I moved to Minneapolis back in August. Like any starry-eyed girl moving to the city, I had certain fantasies about what my new life would be like. One of my ideas was that, with access to the Minneapolis music scene, I would be going to a lot more concerts. Two factors made that more difficult than I expected. One, I’m an AmeriCorps member, so I can’t really afford to drop money for concert tickets any time I like. Two, my job is exhausting and often time-consuming.
Still, it’s not too hard to convince me to catch a show if the price is right. Even if I’m not familiar with the band or musician, I almost always enjoy live music. Once in college I drove my friend Amy to see the Shout Out Louds and wound up becoming a big fan of the opening band, Freelance Whales. So when my roommate Lisa invited me to see Anais Mitchell, a former member of Ani DiFranco’s record label, I figured I was bound to enjoy myself.
Anais was playing at 7th Street Entry, a smaller venue within First Avenue. I had never been there before, so I was excited to check it out. When it comes to 7th Street Entry, intimate is an understatement. There’s nothing separating the musical act from the audience except a low platform of a stage. You can tell people aren’t used to that level of closeness because the crowd gave the stage a wide berth at first. Cuddle Magic, the opening band with a comical name, actually asked everyone to take two steps forward. During the opener, I looked to my right and saw Anais herself standing near the wall. Intimate indeed.
Anais cites Ani DiFranco as her mentor, and I could definitely see that influence when she was onstage. Her songs are thoughtfully and beautifully written, the kind of songs that make fans feel an intense emotional connection. In other ways, though, she is very different from Ani. While Ani often has a boisterous stage presence, Anais seems to be a more soft-spoken performer. Her unique voice also resists comparison. As she sang, the word that came to my mind was “troubadour.”
Of course, there I was just feet away from a talented musician, and for once I hadn’t brought my camera. Not to be deterred, I managed to get a few decent shots with my phone camera.
I now consider myself a full-fledged Anais fan. If her beautiful songs weren’t enough, one moment at the concert solidified it. Midway through the set, her band left the stage so that she could play a few songs solo. She said if people had any requests, this was the time to say them. As if they had planned it, my roommate and the girl next to her yelled out, “Old-Fashioned Hat!” And play it she did. That’s quality, folks.