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Creative 5 Eclectic, the accordian event

Geoff Berner brings music and his novel to Dusty's



You can hear the disbelief and exhaustion in Geoff Berner's voice.

Halfway through TED week in Vancouver, the talented singer-songwriter and Klezmer accordion player was abducted by an alien experience.

"I think I'm recovered from jetlag (Berner had just returned from Europe when TED came a-calling), but I did a crazy show last night, so I'm not sure what I'm recovering from," he says.

He found himself performing on stage at the Vogue Theatre with several TED darlings. There was American performance artist and Kickstarter millionaire musician, Amanda Palmer, British singer Imogen Heap, and... all-round Canadian and arguably the most popular David-Bowie-impersonator/astronaut on Earth, Chris Hadfield.

Um. Holy crap.

"It was related to TED, sort of, in that Amanda out-of-the-blue booked the Vogue for a gig, and it was announced the same day and she filled it. There was a lineup three times around the block," Berner says.

It was a free show, apart from donations being taken for the food bank.

"And there was Jason Webley, her partner in Evelyn Evelyn. Chris Hadfield played a couple of songs and she serenaded him, a love song to an astronaut. It was really quite surreal. I was like 'OK, this is just another day at the office. No sweat.'"

Berner was happy to play a few of his songs, including Iron Gray and Daloy Polizei, and stayed on stage the rest of the night to accompany everyone else.

(Ed. Note: Palmer and her husband, writer Neil Gaiman, performed at the Roundhouse in Whistler a few days later as part of TEDActive. Berner didn't make that show.)

Berner pulled the gig because he knew Webley well and had met Palmer on several occasions.

"It's been a pretty great run, professionally, lately," Berner says.

A first-time novelist, long-time musician and former Rhino Party of Canada candidate, Berner is bringing that great run to Whistler when he performs as part of Creative 5 Eclectic at Dusty's Bar on Monday, March 31.

Along with his music, Berner plans to read from Festival Man, his new novel, which was published last fall.

"It's getting great reviews. The novel itself comes with an album code that you download, an album of artists covering my songs," he says.

Berner says looking at previous Creative 5 Eclectic line-ups, it seemed that the show was on the right track.

"The writer Zsuzsi Gartner recommended it to me. It's great to have a gig in Whistler. It's just the right distance away from Vancouver, so that it seems like you're touring, but you can go home the next day," he says.

"What you really want to find when you haven't played a place before is a curator, someone on the ground who has a reputation for bringing in good stuff, because people then trust the show and are really willing to take a chance on something they might not know about."

The organizer of Creative 5 Eclectic, Stephen Vogler, says the performance night began at the "upstairs room" at the late and lamented Players Chophouse in Whistler Creekside three years ago.

"I had been thinking for about a year of doing something different around town about arts. I know there are a lot of people out there creating interesting things, but not that many avenues or venues to get it out to the public, apart from jam sessions," Vogler says.

"And I wanted to be multi-disciplinary with art, dance, music and words. There was a real experiment to see what this would all become. I got (musician) Rajan Das, who backed me up on my poetry readings over the years, to help. We started adding more songs to the mix."

They both hosted it, started inviting different artists to take part, both local and beyond, and the rest was (eclectic) history.

The current incarnation of Creative 5 Eclectic takes place on the final Monday of each month. It has grown from Vogler and Das and one invited performer, to several artists of various sorts and a band performing on the night.

A recent inclusion in the evening is the Anti-Art School.

"It's life drawing, but instead of it being tucked away in an art room, it's right in the bar and they try to make it pretty lively. Because I had burlesque dancers last time, they heard about that and the organizers said it would be cool for them to model and they could be sketched as well," Vogler says.

"So we did that at Dusty's on the top of the pool table. Made it up nice. A bunch of artists were sketching and the public could get involved as well. It went over really well and so we decided to take it further."

At the next Anti-Art School segment of the show, local model Ashanti is modelling the clothes of designer Sarah Lyn. There are also poets and other musicians involved.

"In some ways the audience knows what it's getting and in another sense they never know what they are getting," Vogler says. "I never even know how it's going to unfold."

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