Many genres have claimed to be the rightful son of Punk… but they can all Folk-off! In The Knowledge this month, strap on an acoustic and start a quiet protest with Anti-Folk…
The acoustic guitar is a portable instrument that gets around. It’s accessible and, when it falls into the right hands, can empower any timid lyric-stringer into an anti-genre hero. And that’s what happened when a bunch of folk misfits were turned down by their scene.
Like No Wave in The Knowledge last month, Anti Folk is indefinable. The style differs from one artist to the next. JUICE applies a 2-pronged approach when dissecting this sub-genre. First, there are the acoustic-punks whom desired to shock and protest. Then, there are people who just did whatever they could do with cheap instruments and never gave up no matter how much they were ridiculed. What bound them together were their “what-the heck-did-he/she-just-say” type of lyrics and of course, their ambiguously kooky characteristics. Freaks of a feather freak the folks together. Cotton?
Anti Folk also worked both ways; as a contradiction to the traditions of early folk while mocking itself. With its roots in Greenwich Village, NYC in the 80s, Anti Folk began in a club called The Speakeasy, which was conceived as an alternative venue to the popular Folk City club – which wouldn’t book acts that were “too punk”.
An enigmatic musician named Lach (his full name is still unknown) opened an illegal after-hours club called The Fort. That same week, Lach held the first ever Antifolk Festival in retaliation to Folk City’s New York Folk Festival. The Fort itself became a mobile club before settling down at the Sidewalk CafÃ© where it now resides. As a sign of its endurance, the Antifolk Festival continues to be held semi-annually in the East Village and has outlasted the original Folk Festival. Never deny the power of postmodernist freakdom.
Anti Folkin’ in the UK
Anti Folk has already splintered into the UK (by artists like Filthy Pedro and Kate Nash) and might be coming soon to a town near you.
It wouldn’t have happened without:
Lach – “The mastermind of Anti Folk” according to the NY Times. His latest album has been nominated for a Grammy in the ‘Best Contemporary Folk/Americana’ category.
Billy Bragg – Punk-folker of the 80s.
The electric Dylan controversy – where folk legend Bob Dylan “went electric” at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. It was a defiance of tradition that changed both folk and rock n roll.
Anti Folk Anti Heroes:
Adam Green, Jeffrey Lewis, Brer Brian, Kimya Dawson, Ani DiFranco and Beck.
Essential Anti Folk album:
Too many to mention so here’s one that has a good mix:
Anti Folk Comp vol 1
How Anti Folk changed the world:
Juno Soundtrack The Moldy Peaches’ ‘Anyone Else but You’ showed a warmer side of Anti-Folk with stars Ellen Page and Michael Cera doing justice by covering the song at the end of the movie.
Anti Folk Math
3 Chords + The Truth + Acoustic guitar = Rock N Roll
History Lesson + Speed Talking + The Fall = Jeffrey Lewis
Cabs + Empire State Building + Poets, Scriptwriters and Musicians = NYC
Text Ben Liew