Tag Archives: geoff berner

“A Short Treatise on Miss Carolyn Mark” by Geoff Berner

NOTE: Appeared in accordionist Geoff Berner‘s newsletter, thought is a sizzling piece of writing so posting/sharing here so i don’t lose it.

Also worth noting, saw Mr. Berner with Ms. Mark and their pal Kris Constable in Victoria at Copper Owl a few years after this dispatch… might have a photo somewhere. Oh and Carolyn Mark also does songs with NQ Arbuckle, another quirky, interesting songmaker.

“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.”
“I’m too lazy to beat myself up over being too lazy to, you know, beat myself up.”
“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.”

Festive Greetings to Ice Fishermen – Choogle On! #82

Festive Greeting to Ice Fishermen
Photo by John Bollwitt, remixed by Uncle Weed

Shortly after New Year’s Day, Uncle Weed recounts highlights from the passing year including a surprising visit with bong-toting ice fishermen on a frozen neighborhood lake, plus recaps on concerts, spreading messages to media and youth, voting often, speaking out, supporting soldiers and peaceniks, resisting cynicism, researching the painter Varley, publishing literature, sparking coverage of Olympics, making a board game, gallery visits, riding the new SeaBus, remembering ole dead gramps, drinking stout and earl grey tea, and the joys of treading on thin ice. 

Festive Greetings to Ice Fishermen – Choogle On #82 (36:57, .mp3)

Continue reading Festive Greetings to Ice Fishermen – Choogle On! #82

Vimy Ridge Diaries on Remembrance Day – Postcard #61

Vimy Rdge Diaires On Remembrance Day in sunny, brisk Vancouver, Ian Bell (fresh from a CBC appearance “On The Coast“) joins Dave to read from Grandpa Mark’s diaries written in the trenches in WW1 as a young Canadian. From the library steps with a flask of scotch, they reflect on the costs and motivations of war, importance of friendship and the ethereal experience of going “over the top” and facing the terror on the other side, plus anecdotes about capturing Germans soldiers and discourse on the importance of personal documentation to pass forward to generations.

Sit awhile for: Vimy Ridge Diaries on Remembrance Day – Postcard #61 (38:00, 32MB, 128k mp3) Continue reading Vimy Ridge Diaries on Remembrance Day – Postcard #61

Questions + Answers from the Hero Dossier – Fresh Media, 2009


At Fresh Media conference at W2 Arts + Media Centre, participants riff a spontaneous blurb about a hero from a Dossier of Importantcy in a workshop about storytelling + podcasting by Dave Olson (AKA Uncle Weed).

Features Samuel Pepys, RMS Carpathia, Amber Case, Thomas Paine, J. Garcia, Mudhoney, JJ Rousseau, Geoff Berner, Ed Abbey, The Numbskulz, DH Lawrence, Tin Tin, HD Thoreau, Jer Crowle, Bev Davies, Gary Snyder, Vaclav Havel, Lou Reed, Cory Doctorow, Dr. Seuss, Dead Kennedys, Theo Van Gogh & Derek K. Miller, Gillian Shaw and other personal luminaries liberated from an envelope. Thanks to @shermanscorner for tunes.

Choose a hero card for: Questions & Answers from the Hero Dossier (7:33,.mp3)

More about Podcasting:

SXSW Stories from Middle Earth – Choogle On! #79

SXSW Stories from Middle Earth – Choogle On! #79
SXSW Stories from Middle Earth – Choogle On! #79

Both a preview and recap of SXSW 2009 as Uncle Weed and the Quebecois Correspondent discuss the noted media conference and extravaganza featuring UW’s spiel F@ck  Stats, Make Art – a soliloquy for quality and integrity in creation.

Along with live recordings of Geoff Berner, and The Black Angels comes a recounting a perfect day of upgrading heroes, tasty food, and Austin Psychedelic Music Fest plus more highlights including: RiP Remix Manifesto film, micro-brews at Gingerman, Bruce Sterling, and hugs with new friends.

MISSING Head out to Austin for: SXSW Stories from Middle Earth – Choogle On #79 (.mp3, 33:12, 45MB)

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Geoff Berner at Biltmore annotations (whiskey, weed, accordion etc)

Wow the Biltmore is slick, many dude in cool hats and Geoff Berner is next to me looking like pavol demitra in a zoot suit

Geoff and the band are drinking as hard as the kids in the ‘wack – alas no nachos – funny banter too

Trio = accordion/vox + fiddle + percussionist (djembe • hi-hats) * crazy klezmer

Orders to waltz violently for “national line” he’s just back from Nfld Vancouver must represent

Whiskey rabbi is next song (might be whisky rabbi)

A story song about Jewish gangsters – oh good more whisky is coming !

Passing a bottle amongst the band hardcore

Drummer is drinking beer but Geoff is drinking neat whisky from a fancy glass

Afraid of being typecast as a guy who writes drinking songs, he wrote a weed song inspired by European tours – don’t put tobacco in it

Part of the song involves asking the audience to smoke him out later

Joey only and the outlaws on stage now rockin up the hi lonesome sound – gonna get Berner baked methinks – he seems curious

Left Geoff wrecked with wake n bake nug – came home with cd & show recording – now waiting for bus at broadway and main … Feel a song …

Bonus: (rough/raw audio of “No Tobacco” (really terrible but hey…)