Weekender

Ani DiFranco uses her voice in election season

Ani DiFranco’s “Vote Dammit!” tour urges people to get out and vote.
Ani DiFranco’s “Vote Dammit!” tour urges people to get out and vote. Photo provided

Even after nearly three decades in the music business, alternative rock legend Ani DiFranco said she still finds motivation from live audiences.

“I continue to find inspiration in live performance,” DiFranco said. “The unique energy of a gathering of people united together under common ideals or whatever it is — it’s very inspiring.”

On Saturday, DiFranco will look for that inspiration in State College when she performs at The State Theatre with her “Vote Dammit!” tour. The tour is meant to inspire people to become more politically active and is scheduled to run through the entire election.

If every eligible voter in our society went out and voted, I think we would live in a much better world. And, with this tour, we’re trying to spread that message as best we can.

Ani DiFranco

“ ‘The ‘Vote Dammit!’ tour is a resurrection of something we did back in 2000 when it was (George) W. (Bush),” DiFranco said. “And then we did it again in 2004. This is about making sure that people exercise their right to vote; it’s about democracy. Democracy only works when people let their voice be heard. If every eligible voter in our society went out and voted, I think we would live in a much better world. And, with this tour, we’re trying to spread that message as best we can.”

The alternative rocker has been labeled many times throughout her career. She’s drawn comparisons to several artists over the years, sometimes even called “the female punk rock Bob Dylan.”

“It used to bother me to be classified like that,” DiFranco said. “To be the ‘female’ this or that — why did it have to be about gender? ... But now, I own it. Our culture is both male and female at the center.”

DiFranco has never been the typical pop musician. From her early days on the festival circuit to today, she said she’s often misconstrued.

“It’s funny — people really didn’t know what to make of me when they met me,” she said. “One thing almost every dude who booked the gigs would say when I got to the shows: ‘you’re shorter than I thought you’d be.’ I show up and I’m this short, smiling and joking type person. They never knew what to think of me. I was out there ‘shaved-headed’ and shouting about things, and then people would meet me and be taken aback that I was pretty friendly.”

When she’s not on the road or urging people to get out and vote, DiFranco finds herself answering to a different name: Mom.

“I have two kids, so that takes up pretty much all of my other time,” she said. “They don’t really like it when I play guitar or sing, which is a bummer. But, it’s also brought a nice kind of balance to my life. But yeah, now when I’m on tour, I’ll finish up a show then go to my dressing room and play guitar until they kick me out! I get to be creative, and have my little thoughts. I’m happy to get that time to myself.”

DiFranco’s musical journey started at a young age.

“It all started when I was 9 years old, and I wanted to play guitar,” she said. “There was a local folk musician who kind of took me in and was a mentor to me. He actually took me around to shows and showed how you do folk music and what it is. So, I pursued that.”

The singer’s latest release, “Allergic to Water,” came out in November 2014. Over her career, DiFranco has released more than 20 studio albums and dozens of live recordings, as well as compilation records. The show promises to be an inspiring affair full of great music and palpable, emotional performances.

“It’s been a great honor to be able to speak to so many people through what I do and what I say,” she said.

While she has made numerous contributions to the history of music, especially alternative rock music, DiFranco is not concerned with what her legacy will be.

“As far as my legacy goes, I’m not going to worry about it,” she said. “Worrying about it or trying to define it could make it harder to write or express myself. I want to drop the noise, drop the expectations and write from my spleen.”

DiFranco promises the show will be something special for everyone in attendance. Singer-songwriter Chastity Brown is the opening act.

“I’ll take me out of the equation. Even if I totally suck, the show will still be a gathering of love and support and positivity,” she said. “There will be freaking awesome musicians bringing that energy, and I think people will find joy in sharing that common experience.”

While the show is sold out, The State Theatre is offering a waitlist for patrons to add their names in case tickets become available. For more information, contact The State Theatre at 272-0606, noon-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. After the show, ticket holders are welcome to stay for “After Hours” in The Attic featuring local musician Hannah Bingman.

IF YOU GO

  • What: Ani DiFranco
  • When: 8 p.m. June 25
  • Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
  • Info: www.thestatetheatre .org
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