“It smells a lot like patchouli,” Sonya told me as we hunkered down to our seats, a little late. Ani DiFranco, new mom and feminist folk singing hero, was already slinking around the stage. I think she was singing “Napoleon” when we walked in, but I don’t know how much we missed.
I listened to Ani DiFranco so much as a teenager, I couldn’t believe I had never seen her before. I never imagined she was so kinetic on stage. Sonya told me she’d seen Ani about 10 years ago and this show was much more chill — something I found hard to believe.
Ani talked a lot about being a new mom, sang tunes crafted in labor about her new baby Petah (“you don’t want a labor where you’re able to write songs,” she quipped), told stories about her neighbors in Buffalo and how she felt at home in Milwaukee, being that it was a town that steel forgot.
The mostly female crowd lapped up every word, and cheered with gusto after every song, but it wasn’t until her last number, “Shy” that everyone stood up and stomped their feet and danced along. Ani laughed and said something like, “I feel like I went on a blind date and you date is all prim and proper until you both get drunk and you end up making out on the table.” (Honestly, I think it was more that the audience was so spellbound by her, or didn’t want to make too much noise and interfere with her show. I could definitely feel the love from everywhere, and I was sitting down towards the back.)
Melissa Ferrick, her opener, played the trumpet for the encore, “Little Plastic Castle,” and sang harmonies for the last song. Alas the show was over sooner than everyone would’ve liked. It’s hard to get your fill of Ani, I guess.
It got pretty emotional for me; she sang old favorites that I recognized and new ones that just made me cry. And I don’t mean little tears pricking the sides of my eyes. I mean I was almost all-out sobbing, just because she was so intense and funny and good. I love a lot of musicians but I rarely ever feel this welling up of emotion when the musician is playing right in front of me. I mean, I’m cooler than that. Right?
I was just kind of embarrassed because I wasn’t alone, yet at the same time, I felt like if I did bawl my eyes out, the chicks with shaved heads and dreadlocks would all understand.