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Fiction Literary

Festival Man

A Novel

by (author) Geoff Berner

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2013
Literary, Action & Adventure, General
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Aug 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2013
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2013
    List Price

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Maverick music manager Campbell Ouiniette makes a final destructive bid for glory at the Calgary Folk Festival.

Travel in the entertaining company of a man made of equal parts bullshit and inspiration, in what is ultimately a twisted panegyric to the power of strange music to change people from the inside out.

At turns funny and strangely sobering, this “found memoir” is a picaresque tale of inspired, heroic deceit, incompetence, and — just possibly — triumph. Follow the flailing escapades of maverick music manager Campbell Ouiniette at the Calgary Folk Festival, as he leaves a trail of empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts, bruised egos, and obliterated relationships behind him. His top headlining act has abandoned him for the Big Time. In a fit of self-delusion or pure genius (or perhaps a bit of both), Ouiniette devises an intricate scam, a last hurrah in an attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of his girlfriend, the music industry, and the rest of the world. He reveals his path of destruction in his own transparently self-justifying, explosive, profane words, with digressions into the Edmonton hardcore punk rock scene, the Yugoslavian Civil War, and other epicentres of chaos.

About the author

Geoff Berner is the author of two novels, Festival Man and The Fiddler Is a Good Woman, and a graphic novel, We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians. He is also a touring singer/songwriter/accordion player who has released 6 albums and played in 17 countries. He is a graduate of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia. He lives in Vancouver.

Geoff Berner's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Berner's debut novel, Festival Man, pays brilliant homage to that [folk festival] background. It's an absurdist, sort-of-based-on-real-life, snarky tale primarily based at the Calgary Folk Music Festival ...

FFWD Magazine

... Berner employs his unreliable narrator as effectively as Paul Quarrington's Whale Music, or, say, Keith Richards's Life – each of which, page for page, Berner can match with both anecdotal hilarity and razor-sharp Richler-esque satire. Festival Man is required reading for anyone who's ever played, worked or fallen down drunk at a folk festival.


This mighty book is much like a festival in many ways: it throws in a dash of the unexpected – unruly, unlikeable yet endearing characters, life-changing musical interludes and conversations – and it ends much too quickly... A remarkably unique tangent of a tale, Festival Man is a riotously funny, heartfelt and honest portrayal of life on the Canadian festival circuit.

The Coast

You should read this ... it's short, fun and hilarious.

Geoff Berner's debut novel is a fun, fast read. Berner's career as an international touring musician undoubtedly provided a wealth of experience to pull from. Filled with rock'n'roll misadventure and emotional debris, Campbell's speed- and booze-fuelled ramblings reflect — accurately and often hilariously — the unconventional characters who exist within the music industry.

Quill & Quire

...our friends are here too, in the underground Alberta that Berner has inexplicably nailed, despite not being of the Prairies himself. That is one of his many gifts. Another is his third act: near-imagist in its precision, making up for functionally concluding what feels like a long night of talking with long-missed and beloved friends by relating something that feels like it's true.

[Berner has] created a hilarious book in which laughter and outrage mix in equal parts to paint a portrait of mayhem in the Canadian folk world that the reader won't soon forget. His prose is both tight and brilliantly's a wicked bullseye of a book.

Penguin Eggs Magazine

Filled with dark humour, staccato storytelling and alcohol-soaked momentum...Festival Man is for any wayward music lover, washed up wild card or religious festival attendee. It's a tour de force of the grit and seedy underbelly of the music industry, and lands somewhere between self-indulgence and redemption.


If you want a truly illuminating look at the music industry, this is it. It's a fantastically hilarious read.

Vish Khanna, CBC Radio

A searing, side-splitting book with charm and character, painting a vivid picture of the Canadian music landscape in all its grand bamboozlery.

Vancouver Sun

There's a sweetness to Ouinette's story that underpins the sardonic, cynical masterminding of Festival Man's main character, and Berner writes the story as Ouinette in first-person mode with a delightful wit that makes the book hard to put down ... It's a story about how, despite all the shady dealings behind the scenes, people's lives are saved by music.

Vancouver Sun

It's a picaresque little tale indeed, full of pitfalls, pratfalls, sex, and drugs, but then so's the business in which Festival Man is set. So be warned: If it's The Sound of Music you're after, this one's definitely not for you.

New York Journal of Books

...Berner/Ouinette's prose can be as effusively engaging as it is scathing and vitriolic...these pages sidestep cliches and comparisons and get at the heart at what the music sounds like and what it does to the listener, an extremely hard thing to do, effectively showing, not telling, the reader what 'real' music sounds like.

National Post

... one of the most truthful accounts ever published on life as a touring musician.

Georgia Straight

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