I was newly sixteen the first time I heard the Indigo Girls. My friend played me “Closer to Fine” and it caught my interest. I listened to that song about ten times in a row; I kept rewinding the tape and replaying it. Once, I took longer than usual to start rewinding, and the second song came on, “Secure Yourself.” I liked that one too. I followed this one-by-one pattern until I got to the fifth song, “Blood and Fire.” That song cut through me like no other had before (and probably since—once I played it six hours in a row after being rejected by a girl I had been pining for. My roommates loved that!). I got my first acoustic guitar that same week. I was off on the journey that is the Indigo Girls.
I am a huge fan of theirs. I know everything about them; I have all their records; I have been to over twenty shows. I used to joke about majoring in the Indigo Girls when I was in college. I still buy their new releases the day they come out. Any song I listen to takes me back to a certain time period in my life—they have really been the soundtrack to my life and a huge influence on my own music. So, of course, when I heard they were coming through San Francisco, I bought a ticket—and yes, I was online the second they went on sale.
The day of the show, I decided to do it old-school and get in line early. I showed up at the Fillmore as soon as I got off work, around 5:30, with the doors opening at eight. There were about thirty or forty people who had gotten there before me. The Indigo Girls have rabid, loyal fans. They sell out nearly every show and everyone wants to get as close as possible to the stage. I was happy that I was that close to the front of the line. I knew I could make it work for me.
The doors finally opened and I rushed to the front of the stage. I was in luck—I got a place right up front. My hand could touch the edge of the stage and my hero, Amy Ray, would be less than ten feet away from me. Score!
Getting through the opener is usually a chore for me, but I was really impressed and moved by their opener, Brandi Carlile. She has been an Indigo Girls’ fan since her teens and she was obviously stoked to be on tour with them. She is very talented, has a great voice, and talked like a regular person. I was just like you, she told us. I was in the audience waiting for the opening act to be over so I could see the Indigo Girls and I was singing every song, she mused. She was living the dream of every single girl in that audience—to be on stage with the Indigo Girls, singing a third-part harmony. Able to put my stinging jealousy aside, I honestly enjoyed her performance. I have since gotten both her records and I feel like I have found treasure—there haven’t been many bands over the years that note the Indigo Girls as an influence, but you can tell it in Brandi’s songs. Check out the song, “Follow”—yummy …
Finally, around 10 p.m., the Girls took the stage. It was just the two of them and about fifteen guitars and other stringed instruments. I was so close to them, I could see every facial expression, every movement of their fingers, every emotion they experienced. I saw the childlike excitement and pure joy Amy Ray experiences onstage. I could see the years of practicing and focusing on technique in the way Emily formed her words. I could see that they were touched by the intimacy of their connection with the audience. (The girl right next to me got a healthy helping of Amy Ray’s spit during the show—I didn’t need my experience to be that intimate.)
I said before that I have been to many of the Girls’ shows—but there is always something new and rejuvenating about each. This tour is in support of their 2006 album, Despite Our Differences, but since they have already been on tour for over a year, they didn’t feel inclined to play all the songs from the album. This is gold for Indigo Girls fans because that means they dip into their huge catalog and sing songs from their whole career, which to me feels like a stroll down memory lane—my college days, a summer romance, a difficult breakup, a rafting trip with friends—my whole adult life is underscored by their music.
I was in for a treat. That night, I heard many songs I had never heard in concert and others I hadn’t heard in years. Even without a band, their harmonies fill the room, warm and resounding. They have been singing together for over twenty years now and it’s evident—they are so different, yet compliment each other so perfectly, really, it’s magic. They implicitly trust each other and know each other so well, they can concentrate on their own performance and really let themselves go. It’s very inspiring to watch. Honestly, I am getting goosebumps now just writing about it. God, I’m a dork.
Indigo Girls fans are good singers. It’s amazing to be in a sea of women (mostly) singing two-part harmony, in tune—with every word, every nuance right on target. In nearly every lesbian relationship, one woman is Amy and the other is Emily; road trips are spent listening to every record, belting out each song in perfect harmony. Sometimes I get a little annoyed that I’ve come to hear the Girls sing and end up hearing the audience more, but this night was different. The audience waited for the Girls to prompt them to sing and left the rest of the singing to the professionals. On the ballads, it was so quiet and everyone was listening so respectfully and intently, even the Girls were moved. Many times they thanked the audience just for listening.
It was obvious the Girls love the Bay Area (mostly because they kept saying they did). The Fillmore is pretty cool. It was neat for me to see all the young girls who reminded me so much of myself when I was in college, flipping out just to be in the same room as the Girls. I felt so lucky that my favorite band was still making music nearly twenty years since I first heard them. The show just gained more and more momentum—honestly, it was the most energy I had ever felt at a show, and I have been to a lot of shows featuring amazing performers. The Girls looked much the same as they had ten years ago; they were energetic and happy to be doing what they were doing. Their encore? Six more songs, people—that never happens.
When the show was over, I missed my twenty-year-old legs as I hobbled to the bus stop. I didn’t get home until after midnight and I was hating the next day at work. But I still feel enveloped in the glow from that night, and it’s weeks later.
The Indigo Girls, who recently signed on with Hollywood Records, have a contract for at least three more albums, which is music to my ears. They aren’t going anywhere—and neither am I.
If you are interested in listening to the Indigo Girls, I would recommend the albums below first. They are my favorite and very representative of their talent and unique place in the music world.
Rites of Passage
All That We Let In