In the past couple of years, Russo has stumbled upon a new legion of fans. On the house-concert circuit, gays and lesbians invite complete strangers into their homes to hear regional artists, such as Russo, perform in suburban living rooms. She brings her song-and-storytelling act to town on Saturday for the Tirabassi-Kin concert series. In a laid-back setting, Russo emphasizes her lyrics over the music. "Working in a bar, I get the noise and energy," says Russo. "They hear the music, but they don't get the stories. This way, I get to bring it down to a more personal level and let the audience get wrapped up in my story."
Russo's musical voyage began in September 1986 when, dressed like a page, she played Celtic tunes on guitar, mandolin, and the Irish bodhran drum at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in her native Minneapolis. Roaming the grounds as a wandering minstrel, Russo thought her 16th-century garb fit her sexual orientation. "If you're not wearing tights and a tunic, you're wearing those big hoop skirts and a lot of velvet," she says. "In late summer in Minnesota, it gets pretty darn hot. I chose the tights and tunic. In doing so, I've felt like I've grown up as a tomboy."
A tomboy with a blue-dyed coif, to boot. Until she released her third solo CD, Stoic Abandon, earlier this year, Russo sported a punk hairdo to go along with her alt-rock repertoire. "People saw this girl with blue hair and an acoustic guitar, and they wondered, 'What the hell is she going to pull out of her ass?'" she laughs. "I really enjoy twisting people's heads."