A second generation Kerrisdaler, Geoff Berner was born and raised in what he calls “the strange suburb within the city.”
His dad saw Billy Haley and the Comets in 1956 when they played Kerrisdale Arena as part of their Rock Around the Clock tour. Berner’s Auntie Vicky played tennis at Kerrisdale’s Elm Park and went on to become Canada’s number one ladies tennis player. Berner went to Quilchena elementary and learned to swim at Kerrisdale Pool at Maple Grove Park.
While in his early 20s and playing in the band Terror of Tiny Town, he wrote “Fortress Kerrisdale” as an “ironically nostalgic song” about his former stomping grounds.
“There’s a kind of illusion that’s painstakingly created that nothing bad ever happens there,” he recalls. “It had a bit of a Pleasantville quality, where like the first time I went to Commercial Drive when I was 16 it was a bit like Technicolor being invented.”
The song was originally recorded as a ska tune on the night of the 1994 Stanley Cup riots when the Canucks lost to the New York Rangers, and the band snagged former 54-40 guitarist Phil Comparelli to play trumpet for the recording, which you can listen to below.
Berner has since gone on to become a critically acclaimed solo artist, touring the world with his trusty accordion always by his side.
He performed a stripped-down version of “Fortress Kerrisdale” for the Courier at his Victoria Drive home and admitted to feeling strangely nostalgic about feeling nostalgic.
To hear more from Berner, go to geoffberner.com.