Archive for August, 2013

Thoughts on the AfterFest

Posted on: August 30th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Jayden Blair ended his set by throwing his guitar on the stage.

“That was dramatic,” I said, after.

“Yeah, I didn’t like the way the song was going, so I did it.”

“Can’t do that too often, though.”

“Ah, I know how not to break a guitar. And if I do, I can always just borrow someone’s.”

“After that? I don’t think so…”


Barry Bliss played ten songs that he said he hadn’t played before. He had cheat sheets on stage with him, which he wasn’t proud of, but it didn’t look like he referred to them regularly.

He did do that think that seems to have been missing from his sets for the some time, though: the Crazy Eyes. Either he can time his blinks to perfectly coincide with mine, or the guy can keep his eyes open and bugged out for the length of a song. He is scary – in more ways than one.

After watching Bliss, Mike Shoykhet shook his head in amazement, and asked, “Should I just quit?”

“Yes, Mike. I’ve been telling you that for years!”


Rachel Laitman played with a band. First time I heard it. It expanded her sound dramatically, but still felt quite intimate – and human.

I think her band should be called The Late Men, but she doesn’t seem to agree.


Rav Shmuel spent more time in storytelling than in songsinging.He felt relaxed and excited all at once. I don’t think I’ve heard the grandfather/rabbi perform in sometime, but it was certainly something special.


Erin Regan is a wonder.


Posted on: August 28th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

AntiFolk community has drifted a bit from the Sidewalk in the last week or so. Since the Festival, there have been a couple of Open Stage open mics, but not much in the way of shows for the AntiFolk crowd to get together on.

That changes tomorrow, though, for the AfterFest, featuring some losers who weren’t cool enough to be part of the main event.

The bill included some excellent acts, like Barry Bliss, Rav Shmuel, Erin Regan, Jayden Blair and Rachel Laitman. I mentioned Blair earlier this week. The others, you may already know.

It’s worth noting that Bliss has just, earlier this week, finished a whirlwind recording and release of a new album. I don’t even know the name. Will it be good? Check it and tell me!

The show promises to be grand. I haven’t seen Rav Shmuel (0ther than his poster in the front part of the back room) in months!

“He got the gig!”

Posted on: August 27th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

One song. That’s all it took for Jayden Blair to get picked up from obscurity and be lifted into semi-obscurity.

One song, and Ben Krieger offered Blair a gig.

The song, by the way, is “What Have I Done?” and can be heard over at his demos page.

He’s AntiFolk.

If you wanna hear more, wait until his Sidewalk gig.

Short Shrift

Posted on: August 24th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

I neglected to mention one of the more powerful moments during the AntiFolk Festival – probably because I was so exhausted by the AntiFolk Festival.

The last act of the last night was Kung Fu Crimewave, which features a sort of first family of AntiFolk. Three out of four Kelly kids can’t be wrong, and the KFCW shows tend to end up as a  cornucopia of community.

Near the end of their set, including sweaty bobbing AntiFolk and a sweatier dancing robot, Luke and Joanna recited lines from “Walking Towards the Sun.” By the time they reached the chorus, the community was all on board.

“You’re on an island; I’m on an island,” the siblings sang, but the the room exploded into “It’s the same fucking island – the same fucking island.”

Luke came out amongst the people, with the mic, and a larger and larger bevy of bodies shouted in unison. The room throbbed with energy. The room oozed community.

And then it was over.

I should have mentioned it sooner.


Telling it Like It IS!

Posted on: August 23rd, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Deenah Vollmer, who produced a recent audio documentary about the German AntiFolk scene, just provided more press to the community over in Guernica.

Take a read over here:

After Effects

Posted on: August 21st, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

I like to see Dorit’s shows.

She always brings the funk, the soul, the rock, and usually alone on stage. Or that’s the way I remembered it.


But at her recent gig at the Sidewalk Cafe, she played with five – count ‘em: FIVE – guests. She had so many extra players joining or, or taking the stage from her, that she had to provide a program with contact info to keep all of her guests straight.

It was something to see.

I like seeing Dorit.

If Not Here, Where? If Not Now, When?

Posted on: August 19th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

In the wake of the2013 Summer AntiFolk Fest (celebrating 20 years of the Sidewalk/AntiFolk Co-Prosperity Region), I wanted to bring up some of the other Scenish open mics that have come and gone.

Raven Open Stage – Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend (who would like some of your money), a major scene player for a major number of years, hosted his own open mic at the Raven on 12th Street from 1999 through 2002. It was near enough to the Sidewalk that people would run back and forth from one club to the other. It ended by midnight, I think. Eventually, the building burned down.

C-Note – In 2003 or so, Lorraine Leckie and Kathy Zimmer started hosting a late afternoon event on Fridays on 10th and C. Eventually, I hosted it, making it the best 5-7 Friday open mic Avenue C had ever seen. The club shut down a few years later, with me still in it. If memory serves, I first found the talents of John Hodel, Dan Costello and Debe Dalton a that club. On different occasions, I saw Slow Roosevelt and introduced the future members of Schwervon! there.

DTUT – The Upper East Side because a Sidewalk satellite in 2003, when Amy Hills opted to host a Wednesday night event, right on the heels of the end of the Raven Open Stage. The coffee house sold wine, but more importantly, had an unlimited supply of gigantic rice krispy treats. That place rocked! Amy gave up the open mic maybe three years after it started. In that time, she’d become and ceased to be the host and booker at the Sidewalk.

Bar Matchless – Tuesdays in the middle of the aughts, Danny Kelly and then Dibs hosted an open mic in Greenpoint at the matchless Bar Matchless. A couple of German drunks did not like my saying that Jesus might have suffered from hymiephilia.

The Creek and The Cave – Following the collapse of the Wednesdays at DTUT, Paul Alexander decided to make people go further afield, and started an event at the Creek and the Cave in Long Island City. Regulars included Brian Speaker, Leo, and Debe Dalton. It was a fun space with an amazing salsa, right off the 7 train. Even though it was in an outer borough, it was surprisingly easy to get to. The club’s still there, but focused, to my knowledge, more on theater and comedy than music.

Banjo Jim’s – Saturday afternoons, Wayne Kral hosted (with Rick Snyder and then Jeremiah Birnbaum) a lazy Saturday afternoon on 9th Street and Avenue C. Starting at two and running until seven, it was a fun place to people-watch. Lorraine Leckie made me go, but I got to meet talented beauties Kelley Swindall and Meghann Plunkett there, along with East Village legends LJ Murphy and Walter Ego, so I forgive her.

Brooklyn Tuesday Tea Cup – When Dan Costello and Rachel Devlin built the Brooklyn Tea Party with their own two (four?) hands, they began to host weekly open mics in their loft space. It was the Tuesday Tea Cup. Not once in my life did I go to that event, but I heard amazing things about the intimacy and warmth of the environment.

Otto’s Shrunken Head – When Banjo Jim’s shut down, Wayne Kral relocated his Saturday moveable feast to Otto’s Shrunken Head on 14th and Avenue B. The Tiki-themed place was much fun, but a darkened back room on a Saturday afternoon wasn’t as thrilling as the street view that Banjo Jim’s had provided. The club’s still there; the open mic is gone.

There are, of course, other open mics still going strong throughout the City (including the mythical Nomad), and lots of other scene-sights that I no doubt have forgotten about – you should talk about them in the Comments section. In my op, none compare to the Sidewalk, but you could look them up and experience for yourself. Not this week, though. There’s a Festival to enjoy!


AntiFolk’s AntiFolk

Posted on: August 18th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

Well, this would have been useful during the Summer 2013 AntiFolk Festival, but then again, I was kind of busy during the Festival being at the Festival, not chronicling it. Sorry about that.

Anyway, this article came out in American Songwriter, and provides some good information about the way the community comes together to talk about the community. It’s written by Herb Scher, who you may know as the mastermind behind the Sidewalk Photo Gallery, all things promotional, and the blog Sidewalk’s Sidewalk.

His sources are impeccable.

Closing Ceremonies

Posted on: August 17th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

The 2013 Summer AntiFolk Festival closed last night (Friday), with an incredibly strong bill.

Hamell on Trial played.

Have you met Ed?

That is all.


Actually, one last thought. It’s possible you might have missed some show during this two-week long adventure in AntiFolk – I know I did.

Keep in mind that Gander TV filed the whole thing and has it available for streaming over at

You can see EVERYTHING (including my own set here, starting at the 48 minute mark. It’s really quite good)!

Somer on Trials

Posted on: August 16th, 2013 by Jon Berger No Comments

I’ve always liked Somer Bingham, and I’ve enjoyed her work. I’m a little ashamed by society that Somer’s still in a position to come around (have you seen her video? It’s not the only one), but I guess I’m part of the problem, because I don’t think I’ve seen her to anything more than an open or mic or two in the last year.

I was unprepared for Clinical Trials.

(not clinical trails. What would that mean?)

Clinical Trials and one of their air-headed fans.

I’ve seen then before, of course, though perhaps not in this latest incarnation, with Stacey Lee on drums and Somer on everything else (songs, vocals, guitar, army of effects, rock god moves) – except for a devoted audience using supplied props to create the blow-up doll mosh pit. Words fail. Luckily, Gander TV has the footage. Her show really has to be seen/heard to be believed (check out the 245 minute mark).

I think you’ll find Clinical Trials will pass any test.