Monday was a particularly lucky day to be a music journalist at UC Davis: Adam Green made an unexpected yet marvelous guest appearance on the air at KDVS 90.3 FM.
Sort of shaky, nervous and trying extra hard to memorize some quick biographical facts, I joined Elisa Rocket on her weekly radio show Analog Oatmeal to interview the anti-folk artist from the now defunct band, The Moldy Peaches. Yes, they did that song in Juno.
But this was a particularly unique combination of guest performers – how often does an awkward, quasi-grungy folk musician bring a pair of gospel singers into Studio B? But it was a good choice; listening from a crammed corner of the studio, I became weak in the knees, and my eyes glazed over. The ladies from the well-known London Community Gospel Choir offered their compelling windpipes to create tear-jerking flattery behind Green’s voice.
Green started the set off with “Grandma Shirley and Papa,” from his March 2008 release Sixes and Sevens. Also from that record, Green belted “Getting Led“ and the happy-go-lucky single, “Morning After Midnight.“ Though stripped of its cheery horn section and reed organ sounds, the in-studio rendition of Green’s “comeback single“ ended with a “cha cha cha.“ However, I definitely recommend getting your hands on the studio version, as it jumps tempo with bongo and shakers halfway through.
Of Green’s hour-long set, “Getting Led” dominated. This amazing downtempo number with ascending harmonies really allowed the ladies to shine and easily established itself as one of my favorites on Sixes and Sevens. The acoustic rendition was just as moving if not more without the piano, bell chimes and shuffly snare found on the album version.
Between songs, Green provided some comic relief, telling stories of his fast-paced “no freedom tour” of Europe and now North America. He informed listeners that when you go to a Burger King in Germany (where he happens to be very popular), it’s highly likely to find hookers in puffy jackets and fanny packs loitering outside.
But the pace changed with several numbers, one of them being the bittersweet “I Want to Die” off his 2003 record Friends of Mine. He confessed over the most serene harmonies, “I want to choose to die / and be buried with a rubix cube,” mainly because “the government lied.“
With a bellowing voice as genuine as Buddy Holly’s but also comparable to that of the contemporary Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields), Green is able to appeal to a large demographic. Some might call Sixes and Sevens a male version of Jenny Lewis‘ Rabbit Fur Coat thanks to the Southern-esque backup vocals and the obvious Johnny Cash influences.
Yet despite the hints of classic styles in this work, Adam Green is an anti-folk artist – and considered a modern pioneer of that genre, as a matter of fact. He has much experience with this “urban folk” phenomena that he foresees will achieve global domination.
“I‘ll probably be giving tours of the East Village when I’m older,” Green said sarcastically, “showing people where Ish Marquez used to play on the bench.“
Green had no problem using the term, as he explained it had a long history in Village venues such as Sidewalk Café. To him, anti-folk is “a community of songwriters, originally started more as a folk-punky kind of thing with artists like Roger Manning and Paleface.“
And as the repertoire of anti-folk artists expands, so does its sound. From the punk side has emerged Defiance, Ohio and from the polished end of folk comes Regina Spektor. Regardless, an important piece of anti-folk culture swept through Davis this week like a hurricane.
To listen to the interview online, go to the Analog Oatmeal’s show page at kdvs.org/shows/view/show_id/376. For more information on the artist, visit adamgreen.net.
NICOLE L. BROWNER hopes that anti-folk will achieve poster boy status now that the Juno soundtrack pwned the billboard charts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.