Ani gets busy; rare Bird; ’dudes abide; legendary Lightfoot

Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco

Saturday, Sept. 15
Ani DiFranco is quite possibly the hardest-working woman in show business. In addition to touring and recording music, she runs her own record label (Righteous Babe), eschews any corporate sponsorship whatsoever and was recently awarded the “Women of Courage Award” by the National Organization for Women. Most often seen on stage alone with her guitar, this fall she embarks on tour with old friend Todd Sickafoose on bass, Allison Miller on drums and Mike Dillon on vibraphone and percussion.

“I haven’t had a band, per se, in a few years, so it’ll be really exciting,” DiFranco says. “It frees me up to have other people playing, and it’s inspiring to share music. Todd is a musical hero of mine. Mike D. has got such great energy, and he’s such a great spirit and brings a great vibe to the show. And my relationship with Allison is brand new, we just did one little tour together so far. It’ll be exciting for me to see how we all relate to each other.”

As for the old stuff, DiFranco is set to release Canon, a two-disc career retrospective, on Sept. 11. With more than 17 years of songs to pick from, compiling the album was a challenge.
“It was a very intuitive process,” she says. “It was a radical distillation from 19 records to two, a brief little synopsis of the journey. I wanted the album to run chronologically, so that made it even more difficult because I wanted the Canon record to have a flow.”

DiFranco doesn’t stop there, either. Her first book of poetry, titled “Verses,” will also be released on Sept. 11, the same day she kicks off her fall tour at Babeville, an old 19th-century church she turned into a 21st-century arts center. DiFranco has come a long way from the “little folk singer” of her youth.

“My life is really different now than it was when I started writing poems and songs, so there’s a much different story to tell. I’m still an activist, but my activism has mutated,” she says. “In my speech and in my work, an environmental consciousness is blooming. That’s becoming more a part of what I engage people about. I’m renovating buildings instead of marching on D.C. My community involvement is changing, as is my day-to-day life.”

DiFranco resides in New Orleans and was lucky to make it through Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed. As we know, many were not so fortunate. “The struggle is definitely not over for a lot of people. The city is half-populated to this day,” she says. “And then the lucky ones that have some semblance of a home left, that are trying to rebuild their lives, that maybe had some insurance, are now battling insurance companies that are just so corrupt and fraudulent and screwing people as hard as they can. It’s difficult to see people continuing to struggle with this event.”

In the midst of all this activity, DiFranco has also been blessed by the birth of her first child, Petah Lucia.
“Having a kid, you know, is a radical, radical change. And I think what that spells for me mostly is a little more time off the road, a little more balance in my life. Maybe there will be a newfound peace and serenity in my work.”

Maybe. For the time being, though, the show must go on. Ani DiFranco performs Saturday with her new band at the Palace Theatre (625 S. Fourth St., 583-4555). Showtime is 8 p.m., and tickets are $32.

Tuesday, Sept. 18

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird

Unconventional multi-instrumentalist and lyrical alchemist Andrew Bird is flying high on the critical success of his latest album, Armchair Aprocrypha. Looping instruments such as violin, guitar, whistling, glockenspiel, mandolin or any other instrument lying around, Bird stirs up a dark yet playful tapestry of apocalyptic pop music. Virtuosic in numerous styles and genres, he credits the Suzuki method for developing his sharp ear.

“To this day, I don’t have any need to read music or write it down. It really bugs me when people claim that music is math, because it’s everything that math can’t give you,” Bird says. “No matter how complex the music gets, I think it’s always better to cut out the middle man and just play. I have a very immediate connection between my instrument and what’s in my head.”

Although he’s classically trained, Bird approaches his live performances with a devil-may-care flair, relying more on improvisation rather than formula.
“I put more value in one solo show than I do in a whole record, just as far as the importance of it,” he says. “The value of the live experience, it’s honest. Something happens as soon as I step on stage. Even though I’ve been playing for years, I like to not know what’s gonna happen.”

Experience what happens on stage with Andrew Bird on Tuesday at the Brown Theatre (315 W. Broadway, 562-0100). Showtime is 8 p.m., and tickets are $22.

Thursday, Sept. 13

The Subdudes bring their funky blend of Cajun-spiced rock, R&B, gospel and folk to Louisville in support of their highly acclaimed and spirituous Street Symphony. Formed in New Orleans in the late ’80s, The Subdudes crafted their unique sound around sublime vocal harmonies and loose instrumentation, pounding out their rhythms on a tambourine instead of a drum kit.

Written in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Street Symphony embodies the soul of a community striving to triumph over tragedy. Come help The Subdudes revive the spirit of New Orleans Thursday at Coyote’s (133 W. Liberty, 589-3866). Showtime is 8:30 p.m., and tickets range from $12-$16 (plus a $5 surcharge for ages 18-20).

Across town the very same night, seminal folk musician Gordon Lightfoot performs songs spanning his illustrious career. For more than 40 years, Lightfoot’s songs have been covered by the likes of Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Tony Rice, to name but a few. His style has influenced generations of artists, from Jimmy Buffett to Beck. Witness the living legend when Lightfoot takes the stage at the Palace Theatre (625 S. Fourth St., 583-4555). Showtime is 8 p.m., and tickets range from $42.50-$52.50.

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