Anti-Folk Fishback Sings At Fairchild
Oberlin students love to meet intriguing characters, and anyone who was at Saturday night’s concert must have been in love with the atmosphere that New York singer/songwriter Dan Fishback created in the dining area of Fairchild Co-op.
The space was unusual but quite suitable for the acts. Students sat in rows of chairs or stood and danced to the eclectic music. Fishback, hailed as “an anti-folk genius!” by Next Magazine, was brought to Oberlin by the Oberlin Lambda Union and sophomore Katherine Dohan, who met Fishback on tour with her high school band, Scandaliz Vandaliz, last year.
After a few student opening acts, Fishback took the stage. His first song was a cover of Björk’s “Big Time Sensuality.” His performance style is casual — he is not afraid to tell a quick anecdote in the middle of a song or to admit to the audience that he forgot the lyrics. While some might see this as unprofessional, I think it’s precisely what won the audience. I overheard students saying that while his songs were great, his stories were the best part.
His promotional biography reads: “Raised on a steady diet of showtunes and secular Jewish leftism, Dan Fishback was destined to be gay and loud.” He seemed to be an open book in front of us on Saturday night, telling us about his anti-war activism, bad experiences with hair removal products and relationships, some of them with former Oberlin students.
“I’m really excited to play here — Oberlin has always meant to me a lot as a place,” Fishback said, referring not to his personal relationships but to the liberal atmosphere of the Oberlin college community.
Fishback’s songs would be called structurally simple, however, he does not seem to spend time thinking about structure. His lyrics sound like spontaneous expressions of his thoughts, with very little pretense or refinement added.
His acoustic guitar acts as a simple rhythmic accompaniment to his high-pitched voice, which is full of youthful dissatisfaction. This is the essence of “Anti-Folk,” a musical movement that includes such performers as Jeffrey Lewis, who performed for Oberlin last semester, and the massively popular Regina Spektor.
Fishback explained that Anti-Folk began in the ‘80s as conflict rose between a younger generation of performers who wanted to play acoustic punk and an older generation that was perpetuating nostalgia for the ‘60s folk revival. The home base for the Anti-Folk movement is the Sidewalk Café in the East Village of Manhattan.
Fishback has two major side projects he is involved in — a band called the Faggots, made up of himself and, ironically, three heterosexual male band mates; and the experimental band Cheese on Bread.
Dan Fishback’s personality enchanted the audience to the point where it was safe to say that most wished they were gay men just for chance at being Fishback’s inspiration. However, more of his songs are about heartbreak and pain than simple love. But with a wry sense of humor and catchy hooks, the tunes somehow express emotional turmoil and bright-eyed perseverance simultaneously. Many of his songs included sing-alongs which encouraged the whole room to join in.
Between the enthusiastic audience and the unique performance, Saturday night in Fairchild was an experience that one might find only at Oberlin.