Published Sep 25, 2019Vancouver's Geoff Berner has announced plans for a new LP titled Grand Hotel Cosmopolis, due this November 1 via Coax Records. Today, the singer-songwriter has shared a new track called "What Kind of Bear Am I?" alongside a spooky black-and-white Jordan Lloyd Watkins-directed video.
The song was originally written for an experimental musical theatre production called Gravediggers of Uzda. According to Berner the piece was meant to be part of a tavern scene involving, of course, bears. But the song goes deeper than that – as does the political message of the entire album. Berner relates the bear symbolism to something he learned from an academic paper by Robert Adler Peckerar
Here's what Berner had to say about it:
I am told that when the Polish Empire ran Belarus a long time ago, there were many restrictions for Jews and Roma people, but there was a special license granted to them alone. They were the only ones allowed to train and keep dancing bears. In the town of Smorgon, Belarus, there was a Bear Academy. They say that the whole town was devoted to the cruel work of the training of dancing bears. They say that when you arrived at Smorgon Station, a bear porter would take your luggage for you. That bears cleaned the streets with brooms. That bears served also in the hotel. All through the town.
Rob's piece talks about how dancing bears are symbols of the way Christians thought about Jews and Roma in a way similar to the way they thought about dancing bears — as creatures somewhere between animal and human.
Watch the video for "What Kind of Bear Am I?" below
Grand Hotel Cosmopolis marks the first record from Berner since 2017's Canadiana Grotesquica. The title comes from a "hotel" located in Germany, which is actually a hostel/refugee housing complex where people can live for free in exchange for work. The album's tracklisting, which reflects Berner's political mind, can be viewed below.
Berner will commence a Canadian/European tour early next month. Beginning in Prince George, BC, on October 12, he'll make stops in parts of Europe before heading back to Canada for another run, wrapping up in Guelph, ON, on February 22. View the full itinerary below as well.
Grand Hotel Cosmopolis:
1. Not The Jew I Had In Mind
2. What Kind Of Bear Am I
3. Ven Kimsti
4. Would You Hide Me
6. Grand Hotel Cosmopolis
7. The Drummer Requests
8. Oh You Survivalists
9. What Don't We Just Take The Billionaire's Money Away
10. Zog Nit Keyn Mol (Partisan Song)
10/12 Prince George, BC - Theatre Northwest
10/19 Chilliwack, BC - Tractorgrease Cafe
11/01 Vancouver, BC - Chutzpah! Festival
11/02-03 Cumberland, BC - Woodstove Festival
11/19 Vienna, AT - Klezmore Festival - Sargfabrik
11/20 Viechtach, DE - Altes Spital
11/21-22 Augsburg, DE - Grandhotel Cosmopolis
11/24 Mainz, DE - Hafeneck
11/25 Aachen, DE - Domkeller
11/26 Köln, DE - Hängende Gärten von Ehrenfeld
11/27 Speyer, DE - Eckpunkt
11/28 Stuttgart, DE - Laboratorium
12/05 Hannover, DE - Feinkost Lampe
12/10 Dresden, DE - Societatstheater
12/11 Bremerhaven, DE - Pferdestall
12/12 Hamburg, DE - TBA
12/13 Bremen, DE - TBA
12/14 Berlin, DE - Supamolly
02/14 Toronto, ON - TRANZAC
02/15 Wakefield, QC - The Black Sheep
02/16 Montreal, QC - Casa Del Popolo
02/21 Peterborough, ON - The Garnet
02/22 Guelph, ON - The ANAF