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Anti-folk (sometimes called antifolk or unfolk) is a music genre that arose in the 1980s in reaction to the remnants of the 1960s folk music scene, to mock the perceived seriousness of the time's mainstream music scene,[1] with the intention to shock and protest.[2] Artists of the anti-folk genre observe the "rules" of music, but then deliberately break them.[citation needed]


In the United States[edit]

Anti-folk was introduced by artists who were unable to obtain gigs at established folk venues in Greenwich Village such as Folk City and The Speakeasy.[3] In the mid-1980s, singer-songwriter Lach started The Fort,[4] an after-hours club on NYC's Rivington Street in the Lower East Side.[5] The Fort's opening coincided with the New York Folk Festival. Because of this, Lach dubbed his event the New York Antifolk Festival.[6] Other early proponents of the movement included The Washington Squares, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Brenda Kahn, Paleface, Beck, Hamell on Trial, Michelle Shocked, Zane Campbell, and John S. Hall.[3][7] Roger Manning,[8] Kirk Kelly,[9] and Block.[10]

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.[5][6] The New York Antifolk Festival continues to be held annually at the SideWalk Cafe (long outlasting the original Folk Festival).[11] Events have also taken place in the band shells in Tompkins Square Park and Central Park.[6] While living in San Francisco in the early 1990s, Lach helped establish a West Coast anti-folk movement at the Sacred Grounds Coffee House.[5]

In the United Kingdom[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.[12] The UK anti-folk 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.[13] Plan B held an anti-folk night at the Huw Stevens-curated Sŵn in Cardiff in November 2007. The beginnings of the UK anti-folk scene were in London, with shows promoted by Sergeant Buzfuz that, although not billed as anti-folk, featured many U.S. and UK anti-folk singer/songwriters. 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.

The Brighton anti-folk scene was quick to follow, curated primarily by Mertle. 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. Emmy the Great is connected with the English anti-folk scene, having played at Sergeant Buzfuz's nights in 2003 as part of the duo Contraband. Kate Nash started her music career playing anti-folk-style shows, including a concert promoted by Larry Pickleman and Mertle in Brighton.[14] Laura Marling is linked with anti-folk, although this is less to do with the UK movement and more to do with her perceived musical style.

Anti-folk-influenced acts such as The Bobby McGee's picked up regular national radio airplay and media coverage. In August 2006, Time Out called anti-folk "One of London's hottest subcultures". The first anti-folk UK compilation album, Up the Anti, was released in 2007, mastered by Mark Kramer. The Welsh anti-folk artist Mr Duke has gained some popularity in Wales, and Crywank, an anti-folk band from Manchaster surfaced in 2009.

In recent years, the anti-folk scene has found fewer venues in London with the closure of 12 Bar Club and Buffalo Bar: Nambucca hosted the 2016 Anti-Folk Fest, with newer acts such as Warmduscher, Goat Girl and Black Kes, who were not part of the anti-folk scene as was in 2008-2012, as well as established AF acts such as David Cronenberg's Wife.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amanda Petrusich (19 August 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 2017-08-21.
  3. ^ a b Bessman, J. (July 16, 1994). "Rising singer/songwriters redefine folk in the '90s". Billboard. 106 (29): 1, 36. Retrieved 2 June 2018. (article in on pages 1 and 36)
  4. ^ Howlett, Isaac. "The Anti-Folk Movement". Supersweet Zoo. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  5. ^ a b c Kihn, Martin (September 12, 1994). "A Scene Is Made". New York Magazine. Vol. 27 no. 36. New York City, New York. pp. 68–70. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Light, Alan (August 11, 2006). "How Does It Feel, Antifolkies, to Have a Home, Not Be Unknown?". The New York Times.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Krieger, Ben (2009-02-10). "NYC Anti-Folk Scene". The Deli. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  9. ^ Hochman, Steve (1989-01-10). "Bicoastal Anti-Folk of Kirk Kelly at Gaslight". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  10. ^ "Exclusive First Look Video and Giveaway Contest from Indie Anti-Folk Star Jamie Block". Indie Band Guru. 2013-02-06. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  11. ^ McKinley, James C., Jr. (2011-09-23). "Staying Undefined at the Antifolk Festival, and That's Fine". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
  12. ^ Parkin, Chris (2006-09-12). "Secret scenes: Antifolk". Archived from the original on 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  13. ^ Everett True, Thom Dowse (September 2009). "Plan B" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-08-21. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  14. ^ "Moshi Moshi Records | Artists: Kate Nash". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.

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