Back To Home Page

Trailer Park Queen rules over geeks

By V. Paul Virtucio
April 15, 2004 | Duluth News Tribune

Geeky is changing the lyrics to your favorite songs to something sillier -- all the time.

Geeky is teaching yourself to play guitar so you can accompany yourself as you sing your silly rock cover tunes.

Geeky is wearing a cook's apron and curly blonde wig on stage when it doesn't match anything else you're wearing.

But when you're the Trailer Park Queen, being geeky is a good thing.

Berni Sarazine has been gigging in the Twin Cities as the Trailer Park Queen since 1994. Her claim to fame is her ability to sing rock 'n' roll covers with humorous lyrics that highlight her perspective on life. She's the Weird Al Yankovic of the Northland.

"I was always parodying life in general. I don't do things normal. I do them abnormal because that's more fun," said the 45-year-old singer/songwriter. "I just did (song parodies) as a kind of joke. I had no idea I could get paid doing them."

Sarazine grew up just outside of Cook, where she and her siblings passed the time by making a ruckus with their parents' instruments. Their nearest neighbors were two miles away, and yet they'd still come over because of the noise, she recalled.

It was only a matter of time before Sarazine started copying her favorite bands on her mom's piano.

Sarazine was inspired to start playing her music publicly after a coworker brought in a tape of a Minneapolis musician doing comedic song covers. She thought she could do better and recorded a scratchy demo on a four-track cassette tape. That tape earned Sarazine solo gigs at coffee shops around Minneapolis.

Now the Trailer Park Queen is a backed by four other musicians. The queen and her consorts will headline the third annual Geek Prom at 10 p.m. Saturday in the Great Lakes Aquarium. Doors open at 8 p.m. for the Grand March, a geek showcase. The Duluth gig coincides with the release of the band's debut album, "Wrong Side of the Four Track."

Sarazine's show works because she performs music that most people know and love to sing along to and her lyrics make them smile.

"It's kind of nice because most bands take themselves too seriously and try way too hard," said Tony Zaccardi, a five-year Trailer Park Queen fan from St. Paul. "Not these guys."

At a benefit concert Saturday in Minneapolis' Uptown Bar, Trailer Park Queen performed for more than 100 people, some first-timers and others longtime fans. Sarazine premiered her version of The Who's "Pinball Wizard," this time about a foosball player.

The songs that got the loudest cheers tackled the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals with "Should I Pray or Should I Blow," a parody of The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go"; feminism and sexually liberated women with "More Than A Penis," a parody of Boston's "More Than a Feeling;" and the fast-food lifestyle with "Welcome to McDonald's," a parody of Guns'N'Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle."

"I'm usually the kind of person who listens more to the music and not the words," said Mike Rupert of Maple Grove. "I find myself tonight listening to the lyrics.... It's all about the lyrics. It's funny."

Trailer Park Queen closed out the night with "Bye, Bye Dead Alternative Guy," sung to Don McLean's "American Pie" to mark the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death.

"One of the things about Trailer Park Queen is that I try to express the woman's point of view," said Sarazine, the band's lyricist. "When I first started doing this, guys would say, 'Guys won't come to your show, Berni,' and I'd say, 'Yes, they will because girls will.' "

Sarazine's humor and the surprising depth to her lyrics have earned the band a following in the Twin Cities.

Trailer Park Queen is a cover band, no doubt, but the twist Sarazine adds to the tunes makes the shows stand out. Sarazine admits the band used to be sloppy because they didn't take themselves seriously enough. But now she thinks they've found the right balance between being straight-laced and being loose cannons.

The band recently played its biggest gig at the Mall of America and has been invited back for two more shows. With "Wrong Side of the Four Track," Sarazine hopes to start some regional gigging.

"I was a big Dr. Demento Fan and Weird Al and all of that," Sarazine said. "I just never thought I could ever get to the realm that I would get any kind of notice for what I was just doing for fun."