What is Anti-Folk? :
Anti-folk has its origins in the mid-1980s New York City singer-songwriter scene. It arose as a response to the commercialization of the Greenwich Village folk scene, and the mainstream fascination with it. Still commenting on social issues, anti-folk does its best to steer clear of the generic stereotypes attached to the history of the New York City folk music scene.
Billy Bragg has been considered an influential figure in the anti-folk movement, as have the Moldy Peaches (Kimya Dawson
), Hamell on Trial
, Beck, Joie/Dead Blonde Girlfriend, Lach, and other East Village musicians. Newer anti-folkers include Langhorne Slim
and Ted Ekman
Anti-Folk Instruments of Choice:
Anti-folk artists tend to stick to acoustic guitars and homemade instruments typical of contemporary folk music. Some play piano or hand drums, or have been known to add electronics and full rock bands. This is a variation that differs from artist to artist, much like the rest of contemporary folk music.
Recommended Anti-Folk CDs:
The Moldy Peaches - self-titled (Rough Trade, 2001)
Billy Bragg - Talking With the Taxman About Poetry (Elektra, 1986)
Hamell on Trial - Tough Love (Righteous Babe, 2003)
Web Sites Dedicated to Anti-Folk:
is the most comprehensive guide to the NYC anti-folk scene.
speaks to the UK anti-folk community.
was a bar integral to the '80s anti-folk scene in NYC, and this site is dedicated to its memory.
Olive Juice Records
is a NYC-based indie label catering to the anti-folk scene.
The History of Anti-Folk:
In the mid-1980s, a group of folksingers fed up with what had become the establishment of folk music got together and started the anti-folk movement around clubs like the Speakeasy and the Chameleon. Singer-songwriter Lach was turned down for a gig at Folk City when the owner of the storied West Village bar thought Lach's music was "too punk." Rather than stew in his juices, he started an anti-folk gathering at a club called the Fort.
Eventually, the Fort was shut down and the anti-folk scene moved its center of operations to the Sidewalk Cafe near Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.
Lach and his compatriots have continued to throw a semi-annual Anti-Folk Festival in the East Village, and have inspired the formulation of various indie labels who cater chiefly to the anti-folk scene. The efforts of the now two-decade-old anti-folk scene have launched the careers of such acts as Beck and the Moldy Peaches, and have inspired a similar anti-folk movement in the UK and across the eastern half of the U.S.