The Sound Of Stavanger

The Karaoke Strip Bars of Finland

The latest newsletter from our Canadian friend Geoff Berner

Dear Everybody,

I hope the summer is promising good things for you.  It's promising many fun shows for me, including a nice run down and up the coast of the U.S. with Jason Webley.

I toured Scandinavia and Ireland recently.  It was very enjoyable indeed.  More people keep coming to the shows!  More people are covering the songs I worked so hard to write!  I like that.  Here is my report from the road:

--Advice: Let's say that you are in Tampere, Finland on a Tuesday night. Someone tells you that in this city there is a bar that is a Karaoke Strip Bar.   You might want to ask, "How does that work?  Do the strippers strip as they sing karaoke?  Or do the customers sing Finnish karaoke as the strippers strip?" But it's better if you don't.

And don't, just out of curiosity, jump in the cab with them to go find out.  The results will be disappointing.  I will not say more.  Although I will add that Finnish karaoke is the most compellingly melancholy of national karaokes.

--Swedish people can be very emotional about obeying traffic lights.  My friend Magda and her daughter Sara biked through a red light in quiet Gothenburg, when there was no traffic coming from miles around, and a Swedish man on a bicycle physically blocked her path in order to give her a lecture about how dangerous it was to teach children to disobey traffic lights.  Scary.

--In Ireland, the people working on the train spontaneously sang Elvis songs and laughed a lot.  This did not occur in Scandinavia.  Since the Scandinavians are the only people left in the world who are not broke, they should spend some of their extra money on studying the Irish so they can learn how to get their train employees happy enough to sing.  What could the secret be?

But let's not have them sing "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, please.  There are many foul things being done to that song in Europe these days.  It is a good-hearted song that never meant anyone any harm, but it has been worked a bit too hard lately and deserves a little quiet time at home.

--I love Norway, as you know.  I bow to no one in my love of Norway.  So when I seem to criticize, you know that it's out of love.  But in Norway, it is illegal to buy a double whiskey.  Or a double vodka. The bartender may not pour 2 shots into one glass.  This is for your protection.  I'm sure that many grateful letters are written to the Norwegian Government on this subject.  You may purchase two separate glasses, each with a shot of liquor.  I'm not sure if you go to jail if you pour one of them into the other yourself, though.  Anyway, no one sings on the trains, but they are also not broke.  Did the early Vikings raid Ireland in search of doubles?  Or were they kicked out of Norway for singing too loud?

--Here's a fun story to read aloud to any kids thinking of joining the military:  My host in Stockholm told me that when the Swedes had a rapacious empire with a big army, the soldiers did a lot of looting, which meant that they traveled with a lot of stolen goods.  He said that before each battle, to avoid being robbed of the wealth that they had stolen, the Swedish soldiers would swallow their most valuable coins, to be retrieved later.  So when the Swedes were defeated at one particular battle, local children ran through the fields of corpses, slitting the bellies open to find the gold.

--In Copenhagen, the place called Christiania, the Free City, the squat city, still stands.  It is a wonderful place.  Go there.  I got to play there.  I hope that one effect of the drop in real estate prices will be that the money-minded conservative people will stop their aggressive drive to shut down the squats in europe and turn them into condominiums.  In some countries, I say "condominiums", and people don't know what I mean.  Then I explain, and they say, "Oh, you mean horrible soulless expensive flats for rich people."  Yes.  Condominiums.

--In Belfast, the Menagerie is open again.  Hooray!  It was not made into condominiums. It closed down a long time ago, when the police found the pesky detonators (darn! how did those get there?)  Be sure to visit there if you're in town.  It's a lot more fun than a Finnish Karaoke Strip Club.  Northern Ireland remains, as it has always been, a safer place to stroll than most of America, where it is now legal, thanks to a recent federal credit card law, to carry a concealed weapon in the National Parks.  Funny Americans, I love you!  See you soon!

Upcoming Shows:

June 13 - Galiano Island, BC - The Hall (with DD and Wayne!)
June 19-21 - Driftpile, AB - North Country Fair (with DD and Wayne!)
July 17-19 - Vancouver, BC - Vancouver Folk Festival (with DD and Wayne!)
July 25 - Chilliwack, BC - Evangeline's Barbeque and Contemporary Soulfood, 9381 Mill Street Doors: 9pm Show: 9:30pm Tickets: $10 in advance at The Book Man, $12 at the door.
July 31-August 3rd - Wells, BC - Artswells Festival

Monsters of Accordion Tour, Jason Webley headlining:

Aug 26th - Seattle, WA - The Triple Door
Aug 27th - Portland, OR - The Crystal Ballroom
Aug 28th - Eugene, OR - Wow Hall
Aug 29th - San Francisco, CA - Slim's
Aug 30th - Los Angeles, CA - TBA
Aug 31st - Sacramento, CA - Luigi's
Sep 1 - Ashland, OR - The Black Sheep
Sept. 12 - Vancouver, BC - WISE Hall - ACCORDION NOIR FESTIVAL, with Jason Webley, me, and a bunch of other accordionists, including you.  Bring your accordion(s)!  Tickets will be purchasable soon.

EUROPEAN TOUR (More Dates To Follow)
Sept. 24 - Hamburg, Germany - Hamburg KlezFest