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Jam Central Station 9.28.13: Ani Difranco - 9.22.13 - House of Blues- Cleveland, OH
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 09.28.2013

Hey everyone! Hope you're having a great weekend. We have another MuckeBuck gig out at Nelsons Ledges, beautiful weekend to be playing outdoors. Hope you enjoy it!

When I first saw Ani Difranco live in 2009, I knew she had the reputation of being a great storyteller and a very interactive performer. I also knew that her lyrics were very politically charged and she wore her ideals on her sleeve. What I wasn't prepared for was how she attacked her guitar and threw herself into each and every song. Ani proved to me at that show to be a truly genuine artist, putting all of herself out there for her fans and saying exactly what was on her mind. After getting more familiar with her catalog and her musical personality and style, I became more and more impressed with her both as a person and as a performer.

It's in part because of the very high esteem that I hold Ani Difranco in that I wasn't disappointed in her recent show at the House of Blues in Cleveland. I'm going to say right off the bat that the show did not highlight many of my favorite Ani songs, instead focusing very heavily on newer and lesser-known material, including several brand new unreleased songs. However, it's very clear that Ani is an artist that does what she wants to do and feels comfortable doing at any given time, and the tradeoff for that genuineness in her music and her live performance is the fact that you can't go into an Ani Difranco show expecting to hear a list of your favorite songs. You're going to get what she feels like playing and what she feels comfortable with at that time. And, no matter what, you know that it's truly coming from her heart and soul.

The show actually opened up with one of my favorite songs, the charged-up anthem "Fuel." The live version was a little slower and a little darker than the already weighty original, and it still contained all of the power that she's known for. Her attacking guitar style was well in place, and the crowd loved having her open with a favorite. After that very forceful opening, however, came an hour of primarily new, non-political, very "zen" songs. As I said before, I don't have a problem with Ani being Ani, it's a big part of why I enjoy her so much. However, it was surprising that she would choose to open the show with such an aggressive song and follow it up with a lengthy overview of music that doesn't fit with "Fuel." She followed "Fuel" with the unreleased and very lightly played "Lifeboat." She mentioned early in the show that this was her 3rd show after a year off the road, and it was quickly obvious where her focus was. "Splinter" off of her 2012 album ¿Which Side Are You On? was next, followed by the brand-new song "Genie."

Even when she was pulling from older material, much of the set stuck to similar themes and a more laid-back style. "Two Little Girls" and "Coming Up" were nice ways to move into some older stuff, although neither is a song that's going to "pop" the crowd the way some other songs would. When I see a show and the artist focuses the night on songs that I'm familiar with, I do my best to gauge crowd reaction. The unfortunate fact is that, through the bulk of the set, none of the songs got a significant crowd reaction. I don't think that it's because the crowd didn't enjoy the new songs, or the more recent songs like "J" or "Splinter," (I certainly enjoyed them all), just that they aren't the songs that her fans relate to as strongly. Also, when it comes to her new material, I think folks mainly wanted to really listen to and digest the new songs, especially lyrically. While that shows a strong interest from her fans, it also doesn't allow the same type of live energy or crowd participation that I've seen at her concerts in the past.

With the crowd truly itching for a song to sing along with, Ani finally reached back into her catalog and pulled out the very well-known "Untouchable Face." It was a great choice, mixing emotion and some humor, and really bringing the crowd back into the show. She followed that up with a very exciting version of "Shameless" before a very short encore break. The encore consisted of another pair of well-known songs, starting with "Gravel" and closing with the more mellow "Overlap." All four of these songs showed her storytelling side, and it's a side that I think the audience can easily relate to. From the unrequited infatuation of "Untouchable Face," the dysfunctional relationship of "Gravel" and the touching and romantic "Overlap," Ani ended the show with songs that opened up her personal life for full view, and the topics were very universal.

This wasn't the concert that I went into the night hoping for. But that doesn't mean it was a bad concert or that I didn't enjoy myself. I was a little upset that it was a relatively short show but that would be my only real complaint. The performance was great, even if the song selection was, in my opinion, skewed. I think most of the audience would've also preferred a better mix of songs, but Ani has earned her creative license to do what she wants to do, and she has the trust of her fans to do it. The only other thing that I didn't understand was leading with "Fuel" before going into a decidedly non-"Fuel" set, but, again, she has the freedom to do what she wants to do. I'll certainly make it a priority to see Ani again, and I'll be open to whatever she's in the mood to play that day.

Phish return to MSG for NYE
Once again Phish will be playing at Madison Square Garden for New Years Eve. The band will perform a 4 night run from December 28-31 at the historic venue. Online ticket requests will end on October 7.

Tim Alexander returns to Primus
Primus has announced that drummer Tim Alexander will be returning to the band while Jay Lane will be leaving to return to RatDog with Bob Weir. Alexander most recently drummed with the band in 2010, leaving before Primus recorded their most recent album. The band is planning on returning to the studio to record their first album with this lineup since the mid 90's.

Gov't Mule announce New Years run
Gov't Mule will be heading to the Beacon Theatre for a two night New Years run. The band will perform at the venue on December 30 and 31, and will precede that run with a pair of shows in Philadelphia on December 27-28.

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds announce a pair of dates
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds will play a pair of acoustic gigs in January in New Orleans. The duo will be at the Saenger Theatre on January 15 and 16. These are currently the only announced US dates in 2014 for Dave or DMB.

City Bisco
September 27-28, 2013
The Mann Center
Philadelphia PA
Performers include: The Disco Biscuits, big Boi, Method Man & Redman, Shpongle, Emancipator, and many others.

September 27-29
Bouckaert Farm
Chattahoochee Hills, GA

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
October 4-6, 2013
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
Performers include: The String Cheese Incident, Bonnie Raitt, G. Love & Special Sauce, Trampled by Turtles, Devil Makes Three, Gogol Bordello, Steve Martin & Steep Canyon Rangers, and many others.

Austin City Limits
October 4-6, 2013
October 11-13, 2013

The Festy Experience
October 10-13, 2013
Devil's Backbone Brewing Company
Charlottesville, VA
Performers include: The Infamous Stringdusters, jj Grey & Mofro, John Scofield Uberjam, Marco Benevento, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, and many others

Harvest Festival
October 17-19, 2013
Mulberry Mountain
Ozark, AR
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Railroad Earth, Beats Antique, JJ Grey & MOFRO, Greensky Bluegrass, Hot Buttered Rum with Allie Kral, Elephant Revival, and many others.

Hangtown Halloween Ball
October 25-27, 2013
Placerville, CA
Railroad Earth will host the event and perform three shows. Other performers include: Matisyahu, Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Lotus, Greensky Bluegrass, Elephant Revival, Marco Benevento, and many others.

October 31-November 2, 2013
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Performers include: 3 nights of String Cheese Incident, STS9, Big Gigantic, Emancipator, Conspirator, Steve Kimock & Friends, Future Rock, and many others.

Robello Cruise
November 1-5, 2013
Sailing out of Miami, FL
Performers include: Michael Franti & Spearhead, G. Love & Special Sauce, State Radio, Rebelution, Trevor Hall, and many others

Bear Creek Music Festival
November 14-17, 2013
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: The Roots, Bootsy Collins, Galactic, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Lettuce, The New Mastersounds, Zach Deputy, Toubab Krewe, The Motet, Break Science, and many others.

Strings & Sol
December 11-15, 2013
Puerto Morales, Mexico
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Keller & The McCoury's, and Greensky Bluegrass

Mayan Holidaze
December 16-20, 2013
Puerto Morales, Mexico
The event will feature three shows each from Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits, and STS9, and will also feature Big Gigantic, Papadosio, Cherub, Orchard Lounge, and DrFameus.

Earth Night
December 20-21, 2013
Papadosio will headline both nights. Other artists include: Ott & The All Seeing I, Hundred Waters, Shigeto, and The Main Squeeze.

Jam Cruise
January 4-9, 2014
Miami, FL
Performers include: Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Bootsy Collins, Galactic, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Keller Williams, Galactic, and many others.

One Big Holiday
January 26-30, 2014
Riviera Maya, Mexico
My Morning Jacket will be performing 4 nights at this event.

International Incident
February 19-23
Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Performers include: Multiple shows from the String Cheese Incident, EOTO< Kyle Holingsworth Band, The Motet, and Prophet Massive.

Jam in the Sand
February 28-March 4, 2014
Negril, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra will host the event. Other performers to be announced.

Panic en la Playa tres
March 17-21, 2014
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Widespread Panic will perform four shows during the event.

Suwannee Springfest
March 20-23, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Southern Soul Assembly, Donna the Buffalo, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others

Wanee Festival
April 10-12, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL

June 12-15, 2014
Manchester, TN

Thanks again for stopping by. I'll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!


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