“I don’t know what it is,” singer-songwriter and ’90s riot grrl Ani DiFranco told a packed-in crowd at The Depot on Saturday night, “But attendance has been down 30 percent everywhere on this fucking tour. But here you are,” her arms opened wide. “Finally we got to the right place.”
The energetic DiFranco wasted no time giving the crowd what they wanted, starting off with “Not a Pretty Girl,” and rolling through old and new songs. The stage was set with three large area rugs, and rather than behind her, the drummer was positioned on the stage to DiFranco’s direct right and the bassist to the left, giving the singer space to energetically leap forward and back, to skip and to lunge as needed throughout her songs—and she often took the entire width of the stage to do just that, smiling the whole time.
And Ani can play. A whole lot of acoustic guitars were on display last night—some dwarfing her tiny frame as she played.
She played “Untouchable Face” as the second song in the set, inviting the audience to sing along to the chorus with lyrics that include, “And fuck you for existing in the first place.” At the end, a smirk as she said, “It’s a love song.”
The crowd at The Depot skewed heavily female, but there were some men, including the one who stood in front of me most of the night—dancing harder than anyone else in the venue. He, I remarked to a friend, reminded me of the man who was in every one of my women’s studies classes, but only there to find a date. But it was clear the night belonged to the ladies in the house.
“We are indeed entering an age of feminism,” she told the crowd before asking if they’d seen the photo of high school athletes wearing shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Wild Feminist,” to drive home to a certain presidential candidate that “Denigrating women is not locker room talk.”
Later, “Here’s a song about reproductive freedom as a civil right, which is how I see it,” as the crowd cheered. And when encouraging the crowd to vote —she calls this the Vote Dammit Tour, after all—she said, “I really believe in this shit people… This democracy thing.”
For a woman who started her career by tapping into the angst and anger of young women in the ’90s, it seems that DiFranco has evolved. She’s gone from the rowdy friend you might have been uncomfortable introducing to your parents to, at the very least, an older-and-wiser sister who seems to know all of the secrets of the universe. She’s no longer angry. She’s calm and serene—even when the lyrics suggest otherwise. At no point was that more evident when she closed her set with these words, “ I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you have a terrific life.”
She then returned to the stage for a one-song encore, “32 Flavors,” a song that still, all these years later, captures the dichotomy of Ani DiFranco. And the rest of us.