Despite zero major-label connections and near-zero airplay--not to mention torrential pre-show downpours at Wolf Trap Monday night--fiercely independent singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco had the seats and the lawn packed.
DiFranco was a compelling, sometimes frantic figure on stage, breathlessly barreling her way through the more up-tempo material.
Her band--drummer Daren Hahn, bassist Jason Mercer and keyboardist/accordionist Julie Wolf--had no trouble keeping up, handling material ranging from the ornery folk-rock of "Shameless," the funky backbeats of "Fuel" and "Letter to a John" and the gentle pop of "Angry Anymore."
At times, DiFranco's band sounded like a more politically aware, less improvisational version of the Dave Matthews Band.
The political consciousness surfaced in two new songs: "Hello Birmingham," a calm, quietly outraged lament about abortion-clinic violence, and a stunning anti-gun screed that closed the show.
The one big disappointment of the evening? No onstage collaborations between DiFranco and her opener, Maceo Parker.
At least Parker, James Brown's longtime saxophonist, had plenty of time--almost as much as DiFranco's 100-minute performance--to work out on some funk, jazz and hip-hop jams that fit perfectly with the evening's swampy weather.