Sunday, February 18, 2007

Arts: Venue Vendetta: Sidewalk Cafe

By Courtney Nichols

Attention all who thought that rebellion ended when the last punk turned 30: our generation’s revolution is happening at The Sidewalk Café.

Established in the 1980’s, this dive bar on Avenue A is the hub of the Anti-Folk movement, known for producing such talents as Beck, Regina Spektor, and Jeff Buckley. The mission of the venue is to "feed and entertain the local international populace and to get them drunk," Latch, the Cafe's one-named music and entertainment promoter, said.

This dimly-lit gem hosts local talent, often shunned from other venues, at no cover charge, and offers a famous open-mic night on Mondays that regularly sells out and runs into the wee morning hours. Rock artists, comics, jazz musicians, and singer/songwriters perform nightly to an audience that tends to be a "mix of artists and hipster cognoscenti," according to Latch.

Though the club has definitely "fostered community," the restaurant/bar does not have the technical capabilities to host the great artists they feature and the acoustics often suffer at the hands of belligerent drunks in the front room. However, don’t get me wrong, as Latch points out, The Sidewalk Café is "one of the few venues that people actually drop by just to see what’s happening."

That's understandable, considering how many acts have taken to the stage here as nameless faces and left as renowned artists. In a city that at times "does not understand the natural resource they have as an artistic center," as Latch puts it, The Sidewalk Café continues to be a glimmer of hope.

"There’s been a cultural movement or awareness that is always peculiarly American and this sort of tribe has had different names," Latch said, summing up the cafe's ethos. "Anti-Folk is a child of those revolutions and The Sidewalk Café is the home of that movement; a great place to get a warm meal and a cheap shot of whiskey." Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The winter Anti-Folk festival will take place February 9th through the 18th. Artists like Adam Green of the Moldy Peaches will perform. For more information, go to

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