Counterfolk arrived in the early 2000s in Boston to describe a style of music that emerged from within the Boston/Cambridge folk scene, but didn't quite fit the typical kitty-cat folk and stepped beyond the onslaught of Dave Matthews and Ani Difranco copycats.
Some have claimed it's similar to antifolk in much of its scope and attitude, but this is not clearly the case. Counterfolk is perhaps more reliant on content than on concept...the reverse being a common, though perhaps flawed, criticism of antifolk.
According to one outside observer, the distinction between counterfolk and antifolk is:
"okay, the geek's answer is ... antifolk was
invented by this guy named lach in the lower
east village in 1980something. he disliked the
flavor of "folk" music in the 1980s ... everything
sounded like tree-hugging new age garbage
to his ears. if that was folk, he was antifolk.
what meant was that he loved bob dylan,
townes van zandt and phil ochs and odetta
and all the hardcore stuff that came out of the
weird, dark mountains in america and from
the troubadour traditions in europe since the
dawn of language or thereabouts.
counterfolk popped up in boston in 2000 or
2001 (only the counterfolk archivists know for
sure). it seems to be more of a postmodern
thing. less reactionary, overtly and maybe
more of a moniker for moniker's sake. the cats
making this noise are mostly about
post-punk/post-grunge chunking rhythms,
observations on the tilting socio-political
mess all around us and the art-folk echoes of
the mid-nineties (read: post-jim's big ego,
post-moxy fruvous). they do sometime tend to
Indeed, it appears that counterfolkers are more closely influenced by punk, new wave, grunge, and indie rock than any form, current or past, of folk music.
A bunch of counterfolkers got together and formed The Counterfolk Collective. This lineup originally included Joe Kowan, Leesa, Sophia Cacciola, Boys Suck, John Sage, and Bryan McPherson. Since its birth, John and Bryan have reduced their ties to the counterfolk movement.
Additional counterfolk trivia bit:
Some have declared April as counterfolk month.