Charles Latham & Friends Turn the Triangle Towards Antifolk
by Ruth Eckles
In April 2005, Charles Latham made a trip to New York. That's something folks do all the time. But Latham just didn't just go to New York. He made a pilgrimage. He was looking for 94 Avenue A in the heart of the East Village: The Sidewalk Café, the cradle of antifolk.
Latham was looking for a guy named Lach who pioneered the antifolk scene in New York two decades ago. Legend has it, Lach came to New York like so many boys from so many small towns: He wanted to be the next Dylan.
But Lach's folk was too punk, and he was kicked out of the coffeehouses. So he stayed true to his punk leanings. Not fitting in didn't stop him. He kept doing his own thing. He started calling it antifolk. If, 20 years later, antifolk is a religion (and, for Latham, it may be), Lach is its principal deity. And if The Sidewalk Café is Lach's Mecca, Latham arrived with the awe and reverence of the most devout pilgrim.
"The anti-hootenannies at The Sidewalk are so many light years ahead of your average open mic," Latham says. "It's a total talent fest."
Latham has played at The Sidewalk three times. That April, he got a gig there with his favorite antifolk band The Bobby McGees. He was a ball of nerves. "They were so good, I kind of forgot I had to play," he says. "I was pretty intimidated and didn't play very well."
But he kept trying: He returned to The Sidewalk in December 2005. The show was another disappointment.
But, last May, he went back. He nailed it. "Everyone was stomping and shouting and clapping along and digging it ... I was ecstatic. That was probably my best set ever. I felt like I was home."
Lach even came to the show. Before he left, Latham asked Lach if he could come back and play again. Lach replied, "You've got a home here."
Latham is still gushing: "I felt like the Ray Liotta character in Goodfellas—a made man."
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