Thursday, March 04, 2010

Anthem Ani

It took me until I was 45 years old to see any shows at the legendary 930 Club in DC, but in the past six months I have seen two very different acts play the same stage. Here is my side-by-side comparison.

Gaslight Anthem
October 22, 2009
Ani DiFranco
March 2, 2010
Blurry Cell Phone Pictureimg296

Ani DiFranco 2


Gaslight Anthem is punk band with strong Jersey Rock roots. They hit my radar screen when I saw a YouTube clip of Bruce Springsteen guesting with them. If they have The Boss's seal of approval, I have to check them out. Ani DiFranco is the patron saint of DIY feminist folk rock singers. I've wanted to see her in concert for years because Living In Clip is one of the greatest live albums ever recorded.
Opening Act

There were three other bands on the bill: The Measure, The Loved Ones, and Murder by Death. All of which were very good in their own way. The Loved Ones were the best band, but Murder By Death had some great songs.
Ani runs her own record label, Righteous Babe, so she brought along Erin McKeown who seems like a very interesting performer in her own right, but came off a little as Ani-lite. She did do a hilarious folk version of 'Single Ladies'.
Stage Presence

Brian Fallon is a very charismatic front man. He has got all those rock star moves and a flash of his neo-greaser smile just lights up the stage. The full sleeve ink and the 50s era crew cuts just scream Punk That Know Their Roots. Ani is both self-effacing and earnest at the same time. Fumbling after her opening number she said "At least I got my stage patter going for me."

Stage Show

Clean straight ahead rock and roll. The 930 Club is not the place for flashy pyrotechnics.Lots of crowd interaction. The audience loves her and is very vocal about it, which seems to embarrass Ani just a bit.
Audience Demographic

I was nowhere near hip enough to be in this audience. Everybody was at least ten to twenty years younger than I was and dressed in denim and tee shorts from whatever show they had seen last week. I had come straight from work and still had on khakis and a button down oxford shirt. I bought a Gaslight Anthem tee at the concession and went back to my car just to change into it so I wouldn't stick out worse than I did.

I kept trying to gauge how much of the audience was male. Ten percent might be a tad low. Twenty percent would be way high. Like Melissa Etheridge shows, this makes the bathroom waiting line very short. At least for me. Agewise, it ran the gamut. The lesbian couple standing next to me that nuzzled the whole show were nearly my age, but it was still a young crowd.

Crowd Demeanor

Pretty rowdy. For the first band, a mosh pit broke out for a brief time. I had gotten there real early and worked my way to within four people of the stage, but by the end of the show the crush from people behind me was making it hard to breathe.

Respectful. I was also about six people from the stage, but the crowd gave everybody plenty of personal space. Groups ahead of me kept sending out forays of people for beer or bathroom breaks and they all were able to work their way back to their spots.

Amusing AnecdoteIn the talking part of the show, Brian tells about getting some famous local tattoo artists to come to the hotel to give him some new ink on his leg. So he apologized in advance if any bandages or blood got knocked into the audience. It's amazing there was any place left on his body to tatt up.

The whole show was goofy and low key with a lot of stage patter. Ani got the biggest 'Awwws' from saying that she had been apart from her baby for a few days and had been writing up a storm.
Tap On My Shoulder

Just before Gaslight Anthem took the stage I got tapped on my shoulder. It was a guy I knew from an Internet group who is about my age but has much better taste in music. He is a 930 Club regular and had seen a couple of the other bands before.
There were big "No Cameras, No Audio Recording, No Videotaping" signs taped up at the entrance. The girl ahead of me had a tiny digital camera in her purse that got confiscated. I waited until near the end of the show to pull out my Flip camera and was recording Ani's big pre-encore folk song closing number (available on YouTube from a different show here) when a beefy security bouncer tapped me on the shoulder. He stood there while he watched me erase what I had recorded.
Show LengthThe Gaslight Anthem set was just a little over an hour, but each of the opening acts had gotten 20-30 minutes so the show didn't let out until after midnight.
Ani only played a little over 90 minutes which surprised me since she has such a reputation for being a great live gig. I guess it's quality not quantity.

Noticeable Omissions
None. Gaslight Anthem only has two albums so they pretty much played everything they have ever recorded plus a cover or two.

Ani is prolific to the point of self-parody. She has never had an unrecorded thought, so there will always be something missed. I was surprised that she omitted her biggest 'hit' "32 Flavors". I would have liked to have heard "In Or Out" or "Letter To A John" but the songs she did play, even the stuff I had never heard, were all uniformly good.

VerdictGaslight Anthem has unique blend of energy and talent that can energize the punk crowd but the lyrics are full of clever allusions that can appeal to a classic rocker like me. This group deserves a big break-out hit so that I can say "I saw them when..."

After missing her year after year, perhaps my expectations were too high. While I was a bit disappointed with the length of the show, several days later her songs are still buzzing through my brain. After all, as she sang at the show:

"If you're not getting happier as you get older, then you're fucking up."

As I mentioned above, security for AV equipment was very tight, but since cellphones are ubiquitous, there is only so much they can stop. Here is a brand new song she played that as best I can Google is a world exclusive to me:

From the setlist that I took a photo of, I believe the song is called "Zoo". The video is a little dark, but the sound quality is amazingly good for a Droid being held over my head. I posted the clip on YouTube to not much fanfare and it already has over 150 views. That's hardly going viral, but it shows she has a fan base out there.


Gwyn said...

Hey, is that -bc- ?

yellojkt said...

Yup. He's the chief hipster of the boodle.

The Baltimore Chop said...

There's not much that can get us down to 930 these days, but that Gaslight Anthem lineup would have had us right up front. They're one of the best bands in the US right now, no question.