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Anti-folk (sometimes spelt as antifolk) is a music genre that emerged in the 1980s in New York City, founded by musician, author and comedian, Lach, as a reaction to the commercialization of folk music. It is characterized by its DIY ethos, unconventional songwriting, and often humorous or satirical lyrics. Antifolk music was made to mock the perceived seriousness of the era's mainstream music scene,[1] and artists have the intention to protest with their mocking and clever lyrics.[2][3]


In the United States[edit]

Antifolk was introduced by artists who were unable to obtain gigs at established folk venues in Greenwich Village such as Folk City and The Speakeasy.[4] In the mid-1980s, singer-songwriter Lach started The Fort,[5] an after-hours club on NYC's Rivington Street in the Lower East Side.[6] The Fort's opening coincided with the New York Folk Festival. Because of this, Lach dubbed his event the New York Antifolk Festival.[7] Other early proponents of the movement included the Washington Squares, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Brenda Kahn, Paleface, Beck, Hamell on Trial, Michelle Shocked, Zane Campbell, John S. Hall,[4][8] Roger Manning,[9] Kirk Kelly,[10] and Block.[11]

The original Fort was shut down in 1985 by the police, and because of this the club moved locations several times, including East Village bars Sophie's and Chameleon, before settling in the back room of the SideWalk Cafe starting in 1993.[6][7] The New York Antifolk Festival was held annually at the SideWalk Cafe until its closure in 2019 (long outlasting the original Folk Festival).[12] Events have also taken place in the band shells in Tompkins Square Park and Central Park.[7] While living in San Francisco in the early 1990s, Lach helped establish a West Coast anti-folk movement at the Sacred Grounds Coffee House.[6]

Other artists to have achieved a notable level of success who have been considered anti-folk include Jeffrey Lewis, Regina Spektor and the Moldy Peaches.[13][14][15]

In Britain[edit]

In the 2000s the term was adopted in Britain, particularly in the London underground scene, with acts including David Cronenberg's Wife and The Bobby McGee's.[16] The UK antifolk scene, largely centred in London and Brighton, has established its own identity, which has been written about in a six-page feature in the September 2007 issue of Plan B magazine.[17] In 2004 the lo-fi musician Filthy Pedro started seasonal anti-folk festivals, which he promoted with Tom Mayne of the band David Cronenberg's Wife.[18] An anti-folk scene in Brighton, curated primarily by Mertle, was quick to follow that of London.

Other key figures within the UK anti-folk community include Dan Treacy of Television Personalities, Jack Hayter, Milk Kan, Extradition Order, Benjamin Shaw, Lucy Joplin, Candythief, JJ Crash, Larry Pickleman and Paul Hawkins.[citation needed] Emmy the Great and Laura Marling were added to the roster of antifolk artists as they play antifolk music with mocking lyrics.[19] Kate Nash started her music career playing anti-folk-style shows, including a concert promoted by Larry Pickleman and Mertle in Brighton.[20]

Dan Willson, who performs under the name Withered Hand, is an Edinburgh-based musician often considered part of the genre. His first studio album, Good News, was released in 2009.[21]

Welsh antifolk artist Mr Duke has gained some popularity in Wales, and Crywank, an antifolk project from Manchester, surfaced in 2009. Crywank's popularity can be seen through the disappointment of fans when the break-up was announced in 2019, though in 2021, Crywank released a final album.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amanda Petrusich (August 19, 2008). It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 153–157. ISBN 978-1-4299-5755-7.
  2. ^ "Anti-Folk Music Genre Overview | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  3. ^ Folk Punk, Rogue Folk, Anti-Folk: Three Chords and the Truth|PopMatters
  4. ^ a b Bessman, J. (July 16, 1994). "Rising singer/songwriters redefine folk in the '90s". Billboard. Vol. 106, no. 29. pp. 1, 36. Retrieved June 2, 2018. (article in on pages 1 and 36)
  5. ^ Howlett, Isaac. "The Anti-Folk Movement". Supersweet Zoo. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Kihn, Martin (September 12, 1994). "A Scene Is Made". New York Magazine. Vol. 27, no. 36. New York City. pp. 68–70. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Light, Alan (August 11, 2006). "How Does It Feel, Antifolkies, to Have a Home, Not Be Unknown?". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Kimpel, Dan (2006). How They Made It: True Stories of How Music's Biggest Stars Went from Start to Stardom!. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-634-07642-8. Anti-Folk John S. Hall.
  9. ^ Krieger, Ben (February 10, 2009). "NYC Anti-Folk Scene". The Deli. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  10. ^ Hochman, Steve (January 10, 1989). "Bicoastal Anti-Folk of Kirk Kelly at Gaslight". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  11. ^ "Exclusive First Look Video and Giveaway Contest from Indie Anti-Folk Star Jamie Block". Indie Band Guru. February 6, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  12. ^ McKinley, James C. Jr. (September 23, 2011). "Staying Undefined at the Antifolk Festival, and That's Fine". The New York Times. Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  13. ^ Caroline Sullivan. "Jeffrey Lewis – review | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  14. ^ "Moldy Peaches Interview – Anti-Folk For Dummies". CRUD Magazine. October 15, 2001. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  15. ^ Offenhartz, Jake (February 27, 2019). "'So Weird But Amazing': An Oral History Of Sidewalk Cafe & Antifolk". The Gothamist. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  16. ^ Parkin, Chris (September 12, 2006). "Secret scenes: Antifolk". Timeout.com. Archived from the original on February 23, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  17. ^ Everett True, Thom Dowse (September 2009). "Plan B" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 21, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  18. ^ True, Everett. "The opposite of attraction". Plan B: 54–59.
  19. ^ "Emmy The Great: The 'Anti-Folk' Takeover". National Public Radio. February 23, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  20. ^ "Moshi Moshi Records | Artists: Kate Nash". Moshimoshimusic.com. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  21. ^ Bermingham, Finnbar (March 10, 2014). "Withered Hand – New Gods". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  22. ^ "Anti-folk duo Crywank Release New and Final Album". Fluff Fest (in Czech). Retrieved March 29, 2021.

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