My bestie Alexis went with me to see Indigo Girls in Port Townsend last night. I didn’t realize her experience with them was mostly from compilations* she grew up with and that she wasn’t yet a devoted fan.
I decided to write up what I think is a good guide to getting into the mountain of songs that Amy & Emily have available!
Of course this was the summer of Closer to Fine because of the Barbie movie, but there’s SO MUCH MORE to “the Girls” than just their top iconic hit. I love the artist joke “this is my closer to fine” in terms of their most noteworthy and iconic piece of art.
There have been upsetting times in my life where I went MAD like brain bonkers reality splitting grief and something like listening to Indigo Girls songs from A to Z or Joni Mitchell’s greatest hits cd were the only way I could feel soothed and drop into the present moment. I hope you can develop that kind of soothing joyful relationship to the Girls like I have.
You can do this in week by week order like someone with strong Virgo/Capricorn placements like me, or you could bounce around like a Gemini/Aquarius–your call.
First path to discovery I would suggest is listening to their 1995 live double CD 1200 Curfews (twelve hundred like the number of people at a show, not like twelve o’clock which is what I thought for YEARS). Some of the versions on that live album are my favorite recorded versions!
If you enjoyed your time with 1200 Curfews move into Staring Down the Brilliant Dream their 2010 live double cd. Then Indigo Girls Live with the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Pick out YOUR favs that are speaking to you, make a lil playlist for yourself!
I continue to have remorse for getting rid of my cd collection–the books for both of those double cds had the info on each performance. AND JONI ISN’T ON SPOTIFY ANYMORE.
Another route to discovering what Indigo Girls have for you is borrowing the framework of the Cohen Curriculum for getting into the Grateful Dead and do it song by song, listening to a few recorded and live versions of each song week by week!
Week One: Galileo, Power of Two, Get out the Map (Starting you off with powerful sing along songs! I would argue Get out the Map is the sister song for Power of Two. )
Week Two: Ghost, Mystery, Yield (I want to introduce you to the ways in which Emily & Amy have articulated my longing. Yield is also a great jam for them as multi-instrumentalists on Mandolin & guitar.)
Week Three: Watershed, Land of Canaan, Three County Highway
Week Four: Love’s Recovery, Ozilline, Chickenman (Pleeeeeeease don’t skip the live versions of Ozilline & Chickenman and if you feel inclined to interpretive dance during Chickenman I highly recommend giving into that impulse.)
Week Five: Least Complicated, Share the Moon, Howl at the Moon (Try howling for real at the moon when you hear it! There was a cute moment at the concert where the audience began to howl! I had hoped and tried to get it going for us to howl throughout the concert.)
Week Six: lt’s Alright, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Go (This week we are exploring Indigo Girls as overtly political songwriters. Amy & Emily have never stopped speaking truth to pseudo power and I have always admired and emulated that ethic in my work! I did a presentation and a paper for my Native American Feminism class on Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee when I was in college!)
Week Seven: Don’t Think Twice it’s Alright, Romeo & Juliet, Midnight Train to Georgia (This week we are diving into covers that I, respectfully, think are better than the originals at least for the first two. Midnight Train to GA is just another flavor of an excellent song. And a current puzzle I’m working on is whether Brandi Marie Carlile is on the 2010 recording of Don’t Think Twice.)
Week Eight: Amy Ray Solo Week!! Lucy Stoners, Blender, Stand and Deliver, Johnny Rottentail (this was hard to pick and there aren’t a ton of live versions unless you cruise you tube but her whole solo repertoire is fabulous on its own. Worth a deep dive into the entire solo discography, the earlier stuff is more punk the later stuff is more Americana.)
Week Nine: Listen to their entire Holly Happy Days album! The Hannukah song is a favorite and always shows up at Fat Kid Dance Party aerobics during the holidays! (Share the Moon always plays at class during Full Moons and big New Moons!)
Week Ten: Listen to their first album Strange Fire and then each subsequent album in order! Here’s the Indigo Girls discography from their own website. Sign up for their newsletter while you’re there. There’s truly no comparable medicine than singing along with Amy Elizabeth Ray and Emily Ann Sailers so if you get the chance to see them in person don’t pass it up!
I’m making a playlist with all the songs and various versions to make this easy for you (I’m clearly passionate about sharing what I love). I will link to it here when I’m done! PLEASE open your hearts and minds to loving Indigo Girls I think they will improve the quality of your life and how you process your feelings!
You know those recipes on the internet that tell you a long story before you can even get to the recipe? (I’m a fan of clicking “Jump to Recipe.”) On this recipe I tried to save the bulk of my personal narrative for the end of the piece.
I was introduced to Indigo Girls by my mom but also at Girl Scout camp. (A little bit nature a little bit nurture, like my queer root.) When I was a teen she and I fought a lot and when in the car having “compromise music” playing was key to vehicular harmony. Frequently it was an Indigo Girls cd.
The Barbie movie scene with the mom and tween daughter singing to Indigo Girls in the car was SO SPECIAL for me because it was me and my mom. Mom and I saw Barbie together on Saturday night and it was SO SPECIAL that she was also in the theater last night seeing Indigo Girls!
I’ve seen them more times than I can count but never enough. I went to a big show in an amphitheater in Philly and that made me feel committed to prioritizing only small venues for their music. I like seeing them outside, and last night getting to see them in a 900 person venue was SO SPECIAL. The intimacy of a small venue and their voices just really matters for my energetic experience of the music.
The first time I saw them was at 18 years old a the Greek theater in Berkeley, CA. My friends and I were SO LOUD and rowdy that the lesbians behind us were mad that we wouldn’t stop singing along. I like that Amy & Emily encourage singing along. Last night the guy next to me did not love them like I loved them and yet I didn’t allow it to dampen my enthusiasm. I did not get miracle free tickets to Indigo Girls to play it cool, I was SO EXCITED.
I also saw Amy Ray’s first solo tour in Philly at this crusty club with carpet on the floor and it was the perfect punk venue and life memory her touring with the Butchies! I spent my teens and twenties favoring Emily and her songs, then in my 30s and 40s thanks to her solo work am now favoring Amy but honestly both of them together are perfect harmony!!
I’m grateful for all the work they have put into their professional and personal relationship (they are not a couple) to be able to keep creating and performing. They confirmed on stage last night that they intend to write a new album.
I have a couple bucket list Indigo Girls experiences to come in this lifetime hopefully! Seeing them at Red Rocks Amphitheater and to get to revive the Lilith Fair as a Festival and have them play all three nights. And if Amy Ray ever plays the Grand Ol’ Opry again she’s one of just a few artists I’d love to see in that venue specifically.
*I’ve learned all about 103.7 The Mountain from Alexis who grew up in Washington and listened to their compilation cds!
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