Review: „Festival Man“ by Geoff Berner – a novel & a tribute album
The novel „Festival Man“
Campbell is the name of the hero in „Festival Man“, a fine name for real heroes of the past, people writing about heroes, soup and also the last name of a Canadian politician – a name carefully chosen by the author Geoff Berner taking a look at his main character.
During the novel Campbell gets away with … well … not murder … but pretty much everything else. He is a nerveladen guy you don’t necessary want to be around all day but you wouldn’t mind being him at least for a little while.
A story with many twists (as twisted as Campbell) told in a way that let’s you laugh out loud or facepalm.
Well known for his music this is Geoff Berner’s debut novel and it has everything a debut has to bring with: it is fresh, daring and full of unheard anecdotes mixing The Dude with Duddy Kravitz in a true Albertain setting.
It is not surprising that it has a lot do with the music festival business since Geoff Berner has been touring the world for about two decades. And now he is stepping up to the literary stage. As it turns out, his storytelling talent goes way beyond the length of a song and his infamous introductions on stage.
On the path of novel writing musicians he leads the pack of Nick Cave and alikes so far that it doesn’t do him justice to be called a novel writing musician. He is just an exceptional funny and witty storyteller all around – written or sung. His lyrics profen that many times and everybody who had seen him live will second that.
BONUS: this novel even comes with a download code for a music album, actually a tribute album with cover songs by befriended international musicians – financed solely with crowdfunding!
And here it is:
The album „Festival Man“
It is rare listening to a musician from his beginnings to the point when he’s getting his very own tribute album.
I have been listening to Geoff Berner from a hootenanny in Victoria, B.C. to the „Festival Man“ now.
To my delight the musicians sum up the excellence of his songs churned with their talent.
I wouldn’t go through the trouble of noting each single song on this album if it wouldn’t be the best album I listened to this year.
Take my word.
1. Song: Right away the opener floored me: The Kaizer’s Orchestra interpreting Whisky Rabbie evoking a picture of Tom Waits chasing the B-52s over a German Wave festival stage.
2. Nothing short of beautiful is The Lions Bridge casting a bright light on to the simple beauty of Geoff Berner’s songs.
3. That’s what keeps the rent down by Corb Lund & the Hurtin’ Albertains moves it musically nicely from the city to the countryside.
4. Carolyn Mark & her New Best Friends’ melting seemingly effortlessly Prairie Wind into its natural surrounding showing strong signs of the a 10 chart song of its genre.
5. More on the experimental side is the Victory Party Variation by Orchid Ensemble taking me back to tiny moments of brilliance experienced at experimental music festivals worthwhile listening to each tone.
6. The Authentic Klezmer Wedding Band is for Hire by RotFront is swaying between the Dead Kennedys, Klezmer and Calexico and highly danceable.
7. And who would follow a song like that with a big band tune? Befriended artists of Geoff Berner like Dave Lang with Phoney Drawl. Fantastic.
8. Calgaryan own Kris Demeanor & the Cutest Kitten Ever singing The Rich will move to the High Ground. Being from the city which experienced a flooding his voice carries even more significance in the light of recent events.
9. Painting (I never wrote that before) with their voice does Rae Spoon how they deliver the Unlistenable Song to ambient music.
10. Light enough to Travel is one of my personal favorite songs, so I am even more critical, but with this perfect arrangement played by the Real Ones … kudos, kudos.
11. Imagine a snare drum played under water and you get the unique voice and the concise style Wax Mannequin is singing Volcano God.
12. In Klezmer tradition follows the Wealthy Poet by Maria in the Shower. It is impossible not to move while listening to it.
13. Playfully is what The Burnettes did to Public Relations. They moved the horns into the foregroud carrying the tune.
14. A drunken angels choir I thought hearing when Iron Grey started. This is truly the only missing tune on the soundtrack of the movie „The Street“. Mr Johnon’s Grade 5/6 Kittens from Ecole Macphail Memorial in Flesherton belong there, too.
15. And Kim Barlow wraps up this musical panopticum with Cherry Blossoms.
All cover songs are on eye level with their originals – and no matter how close or how removed they are from Geoff Berner’s original recordings these tunes carry his soul.
Refreshing are the different styles tied together by Geoff Berners songwriting making it a stunning emotional and powerful album showing what different approaches can do to great music.
Enjoying Geoff Berner’s „Festival Man“ as novel and his songs played by all the artists make a feast of words, humor, politics and crude ideas.
Here are some links:
to Geoff Berner’s Hompage – check out when he is live in your town – and GO THERE!
to the publishing house of the novel “Festival Man”: Dundurn Press, Toronto, Canada
never seen him live? – watch Geoff Berner with Song written in a Romanian Hospital