We went down to the Crystal Ballroom to hear Ani Difranco play tonight. Ani is one of the few people who are actually worth all the crap you have to put up with to try to get close to the stage at an all ages, standing room only show. Despite arriving only 30 minutes before the doors opened (our friend who was hugging the stage was there at 4:00pm), we got a pretty decent spot only about five feet away from the stage.
Then there were the tall people to deal with, who don't seem to feel any guilt at all about towering in front of everyone when they could see perfectly well over our heads if they stepped to the side a few feet. I think there should be affirmative action for short people at concerts. (There was one guy who apparently spent the whole show on his knees---chivalry is not dead! Ani was astonished when he finally stood up during the encore and she personally invited him to dance along to the next tune).
Before the opener, we sat on the floor and Jess and I shared earphones and listened to upbeat Ani favorites on my Ipod. Just before the show started I went to the bathroom and Jess was hard pressed to 'save my spot' but I wiggled my way back in. Then she decided to buy a T-shirt. For all the Ani shows we've both been to over the years, neither one of us owns a single Ani shirt. She went off through the crowd and I assumed a variation of triangle pose to keep her space open. Attitude is at least as important as positioning when trying to keep your space in a crowd and I gave off all the no-nonsense 'immovable object' vibes I could muster.
The opening act was a poet named Judy Grann (?) and Animal (formerly of Bitch and Animal). I have never liked an opener at an Ani show, but they were less bad than others I've seen, and mercifully brief.
As soon as the crew came out to set the stage, the crowd started it's relentless forward press. I had my little back pack with me and I stuffed my coat, water bottle and everything else I had in it, making a nice little round personal space bubble behind me that was invaluable for the rest of the evening.
Finally Ani came out. It's the first time in a while that I've seen her with a full band (drums, xylophone, upright base). She didn't beat around the bush, but got right too it, starting out with an old favorite. For the next 90 minutes, she played her guts out. She was in a great mood and she loves Portland. "Portland, you give good day off," she said of hanging out yesterday. Her energy was electric and by the end, I felt she'd left her blood, bones and muscle in a puddle on the stage. I could tell she was getting tired, but she never slacked off.
The only low point was during the encore when some woman suddenly appeared in front of us and proceeded to throw herself around as if she were the only person in the room. She must have known she was wrong because she at least had the grace to scrunch down so as not to block our view. Eventually I moved to stand next to her with Jess behind me but we continued to have to fight and give her the constant elbow to have any space. Things came to a head when the POIG* she was with suddenly surged in front of me to get back to her, pushing the woman in front of me pretty hard. They started posturing and shoving back and forth as if they were actually stupid enough to break out into a fight during 32 Flavors. I ignored them as much as possible, but it's people like them that make me wish I carried a few poison darts in my bag.
No matter how annoying the crowd though, the show is always worth it--even when I don't end up on stage.
We never did find out what was up with the gorilla.
*Person of Indeterminate Gender