Ani DiFranco is a badass. Since early in her life she has chosen to be a leader against the conventional. At fifteen she legally chose to live on her own. At nineteen she began her own record label—Righteous Babe Records—in order to avoid the grasp of mainstream companies. And throughout her career, she has been at the forefront of multiple rallies fighting for women’s rights, encouraging people to vote, and just expressing what she truly believes. In short, DiFranco is not someone who can easily be ignored.
This showed true Sunday, October 13 at the Boulder Theater. A different type of excitement was in the air than you typically find at a Boulder show. You could tell someone special was in town. Someone who lives to inspire and empower the people she connects with. And as the sold out theater filled with people who had bought their tickets months in advance, an excited tension grew. Smiles were everywhere and intellectual chatter could be heard anywhere you sat. Many of these people had been waiting DiFranco’s return since her appearance last year.
But before they could get their release, the crowd would be graced by Toshi Reagon, a woman on DiFranco’s record label. I often feel as though openers for smaller shows aren’t given the same respect as the headliner of the night. The crowd is typically just a few people wondering around never paying attention. This wasn’t the case for Reagon. She walked on stage to a nearly full venue with people who were just as excited to watch her perform as they were to see DiFranco. Definitely for good reason. Reagon was a solo acoustic guitar act who had soul in her music. Her words were moving and the tone that emanated from her vocals made it clear that she put a lot of power and emotion into her writing. On top of that, she was incredibly funny.
After a quick break, DiFranco arrived on stage with an energy that took the whole room. Bouncing around and smiling from ear to hear, she, her bassist and her drummer jumped into her first song, Little Plastic Castle. She radiated charisma and power while simultaneously coming off goofy and funny in both her music and in the moments between playing. This remained true the entire show. Even in her songs that made the room a little heavier, the crowd was enlightened just by her presence.
DiFranco’s song writing evokes a lot of feelings from listeners. With her lyrics ranging from talking about politics to talking about love and the many things in between, each song was moving. But it wasn’t only her songs that inspired the people that night. I saw the evening as a combination of each of Difranco’s parts: lyrics, emotion, worldliness, and her true, no-bullshit self. Everything culminated to create an experience for the crowd that was more like being in a room with a close friend rather than an untouchable entity.
She closed the night out by inviting Reagon back on stage to perform “Who is She,” and “Which Side are You On?” Seeing both Reagon and DiFranco on stage together brought a new thrill to the crowd. Their voices and talents meshed perfectly and brought the night to a powerful close. Everyone left that night feeling satisfied—not because they got a night out drinking and dancing—but because they saw inspiring people who are touring the nation with a purpose.