A Song You Can Play on an Instrument

“I Know This Bar” is one of my favorite Ani Difranco songs.  She didn’t play it out for years, and then it started to make appearances here and there about five years ago.  It’s tacked onto the end of her 1999 record “To The Teeth,” a quiet, slow, sweet little song about her hometown of Buffalo, NY.

I started playing guitar when I was about 13 or so–I don’t actually remember.  My dad bought me a guitar from an indoor flea market-type place, upon my requesting that he do so.  They had tried many times to get me to play piano–I don’t know why that was important to them.  I hated every second of it.  The guitar stuck–especially since I was, at the same time, obsessed with the Indigo Girls.  I had some of their songbooks, and my repertoire at the time was mostly songs from their first record, and later from Nomads*Indians*Saints.

When I turned 15, I started listening to Ani, after my friend Andrea ordered the cassette tape of “Out of Range” from the back of a magazine, unheard, just having seen the picture of Ani with her shaved head and nose ring.  (I think Andrea thought she was a bit like this inside at that point.)  I started learning Ani’s songs, and all the alternate tunings.  I can probably play 100 of them at this point.

I used to be better at playing music–before the writing took over.  That’s what it feels like.  That there is only so much room for a certain kind of skill, and–not to be presumtuous of me–but that’s where it is now, in the writing.  I no longer play for an hour a day, I no longer stretch myself to learn more difficult, more intricate, “bigger” songs.

Instead, I play songs like this, just for myself, in my office, at night, when the writing is going badly, or too slowly, or I just need another outlet for whatever I’m feeling.  Writing can be so cerebral, so far from the work of the hands.  It’s nice to have a little something to turn to that requires a different kind of movement.

So, here is, for the first time in the history of the world, me playing out in “public,” a song from Ani Difranco: I Know This Bar.


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