New York Report 3 @ Sidewalk Cafe 01/01/08

Written by Big Smile Staff

Posted Jan 5, 2008, by The Bear.

PART 3 of 3: New Year's Eve Anti-Hoot Spectacular @ The Sidewalk Cafe

On New Year's Eve I went down to Alphabet City (avenue A specifically) on Manhattan's east side to the Sidewalk Cafe for the New Year's Eve Anti-Hoot Spectacular. The Sidewalk Cafe is a place that is central to a lot of the New York Anti-Folk scene; many anti-folk bands play there and a lot of the shows are booked by Lach, the singer-songwriter who was instrumental in starting up the anti-folk scene many years ago now.

Anti-Folk is not really something that can be easily defined; sometimes it's referred to as a "new alternative," and some refer to it as a form of "Acoustic Punk" but many of the acts are electric. It has some similarities to emo in that a lot of artists can be introspective, but unlike most emo a lot of anti-folk has a sense of humor about itself, and many acts don't take themselves too seriously.There are a lot of solo artists and duos in the scene, as well as full bands, but there's no one defining musical style. Basically anything goes in Anti-Folk, and in that sense it has a great deal in common with the first wave of New York Punk from the 1970s. Some of the better known acts to come out of Anti-Folk (and its related scenes) include the Moldy Peaches, The Trachtenburg Family Slide Show Players, Adam Green, Kimya Dawson, Toby Goodshank, Jeffrey Lewis, Schwervon!, and Lach himself.

The Anti-Hoot is a big open mic. night that happens most mondays at the Sidewalk Cafe and it is very popular. Anyone who signs up by a certain time can play, and the shows can go on for hours into the early parts of the next morning.

There were about 25 artists who played on New Year's Eve, and they were of all kinds. The majority played guitar, but there were also a few piano players, a mandolin player, a violinist, a banjo player, and even some spoken word. People are limited to two songs at these events so I couldn't get an in-depth sense of any one artist, but what I did get was a very fun and vibrant overall scene with few rules and limitations. Even I brought a guitar and got up and played a pair of songs myself.

The highlight performance was from Lach who opened the show with two songs and, hours later, after everyone else had played, got up again and this time played a full set of songs. The most impressive part was when he started asking audience members to suggest topics for songs they wanted to hear. After someone yelled something out he would make up a song about it right then and there. Topics that were tossed out included cats, apartments, superheroes, and love, to name just a few. Some efforts were better than others obviously, but he managed to come up with something for every topic that was given to him. In a way that kind of summed up the whole spirit of the show, and the scene: Anything goes, at any time, in any way. And yes, champagne was freely served at midnight.

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