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Ani's Army

Ani DiFranco
Group Leader: Ani DiFranco.

Dedicated fans embrace Ani DiFranco in Santa Cruz

By Cecily Barnes

Folk-rocker Ani DiFranco swept through Santa Cruz last Sunday night (Nov. 2), dragging fans from Santa Barbara to Santa Rosa in her wake. Many came without tickets, waiting out in front of the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium hoping to buy or trade for spare ducats.

Playing for 90 minutes with no break, DiFranco belted out songs about sexual abuse, menstruation, drug addiction, racism and homosexuality. The topics obviously resonated with the largely young female audience, which seemed ready to initiate an impromptu group-therapy session, going wild at lyrics such as "pay me for my beauty because I've been paying for it all my life" and "don't ask me why I'm crying."

But just before things got too heavy, DiFranco lightened the mood with some rock folk-tunes that sent the crowd into whirls, twirls and screams. Strumming furiously, DiFranco snapped a string on her electric guitar and cut short one song with the improvised lyrics "fuck, fuck, fuck." A quick trip offstage produced an acoustic replacement, which DiFranco casually tuned before picking up where she left off.

The entire evening had the feel of a girl's slumber party. DiFranco spoke to the crowd as if they were all close friends, cracking jokes, telling stories and teasing her band members. The packed house remained silent during DiFranco's soliloquies, howled after her songs and laughed at her jokes.

DiFranco's set covered everything from rock songs with a drummer and bassist to unaccompanied spoken poetry. For one song, the 26-year-old traded her guitar for a banjo and strummed up a pseudo-square dance. She deviated from her own music only once to pay tribute to Bob Dylan, with whom she toured earlier this year. The song, "Most of the Time," spoke in prose about feeling OK--most of the time. The inconclusiveness of the tune's message mirrored DiFranco's politically charged songs, which most often end more in questions than in solid positions.

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