Berner brings Klezmer to Bacchus

GEOFF BERNER will be performing at Bacchus Books on Saturday

GEOFF BERNER will be performing at Bacchus Books on Saturday

Geoff Berner thinks Bacchus Books will be the perfect place for his Klezmer performance on Saturday night.

“I usually tend to characterize the people who like what I do — and not everyone does—as odd, bookish people who like to drink,” said Berner.

Caleb Moss and Niki Dusseault, owners of Bacchus Books, are ecstatic to have Berner play in their store and as part of Kicking Horse Culture’s LIVE Kicks series. They have been trying to get Berner, who is from Vancouver, to play at their store for four years now. Golden is Berner’s first stop on his tour for his new CD, Klezmer Mongrels. He’s excited to try out some new songs on us rural folk before playing in bigger places and on the radio.

Klezmer music is an Eastern European Jewish tradition, usually filled with the sound of accordion and traditionally sung in Yiddish.

Berner, in his online bio, says he wants to “make original Klezmer music that’s drunk, dirty, political and passionate. As a Jew of eastern European descent, I feel I have a calling to make this music live, not just preserve it under glass like something in a museum.”

He has received some rave reviews in the past few years. The Globe and Mail called him the “Avenging angel of klezmer”. Billy Bragg said “Cherish him, cherish him, for there really is no one like him.”

Bragg, ironically enough, was a musician whom Berner greatly looked up to when he younger.

“I always admired people like Billy Bragg. He could just stand up on stage with a guitar and a few stories and keep people captivated for an hour.”

When asked if playing in a cozy bookstore was “normal” for him, Berner said that he has played at punk-rock bars, stadiums, catholic churches and venues in between.

“There is nothing normal about this job,” he said. “I guess that keeps things interesting.”

The Klezmer Mongrels album art features a dog with breasts, while a younger pup sucks on her nipple like a baby might.

“I think it’s called horrifying/cute. The artist who designed the cover makes paintings that fill you with mixed emotions,” said Berner, explaining that he thinks that’s the difference between good and bad art: good art will make you feel more than one thing at once.

Not only does Berner play music, but he creates books too. His book, How to be an Accordion Player, a book that doesn’t “teach you how to play the accordion,” but how to “be an accordion player”, Berner emphasized.

“It’s full of useful writing, and pictures too,” he said. “There are picture of things like hyenas, and Joseph Stalin.”

This is what he writes in promotion of his book:

Obviously, this book alone won’t make you an accordion player. Some people will never be accordion players. That’s good. We couldn’t have everyone in the world being accordion players. Who would grow the food? Who would perform surgery?…Whether this booklet succeeds or fails depends on you. Who knows — perhaps, one day, it will be the bible of serious accordion players everywhere, or perhaps in time, it will be like the bible itself…


Berner will be playing and selling his book at Bacchus Books at 7:30 pm this Saturday, January 22. Tickets are $15 (at Bacchus Books) and only 50 are available.