Autumn Antifolk Festival 2006 Part1 | 12 Bar Club, London

So, the weekend of the first ever Antifolk 2-dayer dawns upon us. I had honourable intentions of taking it easy, and not drinking too much so I would last the whole night. Especially as I said I’d write this for you all.

But as these things often go, all intentions evaporated after the something-th beer. Typical, the first time I step up to review one of these beauties I forget to pace myself. (I don’t know how Helen does it, hats off to her!) But the show must go on…

These things are always lengthy affairs, and this time they’ve served up a double. All the fun you can handle, and then some – 26 acts over two nights, all packed into one little room with a very small stage, a rather low ceiling and a whole lotta history. I’ve only been coming here for about a year, but hell, if those walls could talk…

My review of this particular festival, or ‘marathon’ as I like to call it, can be neatly divided into two halves.

The first half, where I wasn’t too drunk yet, and may even have snuck off to take notes between sets.. and the second half, which I remember slightly less of.. Apologies to the bands in the second half, I shall attempt to compose worthy tributes to your performances in haiku form. Or I could just ramble. True, this may be a long review, but then again, it was long night!

Steve White

That smiling, burly, big softie of a singing fireman. Steve’s a family man, with big tatts, and songs about eating properly – not that GM food, or McD’s – and I’d second that. He’s here to remind us ‘It’s Always Summer at Sainsburys’, and comes armed with a charming optimistic singalong for his funeral – ‘Steve is Dead’. JJ Crash steps forward at this point to spray a mouthful of beer up at him, as a mark of respect.

The Sways

The wonderful Sways. Their music brings to mind the words dextrous, quirky, and plucky. They slide beer bottles down their guitar strings, and can also offer the manic helium fuelled vocals of Mike Fell squeaking out opening song ‘Man You Have Got To Love It’ and carrying on in such a fashion all the way through their set. It’s a tightly wound intricate ball of wickedness. Quite a few people are heard commenting on the impressive work of their guitarist Neal, and I would have to agree. Again I’d use the word dextrous, and add bluesy, impressive, and also that he was wearing a nice bright orange shirt, to mark the occasion. And it was the only clean one he had left. I liked these guys a lot, they were highly entertaining.

Larry Pickleman

Larry’s looking very tame and nice in his green hoodie and a distinguished glint of silver in his hair as he takes the stage. But oh no, flick the on switch and there he is screwing up his face and singing out like a little kid, with such gleefully ironic tunes as ‘All Blacks are Bastards’ which you’ll get if you hear the whole song of course (that’s in case my Mum reads this..) And the mighty ‘Midget Stick Up’.

Best lyric of Larry’s set – “I was only 10, she was 41, I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong..”. which got a big laugh. Someone in the crowd shakes their head and says ‘Hah,. sick bastard..’ Kinda sums it up really. His reputation precedes him, but we all know him for the loveable ‘sick bastard’ he is. Some more of those sweet chimed samples float out of the speaker. “It’s like bein’ at a fuckin’ funfair innit”, says that pesky Plantpot. Well yes, it’s like a colourful crooked carousel. Kind of like this evening really.. but we’re not getting off just yet..

Scrappy Hood

Played a blinder. ‘Don’t Panic I’m only Islamic’ was a great way to start the set.

Social commentary that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and gets the message home. We like it. He follows up with more of our favourite street poetry, bound to strike a chord with anyone .‘Finding My Way Home’ is a definitive roll call of all possible destinations, and ways to get lost going home – this always sounds far too familiar, which is why we love it. And yes, it ‘Sucks That You Gotta Grow Up’. Then there’s the poignant ‘21st Century Love’, about the girl who stole his heart, his wallet, his phone…
“Just give my fuckin’ sim card back!… Don’t want any more 21st century love!” he yells. “You’re not getting any!” yells Splinx from the front row.
Aw, ain’t love grand.

David Cronenberg’s Wife

Were amazing. The room is absolutely packed, and the band are going off. It’s another fine example of a room fit to burst, the band crammed on stage – making it all gel so well. As they rollick through their set, passing a quiet moment on ‘Drawn again’ towards the downhill free wheeling ‘Runaway Pram’, we wind our way to ‘I Couldn’t Get Off.” Stu’s superb drumming’s been pushing the adrenalin levels up through the roof. I swear I heard Tom yell “Inside Maria!” to start the song off. Or at least it sounded like that, I may’ve been mishearing things, did he change the words? One things for sure, they were on fire tonight.

Filthy Pedro and the Carthaginians

The most anticipated and maddest line-up of the weekend. Picture this – Filthy pulls out all the stops and treats us all to the unlikely combination of former loner/unsuspecting recluse Tim Tomlinson on violin, banjo and accordion, and ‘Milk Kan mascot’, and infamous alkie Medders on bass. There’s the ever reliable Stu DCW on drums, and a guest singer, who Filthy announces as“courtesy of the English National Opera”- the lovely Penny.

The results are truly astounding. My favourites were ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Points’, and ‘History Lover’. The celebratory mood called for us to yell out our favourite Filthy lyrics – “Be my Cleopatra, smack my bollocks with a spatula!” we all sing, raising our glasses in the air. Someone hurls a drink at the stage, it narrowly misses Filthy, completely splashing all over Medders’ bass. And he doesn’t even blink! Just keeps playing. Of course, someone reminds me later on that he could’ve been electrocuted, but then, he was spotted carrying his bass to the gig without a case or anything, so he’s just lucky it wasn’t raining…
I must say, the last song was a bit self indulgent. But I s’pose they were entitled to it. Penny warbled ‘It’s Filthy Pedro!” a lot, to add operatic drama, while Filthy rapped like the skinny Welsh white boy he is. Aw, bless’im.

Lil Lost Lou and The Lost Cowgirls

It’s only the second time I’ve caught Lou with her band. She’s confidently rarking it up as usual, tonight wearing a sparkling, newly purchased Kiss t-shirt bought for a ridiculous sum of money. (She must be loaded! Gold diggers take note..)The three of them fit perfectly on the tiny little stage, and sing and rock out right in each others faces like a tight knit gang of country vagabonds. A wild gutsy performance. I would say more about it, but I admit I stopped taking any notes about this time…

JJ Crash

Can’t believe I missed this, it was wild by all accounts. Most of the audience ended up on stage, which would’ve been brilliant, a 12 bar stage invasion!- full to the brim with rock’n’blues chaos! I’m sure ‘Running Out Of Beer’, and ‘My Backyard’, (rumoured to be the new national anthem when JJ runs for Mayor) would’ve gone down extra well.

I’d nipped round the corner to get some food and ended up getting harrassed by some random tourist who thought it was appropriate to share bits of his kebab and then try and steal my tray of chips from me. I was less than impressed as I was trying to cram as many into my face as possible to sober up. This made such a ladylike impression he chose to accompany me back to the 12 bar, even with me unsubtly dropping hints about the cover charge. So at least I got another punter through the door for the guys. I promptly lost this stowaway when I charged back inside to tend to my truly drunk mate Muddy, who had made a call of distress to my phone as he was having trouble telling the ceiling from the floor.
I left him asleep in a chair upstairs.

Prints of Whales

I watched this great band from the balcony, and enjoyed an enlightened birds eye view of the tops of their heads, as they were grinning, jamming, hoe-downing and crowding round a mic. I also spied the front row leaping around in a wild drunken jig, having a ball of a time. Great stuff! In fact, they say their influences are ‘the effects of alcohol, and the warmth that rises from a dance’. And from up there, that’s exactly what I was feeling. Jumpin’ thumpin’ countrified good times.


We think King! might be lying about his age. I mean, fair play to him if he can grow a beard like that at 19, but how many years has he been 19 for, hmm? Billed as the ‘antifolk newbie’ this festival, he looks out earnestly at the audience from behind his dark framed specs, singing dreamy little songs about skipping work, and fingerpainting. My main memory is of the drifting, cruisy tune ‘Outta Here’. Halfway through the set a strikingly pretty girl joins him onstage, to sit and play glockenspiel and sing. Later someone informs me that she’s his girlfriend. They don’t call him the King for nothing.

Ben Anstis

Ah yes, it’s ‘delicate acoustic songwriter’ Ben Anstis. He’s been called the thinking man’s Johnny Borrell. Don’t ask me why, his teeth are nowhere near as bad, and he hasn’t written any songs half as annoying as ‘America’ lately, but hey, whoever said that’s ‘just jealous.’ (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

While Ben serendaded us, I linked arms with my mates, sang along, swayed, and announced I was feeling emotional. It was almost home time, and I was grateful to be still standing. And also, they are quite emotional heartfelt songs. They can sound quite serious, and that’s not just because he plays with his eyes closed sometimes. ‘Under Her Spell’ is a ballad that weaves a sombre sentimental journey, and ‘Country Music’ is one of those timeless sounding tunes that makes me think he’s one of those dreamy eyed kids whose songs come from having an old soul. He invites Paul Hawkins up to join him for ‘Billy May’ and, you know, given that Paul’s not really supposed to be able to sing, they always seems to strike a perfect balance between them.

A drunk guy joins in on the last line, then him and his mate jump on stage, inspired to sing a duet themselves. Ben politely asks them to leave so he can finish the set with Canadian Wolves. I heard the echo of it sweetly fading from wherever I’d passed out at that point.


I was quite fucked by this stage. All I can say is that as I stumbled past I caught a glimpse of one guy on a loud guitar playing some shouty screamy grungy stuff to the hardcore few that were still there. His website says ‘punk/death metal/ experimental’, and that sounds about right to me. If anyone else wants to fill in the gaps here, feel free. And. I’m. Spent.

Photo’s by Frankie

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About the Author

Dedee W is a freelance arts writer who spent five years in the UK fully immersing herself in their music festivals and scenes. She arrived in London in 2004, was introduced to the Antifolk Festivals, then started taking photos and reviewing the shows. She's now back in her home-town of Auckland, New Zealand.

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