Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The waters are warm for those just now deciding that they want to try on their issue-oriented, politically minded pants, to see if they fit right in all the right spots. It's ripe for folks to just drop the jaws and chatter their way to the moon and back about things that they wouldn't have dared to not all that long ago - the pundit is in all of the masses. It's a fashionable time to have a cause, to have an opinion about sub-prime mortgage predicaments, the magically shrinking effect of the U.S. dollar, the withering sense of security, the abundant lack of foresight of a government dedicated to taking this country backward a couple decades, the nothingness that universal human rights and freedoms have the occasion to be viewed - as they pertain to certain people and groups - and a presidential election that is being rammed down our throats as the most pivotal of all-time.
We're talking about a time when Star Trek's George Takei married his long-time partner in California over the weekend, thanks to some about-time-gay-rights-legislation in Sir Arnold's state. We're talking about a time when you can hear of junior high and elementary school students consciously thinking about carbon footprints and emissions, when there is awareness of the planet as a living (or dying thing) before people are accepting their own mortalities. It's planet first, issues first and self-serving second for more people now than at any other time in history. All of this is very fresh and green. Then we get to thinking about Ani DiFranco. She has been busying herself with these very same thoughts in different models and guises for quite some time, giving them their own fingerprints, while putting hers all over them.
The woman - who turns 38 years old this Tuesday, a Virgo tried and true - has identified herself as a feminist and scrappy marshal for the sorts of injustices and liberties that are deemed imperative and essentially birthrights and has, in turn, been identified as an iconic feminist by everyone and their sister for nearly the last 20 years. She is legendary for fighting for the things she believes in with her silvery, acoustic streams of piping hot emotions that get the raging rapids treatment - for fighting for the exact way to differentiate poetically between true love and less than true love. She is a patriot. When she was performing here in Davenport this summer, she stood at the microphone at center stage of the gorgeous Capitol Theatre and rocked back and forth through a spoken word piece.
She looked like Sugar Ray Leonard of Floyd Maywether, in baggy parachute pants that had straps of cloth slapping against her legs as she moved, poking at the air for effect and passing out declarations of admiration for the ribbons of prairie and the purple mountain majesties of this country that have no connections to the lobbyists and the opportunists that she calls out as dirty players. She looked as if she had stars in her eyes - in spite of the disgust that has been caused by all of the donkeys - and she was there, speaking as the strong, opinionated, woman of passion that everyone's always known her to be.
She speaks the way that she sings - with conviction and emphasis. She plays her poor guitar as if she was chasing something down, racing her hands across the strings like a devil on a time crunch, getting as much done in as short of an amount of time as possible. It's a rushing terror that translates into a sense of impending immediacy - as if tomorrow isn't necessarily a guarantee and even if it's coming, there's almost a promise that it's going to reveal a loss of some of the warm feelings that you've grown to appreciate and accumulate. DiFranco is a smiling and snarling proponent for equality that everyone can enjoy and for long-lasting good days that involve holding whatever hand (whatever child, whatever person) you find you cherish most, hoping that it cherishes you the same amount. She'd love to just throw up a piece sign and hope that it translates. She's been trying for a long time now. It's the devotion of an icon.