Monday, February 20, 2012

The Long And Winding Road To Possible Evidence In Support of an Historical Hypothesis

Prelude: On December 8th and 9th, 2011 Kenny Young and the Eggplants played Edinburgh Scotland. Whether they were ever part of the scene, they certainly graced the stage of the Sidewalk at times.  The supporting act for them on December 8th was Lach, recently relocated to Scotland.

Two days later our story begins:

This was part of the Chameleon reunion night at the Sidewalk Cafe.  Later on I was speaking with Ray Brown  and, if I recall correctly, Charlie who had been his bandmate (with Cybele) from the short lived "Six Inch Dick".  Ray put forward the notion that although punk is often mentioned as one the defining musical influences on antifolk, or at least the one everyone talks about, there was also a real hip hop influence and that the some of the folk at the Chameleon were in fact very into hip hop.  This discussion I think came up somewhat in response to a song I had written about what I was doing in 1989, while Kid Rock was singing "Sweet Home Alabama" all summer long and all the good stuff was happening at the Chameleon.

Now the histories of Antifolk, often as extensive as a paragraph or two, always emphasize the punk influence,  and perhaps a punk aesthetic, and at least a punk spirit. But was hip hop influence, aesthetic or spirit anywhere in the mix?

Flash forward to earlier today (now yesterday).  I had read Gina Mobilio's interview with Ben Krieger for American Songwriter. In addition to one of the more apt descriptions of the Antifolk Fest as "a five-day mind-altering artistic hypnosis" the intro to the Q & A also describes Lach as 'self-proclaimed coiner of the term “Antifolk.”'

Now it will be recalled that Gina Mobilio's article for the Fall 2011 Fest featured Jeffrey Lewis attempting a definition of antifolk which engendered some discussion including a detailed response from Lach.  That definition did link antifolk to punk in a very strong way, somewhat limited by Lach but strongly affirmed by Joe Bendik. But nowhere in that exchange is hip hop mentioned.  

Nevertheless  the mention of the "term 'Antifolk'" sent me on a chase to find the earliest mention of the word antifolk  as we use it now. The earliest I found was this 1988 article in Option  by Mark  Kemp entitled "Folk Off".  That article is interesting as an early press notice of the scene. It  focuses on Michelle Shocked, Lach, Kirk Kelly, Roger Manning and Cindy Berryhill.. What caught my eye was the description of the scene at the Chameleon:

On some nights, you’ll catch Manning or Kelly or Berryhill there, and there’ll always be scads of new kids on the folk music block.

Among the scads of new kids on the folk music block I presume were people like the two members of Six Inch Dick I was speaking with 23 years later. The ones who were positing a real early hip hop influence on the scene. 

Now understand that through all this searching I was not thinking about punk, hip hop or my conversation with two-thirds of Six Inch Dick. I was looking for the usage of the term Antifolk. Out of curiosity I went to a slightly later article,by Charlie Ahearn in the September 1990 issue of Spin. And there I found this:

Basically Lach wants to be known for his songs. He claims to have written over 500, influenced by everybody from Hank Williams to Chuck D.

Chuck D!

And suddenly I recall that in the law office I sat and worked at those nights in the late eighties/early nineties I would speak with our then killer typist, Ed Logue.  He was a drummer. I recall him telling me how he would love to do an acoustic version of  "Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos" His band was getting very popular in Scotland. They were called Kenny Young and the Eggplants.  

No comments:

Post a Comment