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ISSUE 118 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/1/2004

DiFranco, Cho campaign

By Saleha Erdmann
Contributing Writer
and Gloria MacWilliams-Brooks
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 1, 2004

"This country is too large and whoever's in charge had better take the elevator down and put more than change in our cup or else we & are coming & up." (from "Coming Up" by Ani DiFranco)

When Ani DiFranco's Vote Dammit tour stopped in Minneapolis on Sunday, it was greeted by a full house of enthusiastic fans ready to relearn the importance of their civic voting rights and experience two awe-inspiring performances.

While DiFranco's music is always politically charged, this tour, in particular has a strong political agenda.

As DiFranco's website states: 100,228,726 American citizens did not participate in the 2000 presidential election. Her goal is to inspire voters that have been missing-in-action to make their voices heard this November.

Armed with a slew of fellow activists, including Howard Dean, the Indigo Girls and Dennis Kucinich, DiFranco is trekking across 12 swing states in an effort to mobilize the Democratic vote.

In-your-face comedian Margaret Cho opened the three-hour concert at the University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium.

In fine form, Cho did not censor her candid and frequently profane critique of hot topics such as contemporary politics, Western media and Madonna's recent name change to Esther.

Cho focused on the crises facing Americans: the war on terror, the war on women's reproductive rights, the war on minorities and the war on gay rights.

Although Cho may be provocative and often downright raunchy, her comedic antics were based on a clear knowledge of recent legislation and current events.

In particular, she noted Congress' approval of a bill in April banning over-the-counter sale of morning-after pills for women.

The bill passed just one week after the historic March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C., where Cho and DiFranco's collaboration began.

Cho spent a substantial amount of time talking about the presidential campaigns, calling this race the "worst dick-fight in history."

Surprisingly, Cho spent relatively little time attacking President George W. Bush's character, although her dislike for him was unabashed -- "Bush hates women" -- and focused her criticism instead on his administration's policies. She also poked fun at Sen. John Kerry's likeness to an ent (the ancient, sloth-like tree creatures from "Lord of the Rings"), but her support for him was clear as she urged voters to put him in the White House.

The following 20-minute intermission featured a slide show on the history of voting rights in the United States.

Determined volunteers, armed with voter registration cards, scoured the audience for unregistered voters.

At long last, the legendary feminist folk-rocker Ani DiFranco entered in darkness with a powerful eruption on the acoustic guitar. As the lights came up, the sparsely decorated stage revealed Ani and a lone upright bass player, the unknown but phenomenal Todd Sickafoose.

As outstanding as her recordings are, they cannot convey what a truly incredible performer and musician DiFranco is.

Everything about her style is unapologetic -- honest, vulnerable lyrics, unpredictable rhythms and fierce guitar playing. She focused on much of her newer music, including several unreleased songs. The concert also revealed a return to her more acoustic and less layered sound.

DiFranco's music is a hybrid of rock, folk, blues and spoken word. Throughout her career her sound has ranged from the simple acoustic style of the early albums to the angry sporadic rock of "Not a Pretty Girl" and the jazz and hip-hop-infused "To the Teeth."

DiFranco's rhythms can be unpredictable and her guitar playing fierce, or she can be thoughtful and melodic.

Her lyrics are known for both their obscurity and honesty.

This lack of complex instrumentation allowed her to showcase her ability as a solo guitarist.

Most of the songs she played were slower, melodic and introspective -- perhaps reflecting the mood DiFranco herself was in.

However, her encore was a sing along to an old favorite, "Little Plastic Castles."

A powerhouse of stage presence, DiFranco was captivating as she called on voters to make their voices heard.

"We are the great unpolled!" she thundered in response to recent statistics that show Kerry narrowly trailing Bush. Cho had successfully energized the audience, and DiFranco channeled that energy to create a thoughtful, but undeniably intense mood that further rallied the audience behind a common cause.

DiFranco's passionate and poetic lyrics drove home the disturbing reality of the issues Cho had already highlighted.

The voting booths on Nov. 2 will be only a brief jog from your dorm room. So vote, dammit!

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