Josh: So she is going and I am not. I went last time, got right up front there, with her (my wife) and with her (Ani DiFranco) and although it was probably because of the big ol’ beard I was sporting then, I got quite a bit of eye contact from the Righteous Babe. I’m sure she was as amused as I was; awash in the collective swooning that constitutes the front rows of her shows was some dude who looked like Snuffy Smith.
Melissa: I must admit I experienced an odd tightening in my chest when I caught Ani checking out my husband the last time she played in Missoula. That was my second time seeing her, and like the first time, I made my way to the stage to hold my ground, hoping to catch Ani’s eye myself. However, I was hidden in the shadow of her monitor, left to watch her watch Josh. I used to joke before we were married that the only other person I’d ever sleep with would be Ani. Really, it’s just a joke. I mean, it’s not like I’ve had an offer or anything. Still, it amazes me that anyone could turn down a ticket to Ani.
Josh: Well, yeah, I kinda wish I was going, but this time I don’t look like a caricature of a cartoon. Last time it was kinda fun to be right up there in front with this huge beard, just being such a man, you know? I remember irking a few chicks just by my very presence in that sacrosanct womb at the base of the stage. I mean, you gotta admit that some members of the Righteous Babe Army have their panties in a pretty tight bunch. Hell, didn’t Ani say something about that at that last Missoula show?
Melissa: No one ever said it was easy to ride wave after wave of the changing moods Ani’s albums (and yes, her fans) will put you through. Her moods change faster than her hair color, which is one of the many reasons to love her. The world teaches us to believe we are fine all day everyday, presenting ourselves as well-dressed little parcels of consistency, but that is simply not human, not natural. We have feelings whether we like it or not, and going to one Ani show will demand that each little emotion buried in our brains now step up and sing, transforming our bodies into a chorus of raw nerves. I guess Ani nailed this down best with her song her critics loved to hate, “I Am Not a Pretty Girl.” Of course, she is a pretty girl. But more than that. A pretty girl who will guide you through one emotional car wreck after another.
Josh: Yeah, it’s always been abundantly clear that as much as she’s a folkie, she’s a punk too. I wouldn’t say she does it just to shock, but she has the same look in her eye when she sings as the anarchist holding the molotov cocktail does. But I think that she’s been moving away from the very simple explanations of her ‘meaning’ (you know, all that pissed-off riot grrl, man-hating, post-feminist schtick) in the popular culture and is just touring, putting out, like, two records a year, and turning the music industry on its ear, by just getting out there and doing it. It’s quite an achievement but she just hasn’t turned my body into a “chorus of raw nerves” like she has for you.
Melissa: I got that feeling from you six months ago when we were sifting through our CD collection looking for music to play at our wedding. I held up Ani’s first album, recorded when she was just 18, and said, “I’ve got it! Let’s play ‘Both Hands.’” You smiled politely, then your eyes landed on a stray Beatles CD. “How about some Beatles? Our parents would really like that.” You were smooth with the let-down, treading lightly over dangerous territory. I later told someone this story, someone vaguely familiar with Ani’s music, and he said “‘Both Hands’ isn’t a love song.” I set my pint of beer hard on the bar for punctuation. “But it is. It is a love song.” I must have had that same “anarchist” look you ascribed to Ani. My friend slid off his bar stool and backed off toward the Keno machines, his hands offered up in surrender.
Josh: I’ve seen you in the throes of the Righteous Babe; I have seen that you get that wild-eyed look of purpose and determination that you see from Ani on stage. But that last show was like a class-action therapy session, with everything out there on the table, all the rage and dissatisfaction and unhappiness and loneliness and feisty courage and ultimately the big affirmation of the self. It just seemed really indulgent.
Melissa: I think we could write an entire thesis on the social conditioning that leads men to believe emotions are indulgent, and reserves matters of the heart for women, girl’s stuff. Whatever. I do plan indulging on April 3, the night of my fourth Ani show. I want to dance and sing and sweat and soak up as much of Ani as I can. Her shows are nothing short of a spiritual wake-up call. Which reminds me, baby, I’ll leave the pizza coupons by the phone. Don’t wait up.
Ani DiFranco plays the Adams Center Monday, April 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets $19. Call 1-888-MONTANA.