Tag Archives: Ani DiFranco

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Come On, Get Happy with Ani DiFranco at Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 17th, 2014

Ani DiFranco – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 14, 2014

(Photo: Charles Waldorf)

(Photo: Charles Waldorf)

One word that kept popping up during Ani DiFranco’s set at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night was happy. Whether it was her performance of “Happy All the Time” or her anecdote about an early MTV appearance when Kurt Loder described her as “alarmingly happy,” there was no mistaking the word’s presence in the room. But even her most casual fans know that in DiFranco’s universe words have meaning, have consequence. So while happy made its presence felt, happiness itself, that most sought after of emotions, was in overabundance from the moment DiFranco took the stage. By the time she played the first notes of the show-opening “Not a Pretty Girl,” singing, “I ain’t no damsel in distress,” the audience was drowning in unadulterated joy: screaming, singing, dancing, shouting and, of course, smiling.

DiFranco has that effect on people, and while her own smile was positively beatific, she seemed used to such a reaction. Watching her perform, it’s little surprise that DiFranco pours more emotion and energy into a single chord of her acoustic guitar and wrings more rhythm and soul out of a phrase-turning lyric than you would think is possible. Even her between-song banter was the stuff of Zen poetry: her apologies for new material to come after the old “lulls you into a false sense of security,” and an anecdote about her daughter’s favorite “mommy song” (“Rainy Parade”), and the description of taking a very old song, “Itch,” and turning it into something new. While the old numbers elicited the most enthusiasm from the audience, it’s saying something that some of the best moments came from the new stuff. And there was plenty, whether a generous helping from her new album, Allergic to Water, or the song she wrote a couple of weeks ago or the one that she was working on the previous evening that may or may not be finished, DiFranco proved herself to be dense with songs that are dense with musical ideas and notes and imagery.

As always with DiFranco, part of her show’s magic was the chemistry of the band: Todd Sickafoose on bass, Terence Higgins on drums, and about half the set with Jenny Scheinman on violin and backing vocals. The group was part folk-rock band, part country ensemble, part jazz quartet. The portions with Scheinman (who played an excellent solo opening set) were arguably the strongest, her kindred-spirit playing and singing providing valuable, dimension-expanding counterpoint to DiFranco’s frantic musicianship. The four of them performing “Tis of Thee” was chills-inducing good, a happy-making highlight in a show alarmingly full of them. —A. Stein | twitter.com/neddyo

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Ani DiFranco Brings New Music to Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 12th, 2014

As a supremely talented singer, songwriter, guitarist, poet, label head, entrepreneur, activist and all around D.I.Y. queen, Ani DiFranco has been making her own music on her own terms for nearly twenty-five years. During that time, she’s covered a variety of musical genres, including punk, blues, folk, jazz and electronic-tinged rock. Her 18th studio album, Allergic to Water (stream it below)—recorded while she was pregnant in her adopted hometown of New Orleans—came out last week on DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. The Guardian calls it “funny and furiously energetic.” And AllMusic says, “DiFranco’s mix, for all its space and texture, is one of tasteful restraint. It allows melodic and rhythmic invention to shine through, underscoring the skill in her composing and the quality of the instrumental performances. In a catalog that contains over 20 studio albums, Allergic to Water is exemplary for its craft.” Out on tour, DiFranco (above, performing “Allergic to Water”) plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night. Jenny Scheinman, who played the violin and provided backing vocals on Allergic to Water, opens the show.

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Anaïs Mitchell: Heaven to Hades in 90 Minutes

December 4th, 2012

Anaïs Mitchell – The Bowery Ballroom – December 3, 2012


Anais Mitchell began her 90-minute show at The Bowery Ballroom last night with an a cappella hymn, she and her bandmates singing gospel in a heavenly, monklike three-part harmony. It was utterly beautiful: a transcendent moment kicking off a show full of them. The hymn melted perfectly into “Dyin’ Day,” off Mitchell’s newest album, Young Man in America, her voice mixing with banjo, her sound a puree of Ani DiFranco, Neko Case and Lucinda Williams at the cusp of electric and acoustic. It was like if the sweet girl next door was filled with dark intensity.

Mitchell’s onstage presence was a generous one, sharing the limelight with her excellent backing band, sharing the stage with multiple appearances by the horn players from the opening act, Cuddle Magic, and sharing her emotions with the audience through her music. While her voice and delicate touch on the acoustic guitar could have carried the entire show on their own, she let the band stretch out, pausing between verses as banjo, Rhodes piano and bass stirred cinematic, bringing life to powerful imagery of her lyrics. The set leaned heavily on material from the album, with “Annmarie” and the title track becoming long, sweeping narratives. She explained that “Shepherd” is based on a book by her novelist father (whose face appears on her album’s cover). It is a chill-inducing song, haunting and beautiful and heartbreaking, and it was played to full chill-inducing effect, the crowd stunned into silence by its power.

Scattered throughout, punctuating the new material were more of those moments like the opening hymn. Mitchell paired in duo form with drummer-banjo player-everyman Ben Davis for a brand new tune, revealing a perfect, existential love song. Another track had her singing with keyboard-guitar player Rachel Ries, a tune off the Country E.P. Later the band extended their chops and showed they could handle a pop hook with a great cover of Robyn’s “Hang with Me.” The show closed with a swinging version of “You Are Forgiven,” Mitchell’s voice once again elevating and inviting. The encore perfectly displayed her two sides: starting with “Tailor”—strong, honest and emotional. Then the horns returned, the lights went to a dark red and the band played a deep, thoughtful “Why We Build the Wall,” off Mitchell’s Hadestown concept album. It wasn’t your typical uplifting show closer, but it was honest and felt complete. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

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Ani DiFranco – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 16, 2012

November 19th, 2012

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

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Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Ani DiFranco on 11/16

November 13th, 2012

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Talented singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco has been a fan favorite for years, which probably explains why her shows sell out so quickly whenever she plays New York City—and Friday at Music Hall of Williamsburg is no different. Fortunately, The House List is giving away two tickets. So if you don’t already have any, but would still like to go, now’s your chance: Try to Grow a Pair of tickets. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Ani DiFranco, 11/6) and a brief message explaining how you dealt with Hurricane Sandy. Eddie Bruiser, who didn’t have power at home or at work, will notify the winner by Friday.

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A True Original

June 20th, 2012

Ani DiFranco – The Bowery Ballroom – June 19, 2012


When you go see a band at a club, usually the differences between the casual fans and the hard-core ones are shades of gray. But when Ani DiFranco plays to a sold-out Bowery Ballroom, the difference between the two is like ones and zeros with the former enjoying a top-notch live performance of superlatively realized music and the latter experiencing a transcendental moment, part rally, part therapy session, part sing-along, part poetry slam. There were plenty of moments for all comers last night as DiFranco, paired with drummer Allison Miller, showed why she is the rare breed with nothing to sell but herself and her music, a genre unto itself.

The show opened strongly with “Done Wrong” and “Untouchable Face”—which sent the woman behind me into gleeful hysterics (“This is awesome, right off the bat!”) and forced DiFranco to admit that her cheeks hurt, smiling so much at some combination of the audience, her playing and the interaction between the two. The disconnect was obvious: She’s singing an angry “fuck you!” and yet straining her facial muscles to contain her joy, which sums up the set in a moment. When she sang, “I can do a lot of things … and I do,” the crowd loved it for the lyricism and also because it was true. By the third song, “Napoleon,” Miller made her presence felt, beautifully setting the tone for the great interplay between her drumming and DiFranco’s guitar all night long. She brought an intensity to a minimalism, playing as little as necessary but making every sound count.

While the music was superb, the set was more than just a string of great material (with any missed or botched verses immediately caught by the audience). The banter in between songs was the rambling of a woman with much to say and no fear in saying it, including a rant on “restoring anarchy to New York City,” a long, rhythmic poem that wonderfully balanced anger and inspiration, and a hilarious anecdote about the time she met and played with Prince. New stuff appeared (although DiFranco did say, “The minute you feel like you need to play something off your new record is the moment you sold out”), with “J” being the highlight. The show ended as strongly as it began, with opener Melissa Ferrick joining the duo for a rendition of Bill Withers’ “Who is He (And What Is He to You)” and an everyone-sing-with-us “Which Side Are You On?” As if she needed to ask! —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com

Contest

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Ani DiFranco on 11/18

November 15th, 2011

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You know her, you love her and since Ani DiFranco is playing Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday, the show is already sold out. But if you didn’t act fast enough and would still like to go, you do have another chance because The House List is giving away two tickets. So try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Ani DiFranco, 11/18) and a brief message explaining why you deserve a free night out on Friday. Eddie Bruiser, who would genuinely like to know your reason, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.

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