|mr. antifolk closes a chapter
Ben Krieger - October 14, 2008
Lach doesn’t believe in linear time. With his thick,
black-rimmed glasses and boyish grin, it often seems as if this perspective
has kept him from aging. He still bashes away at his acoustic guitar with bratty
glee, leaving no doubt that the hole in the top corner is an authentic testament
to years of playing. Since the early s, musicians from all over the
world have traveled to visit the open stage at the Antifolk’s current
home, the Sidewalk Café. Lach has greeted them every Monday, signing
them up, cracking jokes and imaginary sponsor messages from the soundbooth like
an East Village Garrison Keillor. After serving as the pivotal figure—some
call him the godfather—in the Antifolk scene for over 25 years, the songwriter
has decided to raise his anchor at the Sidewalk and start a new chapter in his
"Don't forget this don't forget how great you feel,"
is what Lach always tells himself after a set, “but then I do…like
it’s a dream.” The songwriter is talking about the wear and tear
that comes from filling one’s day with everything except what matters:
the art. Myspace pages, emails, booking, networking, posters, flyers, and whatever
job you have to pay the bills are all things that give musicians career freedom,
but not always artistic freedom. For years Lach has been sitting artists down
for tea after the open stage has wound down, listening to what they have to
say and sharing his thoughts. “Lach gave me some advice once that really
helped me out,” is a comment many musicians on the scene can claim to
have made at some point. Now it looks as if the jedi master is taking his own
advice like a young padawan, listening to his heart and getting ready to tour
extensively behind his new record, The Calm Before.
The feelings beneath this decision to bite the bullet are finely
woven into the 13 songs on Calm. “George at Coney” imagines the
quiet Beatle’s brief escape from the music industry hoopla as he jets
down to the famous beach and plays his 12-string with feet in the sand. The
character could be the author himself (though Lach points out one huge difference:
“George had management!”). The message of “Egg” is delivered
by a chick that gets one whiff of the adult world and wants to run back into
its shell. The road, the water and the act of leaving are all over this record
like Richard Thomson on Shoot Out the Lights, Lach has documented emotions that
preclude a significant separation and new direction in his life, crafting them
into a thoroughly enjoyable record. By the time the singer declares that he’s
not going back to “Crazy House,” the first rumblings of the storm
that The Calm Before hints at can be heard Lach states that he’s ready
to start recording at the rate he’s always wanted, with a new record out
every year or two.
Always competitive, Lach approached the sound of this record
by paying attention to Antifolk peers who he felt had recently released a great
album—Eric Wolfson, the Bowmans, and Ben Godwin, to name a few—and
then heading in a different sonic direction. As he puts it, a small voice in
his head kept asking, "how about a saxophone? How about a clarinet? How
about a goddamn flute?!” Providing the unique color to this recording
is Mike McGinnis, who plays a variety of woodwind instruments throughout the
record. A fan of the physical “album,” Lach extends the themes of
the record to Peter Nevins’ beautiful artwork as well. A labor of love,
The Calm Before is Lach’s most introspective release, yielding its charms
spin after spin.
Lach’s farewell Antihoot, which was held in June, drew
over 100 Antifolkers into the Sidewalk. By the end of evening the room was still
crowded with musicians—many of whom didn’t even get to play—hanging
out to hear the Antifolk Godfather’s musical farewell and wish him the
Ben Krieger has played the Sidewalk Café for several years and served
as a soundman for one. He has been selected as the new host for the Sidewalk’s
Monday night open stage in July 2008, booking the club and welcoming in the
freshman class of musicians.
"Don't forget this don't forget how great you feel," is what Lach always tells himself after a set, “but then I do…like it’s a dream.”
"The Calm Before"
listen to "
The father of Anti-Folk moves on.