On Sunday I had the great privilege of seeing Ani DiFranco perform live at the Batschkapp in Frankfurt am Main. Batschkapp is a small venue in Frankfurt, several underground stations north from the pedestrian zone Zeil. It’s easy to find and so I was there early to linger around in front of the entrance for about 15 minutes before they let us in. The mix of people outside was diverse and yet, seeing them I knew this was an Ani DiFranco crowd. I stood alone by the side, trying to blend in somehow. They let us enter a little after 6pm. I left my jacket at the cloakroom and walked inside without any bags, which saved me the trouble of having to be searched. I went to stand over at the stage, but after a while I reconsidered and decided to check out the merch table first. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that it’s better to buy your merch BEFORE the show rather than after, because it’s empty then and you can pick whatever you like. However, it would’ve meant either carrying the stuff around or going back to the cloak room to leave it there. So I just checked what they had, made sure they were stocked well and eventually walked back over to the stage. It was still nowhere near crowded and I found a nice spot on the right end of the stage. This is where I remained for the next four hours or so.
The opening acts were Anaïs Mitchell and Hamell on Trial. Anaïs Mitchell was more than convincing. I had listened to her on her website and on NPR before, I only just thought her songs were nice and that was it. However, seeing her perform made me appreciate her music more, as she has a great presence on stage, or so I thought. Also, I have a weakness for foreigners that speak German, and she spoke German beyond “Guten Tag” and “Wiener Schnitzel”, which made me appreciate her even more. She performed a solid set of songs mostly from her CD The Brightness: Your Fonder Heart, Of A Friday Night, Namesake, Shenadoah, Hades & Persephon. At one point, she suddenly stood on one leg, still playing and singing – it turned out her guitar strap had become loose. Tech guy #1 tried to fix it, but failed and walked away, but tech guy #2 helped her out. She raised her leg again afterwards and said: “That was not part of the show.” I like how she just played on despite the technical difficulties. Her voice was lovely and she talked about German wine (which she liked) and left way too soon.
Next up was Hamell on Trial, who made jokes about putting Wiener Schnitzel in his shoes. He also talked about his son Detroit, and in what I imagine to be a well-rehearsed bit complained about people laughing at his kid’s name, saying “Gustav” wasn’t much better. He played his guitar loudly, played some angry songs and spit all over the microphone. As opening acts go, he was quite alright, but for me personally, his music didn’t do much.
Once he left, Ani DiFranco finally took to the stage. I couldn’t help but think: “Wow, I thought she’d be taller.” Sharing the stage with her were Allison Miller, Todd Sickafoose and Mike Dillon, and they made for a great combination.
Ani started off the set with Shy, and then continued with a great blend of older songs and newer songs. See the setlist above. I was excited to hear gems like Back Back Back and Names and Dates and Times, and of course everybody loves You Had Time and Napoleon. She talked about German things she likes: the graveyard she saw, German beds, bedding, bread, beer and soup, and she talked about how excited she was about the upcoming elections in the US. Before playing Emancipated Minor she talked about having had a baby almost two years ago, and how her baby had told her that song. She also talked about how Landing Gear was written while she was in labor, and how she had given birth at home, since she was an old-fashioned girl. She did NOT play Gravel as an encore (unless I passed out from excitment and forgot all about it) and she didn’t play Alla This either, but if my memory serves me right, she played Every State Line and Everest to end the show after we had clapped long enough to make her come back out.
The evening ended, I bought a number of CDs, including both Anaïs Mitchell CDs of which I had her sign one. I listened to them already and I can only recommend them, much more I can recommend seeing her live. I didn’t get to meet Ani, but I wouldn’t have know what to tell her anyway. except for: “You know, I really like what you do.” She likes to hear that, she said. I certainly would’ve meant it.
For those of you who care, I have a very low-quality version of Ani playing Way Tight at that concert. It’s a nice reminder of the concert, I find, especially since she messed the song up at one part, and it’s a hilarious mess-up indeed. It only makes the song more special. Enjoy!