Monday, June 09, 2014

I Do Know I've Had Mine

On a warm, summer Lafayette, favorite group from Georgia... do I have the makings of a song here, or what? (No?!)  While Brian may thrill to be back in these United States for the sportsing (and sports cat-ting) and the friends and the burgers and beer and the movies and the bachelor parties, I have one thing above all else that makes me happy to be here and that is MY GIRLS (the Indigo ones). 'Cause they just don't tour overseas like they used to. (And they really did used to, back on Epic's dime, touring Europe with R.E.M., and hitting up Australia more than once, and even doing a little Singapore and Malaysia once (which, I die! I remember reading, a decade ago, Amy and Emily's own pre-ubiquitous-social-media-days e-newsletter-type notes about Singapore and its fascinating blend of cultures and all the cool stuff they saw playing those places! and now I've been there! and also, can you IMAGINE if I had been living in Guangzhou and Indigo Girls had a show in Kuala Lumpur?! and I could have flown in for it OH MY GOD!)

OK, but I digress already. The point is, I am in the U.S. and that means I can go to Indigo Girls concerts, and last night I did. And it was a good 'un. 

Let's do the numbers...
Years I've been listening to Indigo Girls: 25 (um, ohmygodwe'reold)
Number of their concerts I've been to: I always lose count. Between 25 and 30.
Number of states in which I've seen them peform: 11 
Number of times the performance was Jesus Christ Superstar featuring Emily as Mary Magdalene and Amy in the Jesus part, along with a cast of other Atlanta area musicians: 1 
Number of people I've dragged persuaded to accompany me to IG concerts: at least 24
Number of times I've hung out by the tour bus to meet the Girls/get an autograph (so lame): 1
Number of times the Sony rep who covered my Borders store took me with her to the in-the-line-of-her-duty pre-show VIP backstage meet-and-greet with contest winners so that I could say hi to Amy and Emily despite my having won no contest at all: 1
Number of times I've dreamed that I meet them backstage again and they remember me/we're friends and I have to wake up and remind myself that isn't really true: at least 3
Number of times I've purchased Rites of Passage on cassette: around 4 because I kept wearing it out listening to "Love Will Come to You" and "Virginia Woolf" and "Nashville" over and over and over
Number of times I've purchased Rites of Passage on CD: 2 because when I had finally moved on to discs I found myself on the road to Austin one day but with \no copy of it in the car!!!! to listen to "Chickenman" and that had to be rectified
Number of times I've heard them play "Nashville" live: still zero.  Such a fail. 

Let's do some firsts: 
First exposure: in 1989, a pen-pal (whose name I don't remember, but who had excellent taste in music) used to tape copies of her music and send them to me, and she sent me a homemade copy of Strange Fire. Don't worry, it was eventually purchased for legit moneymaking real by me, on cassette and CD, maybe even multiple times (see also: Rites of Passage, above)
First time I spent my own money on them: the next year, through Columbia House Record & Tape Club, obvio, whose magazine had this way of making you think every album ever had two or three tracks that should be "known," as if anyone seeing the Nomads Indians Saints listing in the monthly catalogue would be all, Oh, right, the one with "Southland in the Springtime" on it.
First time I saw them in concert: 1994, Mesa Amphitheatre
First time I discovered the altogether overwhelming world of Lifeblood, Indigo Girls fan groups, and the deeply knowledgeable (you might say: obsessed) fan base and received an onslaught of newsletter back issues, videos of interviews, bootleg concert tapes, and random tidbits such that to this day my mom can answer the FAQs How'd they meet? Where'd they get their name? etc.: 1995

So, how was last night's show, you ask? 

Well, it was good. Am I capable of giving an unbiased review of an Indigo Girls show? Actually, I am. What fun would my thirty (or nearly thirty, I really have lost count, there are some venues I've seen them in where I'm like, did I see them there twice or three times?) shows be if I couldn't compare them and rank them and pick out the best ones?  Yesterday's was fun. The Long Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Lafayette, IN (across the river from Purdue--hey, family institution!) is a pretty small venue, maybe the smallest I've seen them in (how many people do Cape Cod Melody Tent and House of Blues hold?)  and it wasn't full. This is something that makes me think back to 1995, actually, when I started delving into Indigo fan world. As someone who lived in Phoenix at that time and had seen them live once and waited eagerly for them to return to Arizona, I was pretty jealous of all these fans in the South who had seen them play dozens of times all over Georgia and the Carolinas and even claimed to have heard them before they were on a major label at Atlanta's Little 5 Points pub...and when I joined the IRC (!) Indigo Girls discussion group and people posted about how they'd seen them in tiny venues with twenty people in the audience and I was sitting waaaay back on the amphitheatre hill in general admission lawn seating, I don't think I even knew if they'd still be performing twenty years later (there was a quote in an interview from one of them about not being able to imagine "still doing this" when they were 30 or 40...ha ha ha ha ha ha, ahhh, youth) let alone could I have ever pictured the backside of the wave that would eventually, inevitably crest and see them go from Epic back to smaller labels and independent releases. Meanwhile, the entire music industry has changed in the last two decades as well. So there's that. 

But where was I? Ah yes, Lafayette. I had no preparation or expectations (i.e., I haven't been following reviews or set lists from this tour posted online) but I did worry that it might be late-album heavy, because I've been a slacker while living abroad about listening religiously to their last couple. However, the concert was actually pretty mid-career heavy, which is greatly to my liking. "Closer to Fine" (encore) was the only early-early song, and there were three from Rites of Passage including "Virginia Woolf" which I just love so much, and by the way that reminds me that also I bought the  Rites of Passage CD for Michael Cunningham--long story--I am the hugest of dorks--OK, what else? the obligatory "Power of Two," "Get Out the Map" and "Shame On You," a totally rocking "Go," both "Leaving" and "Devotion" (in succession, even!), "Yield," "Fill It Up Again," and "Dairy Queen," and one or two tracks from each of the last three albums ("Three County Highway" made me happy; I had been thinking about it on my drive down along the little Indiana highway passing through three or so counties) and "Duane Allman," a song from Amy's solo country album. AND: they're totes doing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" for a second-encore-song end to the show, which is great because these are band shows and they have the awesome Lyris Hung on violin, so it's perf. 

There was a little dancing. There was a little obnoxious loud-talking from a drunk gal behind us (but only a little. I've had worse drunk Indigo Girls concertmates in the past.) There was fun banter, notably about Meijer (from the opener, Hannah Thomas, who, by the way, can she please totally play me in the movie of my life?) and about Lafayette breakfast places and  about Maleficent. The crowd was a mix of ages (really - I saw gray hair and 'tweens) but overall I will say that it was more thirtysomething and up (like, sometimes two decades up) than college-age. It's interesting to think about how many people discovered Indigo Girls music in high school and college, during the heyday of the alterna/Athens, Georgia/indie college radio/pre-grunge days, when Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman and Melissa Etheridge had mega-hits, when environmentalism was a statement and not a dying plea from a melting Earth (well, it kind of was then, too, but we hadn't seen The Day After Tomorrow yet; we just talked about chlorofluorocarbons), when nobody was paying attention to Afghanistan but in the lobby of an Indigo Girls show among the activist organizations you'd find RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, and now we're all, well, not twenty years old anymore. 

Last night I realized how consistently for the last three decades Indigo Girls have been just ahead of the zeitgeist. Goddamn trendsetters, I tell you! Besides the aforementioned RAWA and the fact that Indigo Girls introduced thousands of us to Winona La Duke during the mid-1990s, all the Kids Today probably didn't even know how to read when Shaming of the Sun came out, with "It's All Right" ("You hate me 'cause I'm different/ You hate me 'cause I'm gay / Truth of the matter'll come around one day...") and "Shame on You" ("We've been looking for illegal immigrants / Can we check your car? / I said, 'You know, it's funny, I think we were on the same boat / back in 1694...")  

I also enjoyed remembering how much this music speaks to me, personally. Like, last night I needed to hear "Dairy Queen."  Did I know that I needed to hear "Dairy Queen"? No, I did not. Do I like "Dairy Queen"? Obviously. But did I realize it was the song that was going to equip me psychologically with my life in its current state of transition? No! But the universe did! Or Indigo Girls did! Or something! 

Is my tongue firmly planted in my cheek about all this?  "You know me," Emily sings, "I take everything so seriously..." and I relate, I do, and I always have, but she also sings, "The best thing you've ever done for me/ Is to help me take my life less seriously" (those are two different songs), and even though I spend time in Korea and Thailand and China not listening to my music collection, and feeling removed from so many back-home things, and not seeing them in concert, and being aware that nothing is the same for you in your late thirties as it is in your late teens, it turns out that there's never a bad time to go see an Indigo Girls concert and just remember what I'm all about. It's not something I can explain to everyone, and it's not something I want to share with everyone. In fact, I don't even really talk about how and what I feel when I see them or listen to them. (That's why I write endlessly jabbering blog posts like this about going to the concert instead, that don't actually really say anything.) I once read that psychology studies have shown the music you discover in your early to mid teens is what will most profoundly affect you forever. Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, R.E.M., a few others are in there....and the Girls. My decades-long Indigo Girls music experience is personal and it will always be something that no one can touch. And they have made me alive to my inner self, my artistic self, my truest self, in ways that nothing else does (academics? too impersonal. religion? ha!)  I wouldn't bother explaining it to anyone if I could -- and to think that anyone beyond a very select few that I've attended concerts with (you know who you are) would even dare to think they could try to understand and know what lies in this Indigo Girls fan's heart is just silliness, really. 

But, "enough to hold."
"And the last one sings in meeeeeeeeeee....."

*This concludes a totally self-indulgent blog entry that you don't need to worry if you don't understand; you'd get it if you were meant to.*

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