Archive for February, 2014


Posted on: February 25th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

During this AntiFolk Festival, scads of folk have been chiming in on the state of AntiFolk, the very definition. Today, Rebecca Florence adds her three cents (apparently, she’s rich): 

On a whim, amidst the antifolk festival and the countless conversations of what antifolk “is” (which I’m still not sure of, I’ve heard it’s good with toast), I decided to do an a cappella (gag) song, which I sang/read from my hand-held technology (a la Jon Berger). I tried something a little less wordy, and a little more simple, but intensely to the point (a la Barry Bliss), mainly because Jon Berger and I were talking earlier about this ongoing topic of curiosity, and I went on to tell him how I’m constantly being inspired by peeps ’round here.

I challenged myself. I was awkward, nervous, and out of my comfort zone. It didn’t go quite right, a cappella never does. Didn’t care. I wanted to test out new material. Hearing some insane albums (Barry Bliss, Phoebe Novak, Ray Brown, etc,) have conjured the thought, “Damn, I need to step my game up.”

It’s funny, because just as I was writing this, J.J. Hayes invited me to play a song with him on stage which I fumbled through per usual. He didn’t care, he never does. Debe Dalton has invited me on stage to sing on a song, I botch the harmonies because she just HAS to play when I’ve had more than a few glasses of Jameson in me, but she doesn’t care. They just like to play music with other musicians, share the stage with people they care about. It’s very cool. The community is real. You see people within this scene collaborating a lot, creating projects, recording, doing fun shit together.

While playing with J.J. tonight, it kind of snapped something into my brain and now this blog is going into a completely different direction.

Thoughts gathered: from a less historical or technical standpoint, I’m thinkin’ antifolk is as much a community nowadays as it is a genre. It’s a breathing, tangible thing, a home for musicians who feel like they don’t have one. Songs that are always honest, sometimes messy, creatively imperfect, that “need to be sung as if your life depends on it.” (I thought that Debe had said that, but it wasn’t her. It’s a cool line I can’t take credit for)

This antifolk thing may not be what it started out as whatsoever; not all of it is necessarily in the acousti-punk Cannonball Statman or Crazy and the Brains vein, but the living community of accepting the music bastard-children is constant.

But really, what the fuck do I know? I’ve only been coming here for about two years and I’m 11 years old-ish. But I have a perspective, and I have a voice, and though I wasn’t fortunate enough to experience the earlier days, I’ve been around enough to observe a thing or two; seeing some kind of shift.

This incestuous community (meaning people who are so obviously influenced by each other’s work, pushing them creatively, you gutter freaks) is a unique one that I thought existed nowhere else, yet Barry mentioned that he has the word “antifolk” on medium priority on his search feed, and articles show up consistently from around the world.

Not only is the mysterious word changing, but it’s growing, spreading like the fucking plague. How cool is that?

So, on the other hand, why the hell is it so hard to define? Why does it matter so much? Who cares, really? Isn’t it kind of anti-antifolk to ask, yeah?


Posted on: February 24th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments
(guest post by aspiring blogger and emerging artist, Barry Bliss; reach him through


Was that a gargoyle perched precariously in the opening between the top of the booth seats and the sound mixing booth?

No, and the thing was moving, and pretty big.

It was Jon Berger.

As anyone knows that’s seen Jon dance about, he’s more nimble than you might think.

He’s also got quite a nimble mind, and when he applied it in a communally-oriented way Sunday night as part of his performance, we ended up with a full room debate/discussion on the question that has been pondered for decades.

“What is antifolk?”

Such luminaries as Herb Scher, myself (if I may say so), Debe Dalton, Rebecca Florence, and others of importance chimed in.

At one point J.J. Hayes challenged the very basis of the question, which brought great applause from the low-quantity high-quality audience.

One thing most everyone agreed on was that there was room in it for anyone that was expressing themselves sincerely and uniquely, and if there wasn’t it was the term Antifolk that needed chucking, and not the performers.

Joe Yoga made a good point. If you define it, then there is something it is not as well as something that it is.

The vibe Sunday night was that if that something it isn’t includes real people doing real things, then to hell with the term.


Oh yeah, Berger finished out the set with more of his poems, ever the master of when enough is enough.

Bernard King Presents

Posted on: February 24th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

Been going to the AntiFolk Festival this week? Been relying on the programs on the tables to know what’s what? You’ve got Bernard King to thank for that. He toiled furiously, keeping up with the twists and turns of the schedule when even the website couldn’t. He provided you information for the Fest, and he’s presenting his poetry – or whatever it is he does – on the Fest’s second Tuesday, with a host of readers who do what their King commands.

Why wouldn’t you be there? Is it because the King hadn’t commanded your presence? As of now he did. Get to it!

Another Friday Night at the AntiFolk Festival

Posted on: February 22nd, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

Some wildly varied acts at the Sidewalk on Friday night. Electropop from Miss Represent, poetry from Jolia, demo rap from Scab God, old school AntiFolk from Joe Bendik, new school power blues from Viking, and much more.

Lorraine Leckie performed with backing vocals from Banjo Lisa (sans, as always, a banjo). They’re about to go off on another European tour, and it’s obvious they’re road-hardened, since they were both pretty powerful in their performance.

Crazy & the Brains did what they do, which is high-octane punk with xylophonic highlights. The moshpit which never fails to form for them seemed smaller than usual, but not for any lack of effort from the band.

Hamell on Trial sounded like had something to prove. It might be the upcoming release of Happiest Man in the World, his debut LP on New West. Maybe he just had a rough day. whatever it was, he came in strong and astonished the audience. He remained, through the entireity of his set, bald.

Kung Fu Crimewave was really drunk on stage. Really, it was just Luke Kelly, but if your singer/songwriter/guitarist can barely stand, it kind of makes the band drunk, right? It was pretty entertaining to watch bass-player Joanna Kelly try to keep the set together, and was a pretty good show – maybe as good as if Luke had remembered his songs.

The whole night, though, was pretty notable – hence the notes.

The Change

Posted on: February 19th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

On the first night of the Winter AntiFolk Festival (version 2014), there was further evidence of the transition that’s mere weeks away. Ben Krieger played a solo set at eight o’clock, and then, a couple of hours later, Clinical Trials (Somer Bingham’s blistering two-piece) closed out the night. While both gave electrical performances, the sensitive folk scent wafted during Krieger’s set, while Clinical Trials smelled like Teen Spirit. Is this a sign of things to come?

Time’ll tell.

Of course, both sets were strong, and both characters will remain in our AntiFolk community for great time to come. While Krieger is giving up booking responsibilities after the AntiFolk Festival (come March), he’ll remain the host fo the Monday night Open Stage. Who knows? He may even run sound from time to time. But something’s in the air; maybe it’s Spring.

Winter AntiFolk Festival!

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

There’s a lot to say about the AntiFolk Festival, starting tonight, but it’s probably best said right here in this article from American Songwriter. If you read a little further, you might discover that Beck has a new album.


Blueberry Season starts it off, and Clinical Trials brings it home. Check it out.

A Good VU

Posted on: February 17th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

Well, Boog City’s done it again; during first night of their Welcome to Boog City winter festival, they presented one of their semi-regular Perfect Album nights, which, in honor of Lou Reed’s recent passing, was a song-by-song representation of Velvet Underground & Nico.

For the first time in a long time, the entire event was anchored by a single band, the versatile Kung Fu Crimewave, featuring the talents of more Kelly family members than there are sticks left during this grueling winter. The event featured a fury of guest stars, different vocalists and supporting musicians on different songs. It was something to behold.

One highlight – Pizza Underground‘s Phoebe Kreutz pulling out her Germanic phrasing for an ever-building “All Tomorrow’s Parties.”

Another highlight – Brian Speaker‘s enthusiastic wait for his man.

You know, the Perfect Album series are often recording. Here’s an earlier Lou Reed event performed at the Sidewalk. Take a listen.

Want to know more about the Festival (dovetailing nicely into Sidewalk’s own Winter AntiFolk Festival)? You can learn more here.

That’s Who!

Posted on: February 14th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

Last month, a slightly intrusive photographer took shots at the Open Stage (of everyone but me. Waaugh!), and this weekend, we’ll see the printed result of what it was all about. Digitally, though, you can preview the open mic overview that, always cutting edge, the New York Times Magazine chose to publish.

If you squint, you can see my bald head.

Read all about it this Sunday (spoiler: Open mics let you express yourself).

Play Live

Posted on: February 13th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

Getting that sweet record deal may not end up providing you the income you want, if the streaming model is any evidence. This article shows some of the big royalty checks you can get from streaming services.

Janis Ian

A tip jar seems somehow more reliable. You may not break the bank, but you might get enough to actually tell the bank about.

RIP Maggie

Posted on: February 13th, 2014 by Jon Berger No Comments

She wasn’t, to my knowledge, ever a part of the Sidewalk community, but Maggie Estep broke big right around the time the Sidewalk opened its doors to East Village music-goers, and she was on one of the first AntiFolk compilations a few years before.

Maggie Estep, spoken word artist, novelist, slam-progenitor, AntiFolkist, died at 50 of a heart attack.

She was part of Roger Manning’s Broome Closet Sessions, what seems to be the third AntiFolk compilation back in the 80s. She released two spoken rock albums (I may have just coined that phrase), starting with No More Mr. Nice Girl, and is being eulogized by a who’s who of 90s notables.

Clearly, Maggie Estep iss gone too soon.