Elevate Difference

Ani DiFranco (03/18/2009)

Pompano Beach, Florida

At the Ani DiFranco concert in Pompano Beach, FL, a woman next to me hadn’t heard Red Letter Year. But she wouldn’t have missed the show: “If it’s Ani, then I’m there.”

I confess. I’m the same. I don’t have the new album. But it’s Ani. So I was there.

Allie Evans, who works on Ani’s tours, talked about the audience response: “The economy may not be strong... yet people are excited [when they see the show].” It’s more than the music. It’s connection she has with community. Evans also noted the diverse ages of the audiences: “It used to be only college kids, now there are young people with their parents... and fans who have been with Ani for twenty years.”

Twenty years already? If you’ve listened to Ani for awhile, then it’s hard not to feel older at this concert. Yet it’s true, there are all ages. Women with gray hair, and women born in the nineties wearing turned-up collars like its the ‘80s.

I heard another woman at the concert, Ximena, say to her boyfriend: “Baby, there are a lot of guys here!” There were quite a number of men. A white-haired man wore a t-shirt with the words: Ani Fucking DiFranco. Ximena gave an enthusiastic review of the new album: “It’s different... slower, but inspiring. With every album, I learn more about her. She shows evolution. This new album has the political angst, but there’s also a happiness, a glow, an aura.”

Less angst. Would I like this Ani?

I had listened to her since college, related to her songs about politics, art, love, breakups. Two years ago, Ani became a mother. For the first time, I felt shut out of her experience because I don’t think I want children. Would I be able to relate to her music in the same way?

Toshi Reagon opened for Ani by playing acoustic guitar and singing about mountaintops. She brought us to summits with her resounding voice. However, halfway through a song, she directly addressed some loud patrons by the bar at the back of the club. The interruption was slightly disconcerting for those of us who had been listening to her, yet it was powerful to see Reagon use this moment to talk about respect and community building. She left a lasting impression.

DiFranco’s first song was the classic “Anticipate.” Allison Miller was on drums, and Todd Sickafoose was on upright bass. They played from Red Letter Year, as well as older songs like “Dilate,” “Both Hands,” and “Every State Line.”

If you’re an Ani fan, you don’t need to know every song to get something out of them. “The little folk singer” tells stories in her lyrics about New Orleans, President Obama’s election, and women “connected to everything.” She also spoke about her daughter learning to say “cookie” and “book,” and noted that “some blame my happiness on the baby, but I think it’s my four year love.” This was the perfect introduction to “Present/Infant,” a song from the new album.

Ani is happy, but she stayed honest. No elixirs, no get-happy-quick schemes. She has changed, yet what is best about her hasn't. She is not done exploring and questioning the world around her. She is not done learning about herself.

We listened to sixteen songs during her main set, and three during an encore, so the concert ticket holds its value. But the value of this concert is worth more than money.

If it’s Ani, then you should be there.

Written by: Andrea Dulanto, March 31st 2009