occasion.  Justin wrote the lyrics, which I quote here:
RABBI BIRTHDAY

1ST VERSE
It was a late November day in 1971
The stars’ configuration was a most portentous one.
The seers and the prophets only had one thing to say:
“There’s gonna be some whiskey drinkin’ forty years today!”

CHORUS:
Oh, happy rabbi birthday! Hip hip hip hurra!
We’re here to celebrate the happy rabbi that you are.
Happy rabbi birthday! Hip hip hip hurray!
We’re going to make you sorry you were forty and a day.

2ND VERSE
The boy grew up and started on a musical career
With melodies as catchy as a dose of gonorrhoea
It really wouldn’t matter if we thought his songs were crap
Instead of gonorrhoea, I’d have rhymed them with the clap!

CHORUS

3RD VERSE
Who could have predicted that the road would lead this way?
That Geoff would be here with us on his fortieth birthday?
Singing songs to make us laugh, songs to make us cry
And drinking up this Copenhagen bar until it’s dry!

CHORUS x2
(Last line: We’re going to make you sorry… really, really sorry…We’re going to make you sorry you were forty and a day. HEY!)

Feel free to adapt the song for your own Birthday purposes.  Perhaps one day it will replace “Happy Birthday” as the standard Birthday song.  I hope so.  You have to hand it to him, rhyming “Gonorrhoea” and “career”.  I don’t think a Canadian songwriter could pull that off.
Sandra and Mayu baked a cake for me, with an accordion, a whiskey bottle, and my Accordion Instructional Booklet on it.  It was delicious.  Also, people gave me whiskey.  How did they know?
Putting the Instructional Booklet on the cake somehow disturbed the order of the universe, because shortly after that, I got a slew of emails, asking about how to purchase “How to Be an Accordion Player”.  I guess my website doesn’t make that super-clear.  I should get that fixed.
In the meantime, if you, or someone you love, might benefit from achieving the Psycho-Sprititual State of Being an Accordion Player, go ahead and CLICK HERE.  I’ve lowered the price by a buck, in honour of the Recession.
In Denmark, they say, there’s a spa where you put your feet in a bowl of water and little fishes eat the dead skin.
The scary part is, while the fish are nibbling you, the staff at the spa serves you sushi.  Is that not an Abomination?  I believe it is, although I’m not sure exactly why.
No Nazis threw bicycles at us while we were in Aalborg this time.  Although the near-hurricane-force winds did send a few bikes flying in our direction, and delayed our train with trees on the tracks.  Still, we made it to soundcheck.  And the gig with Vialka was stupendous.  We love Vialka.
We made it to every other soundcheck on the tour, too.  Which is actually sort of insane.  Nothing can stop us!  For we are Award-Winning Boundary-Pushing Musicians!  Knock wood.
Tour dates are below.  See you soon, I hope.
Vancouver:
January 28, 2012 – Vancouver, BC – PUSH Festival, with Mary Margaret O’Hara, they say.
Gulf Islands Sally
Jan. 20 – Saltspring Island –  Moby’s, with the inimitable Kris Demeanor
Jan. 21 – Galiano Island – The Hummingbird, with the inimitable Kris Demeanor, and Good Enough For Drunks and Children
Alberta Jaunt:
Feb. 3 – Calgary, AB – The Ironwood, with Carolyn Mark!
Feb. 4 – Edmonton, AB – The ARTery, with Carolyn Mark!

Late Feb- Early March: More Europe, including Berlin and France and Benelux

Feb. 23 – Berlin – Kaffee Burger
More dates to come
May: Norway from Soup to Nutshells
Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, Arendal, Kristiansand, the Far North and more…dates to come.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off