Changes are a’coming to the scene at the Sidewalk Cafe, the center, for over twenty years now, of that community called AntiFolk. A calendar year after the management of the restaurant/bar changed hands, months weeks after the introduction of a new menu, weeks after an announcement was made, the club will see a new booker, the final arbiter of taste for the East Village venue. In the midst of all this change, though, it’s a relief to know that some songs remain the same.
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Ben Krieger, who took over as show-runner for East Village mainstay Lach back in 2008, let word out that he’s stepping down as the club’s booker. “After five and a half years, I’ve decided to hand the Chocolate Factory – as Lach put it to me – off to Somer. I’m a little sad that I’ll be giving up my free meal privileges,” Krieger pats his stomach, “but that might not be a bad thing.”
In Krieger’s place will step semi-celebrity Somer Bingham, known for her season-long turn in reality-show The Real L Word – as well as her startling two-piece electro-grunge group, Clinical Trials. She’s been running sound at the Sidewalk for six years. “She is another Lach protege,” Krieger explains, ”and worked with him both at Sidewalk and Webster Hall. You’re in good hands.”
Bingham, an active participant in the East Village scene for over eight years, says, “I’m really excited and proud to help carry on its traditions in the role of booker. When Ben said he was stepping down, I knew the new booker would have to be someone who grew up in the scene. I’ve been a part of Sidewalk as a musician, sound tech, and fan – this seems like a natural progression and a role I’m incredibly honored to have.”
Still, Bingham is planning on expanding the scope of artists and styles at the club. “I’m putting together a few jazz/funk nights; it just seems to fit the room.”
The booking transition happens immediately after the annual tradition of the Winter AntiFolk Festival, beginning Tuesday, February 18. Twice every year, separated by roughly six months, the best and brightest in AntiFolk artistry arrive at the Sidewalk to present their songs – or whatever form of art they might cultivate. This festival will be Krieger’s swan song, after which Bingham will fully take over as booker and decide how the scene will develop.
And what a swan song it is. Years-long regulars will appear during the two week Festival, such as the iconoclastic Barry Bliss, the religiously acerbic Rav Shmuel and the touring legend Hamell on Trial. Newer faces to the scene will debut this year. The Dick Jokes, a three-piece garage-glam amalgam, will play their first Festival, as will college poetess Jolia. Also joining the ranks of the Anti is April Sun, a new entry to New York with C-Pop who broke out with her self-empowerment anthem, “I’m Not Busy Tonight.”
In between such extremes are returning voices that haven’t been seen in the community for quite some time – even through 2013’s year-long 20th Anniversary celebration of the Sidewalk-AntiFolk partnership. Acts like the lumberjack-comedic singer Isto, or Rough Trade compilation alumn Turner Cody, or the long-gone regular Anne Husick in a rare solo turn, will grace the stage. With acts performing from six through midnight most nights between the 18th and the end of the month (including an open mic on the Monday in the middle), there are myriad sounds to taste each evening; it’s always quite an experience. “It’s too short!” Bingham exclaims. It’s quite a last hurrah for the departing Krieger.
Ben Krieger isn’t entirely abandoning the scene, though. “I’m not letting go of the Great Glass Elevator by a long shot: I’m excited about continuing the Monday Night Open Stage and giving it a reboot for the Spring.”
Something to look forward to, as New York continues to slog through its bitter winter.
The full schedule can be found at http://www.sidewalkny.com/events/calendar/