Noticing How Bad Things Really Are

Brianna Riplinger

For all of us bleeding-heart-liberal college students who have been in a blurry haze of depression, frustration and rage for the past few weeks sparked by Sen. Paul Wellstone’s death and prolonged by the Republican bloodbath on Election Day, there’s still hope and comfort in jubilant and thoughtful folk music. Dry your tears; Ani DiFranco is coming to town. Beat-poet, shrewd entrepreneur, funk-punk-folk goddess, furious guitar-playing madwoman, and vocal powerhouse, DiFranco is an inspiration and a welcome reminder that political, poetic music is still as relevant as ever.

Seas of timidly ambitious performers vie for major-label attention and radio-air play, but DiFranco trumps them all. She jumpstarted her very own record label, Righteous Babe Records and has made plenty of well-deserved dough because of it. As for radio play, DiFranco proved you really don’t need it to amass a devoted following. As a shameless, confident self-promoter who tours constantly and sells albums out of a van (in the early days, at least), she has maintained popularity while singing boldly about the evils of the government, media and the recording industry.

Just check out the reading of the song/poem/declaration “Self Evident” from her latest double album, So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter. She calls President George W. Bush a “prep school punk” (as well as “not the president”) and makes “a toast” to abortion doctors who “daily provide women with a choice /who stand down a threat the size of Oklahoma City /just to listen to a young woman’s voice,” as well as “all the folks on death row right now /awaiting the executioner’s guillotine.”

If you’re going Friday night, here’s what to expect: cheering after every reference to overcoming love lost, every fierce growl, every girlish giggle, every silly mistake, every offhand comment about the tyranny of Clear Channel and every other little endearing remark or musical statement that is characteristically “Ani.”

And, for the first time in eight years DiFranco won’t have the big band treatment on this tour. To the relief of some of her fans, and the disappointment to others, she will be going solo: just Ani, her jolty guitar and her angry, joyful, pretty, brilliant songs.

Ani DiFranco, 8 p.m., Friday, Northrop Auditorium, (612) 624-2345