Ani DiFranco has been synonymous with women’s music since her humble beginnings as a Buffalo, NY street busker in the late ‘80s.
Although other singer/songwriters like Cris Williamson, Holly Near and Meg Christensen had been more explicit in their love songs about other women a decade before, DiFranco’s usage of female pronouns in her poetic, finger-picking folk-pop songs made her a new queer icon for Generation X: a celebrated out and proud bisexual whose love of tank tops, tattoos, and androgynous hairstyles gave her the kind of cool edge queer women were looking for. And her tragic songs about broken relationships, or being forced into ill-fitting boxes, rang true with an angsty generation, fitting neatly along the lines of riot grrrls and alternative rock bands with outspoken front women.
Now 47, happily married to her husband of eight years, with 20 albums under her consistently large belt and a successful indie record label in Righteous Babe, DiFranco is somewhat removed from the nostalgia of the decade where she debuted her first albums -- including 1998’s Little Plastic Castle, which was her highest charting release to date, peaking at 22 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
She released her 20th studio album, Binary, over the summer, and is now preparing for Babefest, her all-women’s music showcase happening in Provincetown on October 8th during the city’s annual Women’s Week celebration. DiFranco will be joined by poet Andrea Gibson, and performers Rae Sanni and Gracie and Rachel, as well as hosting an activism component in conjunction with Care2, which will feature three panelists who will “provide a step-by-step guide to grassroots organizing focusing on using local activism to make a difference in your city.”
DiFranco’s music has always been political, with song lyrics about gun control, racism, and sexism factoring heavily into her repertoire, so fans have come to not only expect a marriage of activism and music from her, but to embrace it. There’s no real separation of her playing and her personal politics, which is something DiFranco admits can be daunting at times. She spoke with Billboard about putting together a women-focused festival in today’s hyper-patriarchal climate, and how she feels about ‘90s nostalgia. Read more via Billboard