Published Jan 01, 2006A modest but eclectic crowd rang in the New Year with rising punk-accordion star Geoff Berner and local pop-punk super-group the Highballs at Vancouver's long-standing Railway Club. Having spent much of 2003 touring in support of his critically-acclaimed album, We Shall Not Flag Or Fail, We Shall Go On To The End, Berner took the stage backed by drummer Wayne Adams and fiddler Diona Davies and the trio sounded especially full and tight. With whiskey in hand, Berner engaged the crowd not only between songs but also during, taking moments to set up new and familiar songs alike, all of which featured Berner's witty lyrics and dry sense of humour. With party hats, paper tiaras and horns warmed, the crowd brought in 2004 with the help of the fez-wearing pseudo-Spaniard party animals the Highballs. Led by Rob Thomson and featuring members of the Hard Rock Miners, Royal Grand Prix and the JP Carter Trio, the Highballs have an addictive high-energy quality to them. Within minutes the group had the crowd up and on their feet dancing to a mixture of wacky Mexicanised punk polka originals and fun covers, such as the late Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." The rest of 2004 should be as upbeat, fun and silly.