June 12, 2013 by Julia
I flew out to Chicago this weekend to see the Indigo Girls in concert Sunday night with my oft-mentioned-here friend Sarah – woo-hoo! Just to make it that much sweeter, we decided we could use a massage at the spa beforehand. After the massages, we had deep-dish pizza. In between all that stuff, we watched episodes of Kitchen Chef, sat out on her fire escape and watched the neighbors, and walked by the lake. It was a two-day getaway.
I felt the need to justify my getaway to everyone I mentioned it to. “Yes, I know Sarah was just here for a fun visit three weeks ago, but the Indigo Girls are playing near her, and we’ve NEVER seen them before! We’ve been listening to them since we were fifteen! They’ve provided the soundtrack to our road trips, our preparation of summer feasts, our camping and our work and our play! I know, I know, it is more than most mamas get to do. Believe me, I know! I have it too good! Go ahead and raise your pitchforks, bedraggled mamas, and I will let you poke me with them (gently).”
I didn’t really say all that, but it’s what I was thinking. I just want people to know that I know it’s extravagant, that I wouldn’t normally take two weekends for myself within a month-long period. The Indigo Girls concert (with my oldest friend and fellow fervent fan Sarah) was my reason and my excuse.
And…as a responsible mother of young children, do you know how awesome it feels to sometimes be spontaneous? Every once in a while, I like to do things that are verging on unreasonable. I like to feel young, footloose and fancy free, even if that means forgetting to pack my phone charger, deodorant, allergy medicine, and only one book to read on the plane, rather than my usual two for backup. I took some delight in forgetting these things. Because it was just me who had to deal with it, and I could deal. Who gives a frick? No one wears deodorant at an Indigo Girls concert, anyway.
Sarah and I made lots of guesses beforehand about what the demographic would be, lots of jokes about needing two hours to get ready and putting on black stilettos for the occasion. (For the record, we took fifteen minutes to get ready, I wore flip-flops, and we ended up drenched in sweat from running frantically in circles trying to find the staircase to our train before it departed.) Now, the Indigo Girls, Amy and Emily, are a singer-songwriter duo who have been making crunchy granola music with guitars and gorgeous harmonies and lovely, brilliant, articulate lyrics that might as well be poetry since the mid-to-late eighties, with a little airplay here and there (their biggest hit was “Least Complicated” in the mid-nineties), and what we assumed was a cult following, whom we’d never seen. Amy and Emily are also gay (but never a couple) and are now forty-nine and fifty, respectively. So would their following be middle-aged? Higher than average percentage of gay people? Hipsters? Hippie-ish? Ladies who lunch? 90’s Style Grunge-y? Dorky? Cool? Entirely female?
Turns out there were quite an impressive array of types. Our faith in humanity was restored. We are not the only ones who love the Indigo Girls! Old people do, young people do, gay people do, straight people do (I’m on a roll, here), male people do, dorky people do, cool people do, women who look altogether too fashionable and pulled-together to know the lyrics do, husbands who want to keep their wives happy do, parents with their young kids do, embarrassingly drunk ladies on a girls’ night out do, white-haired little old ladies wearing cardigans do…record scratch!!!?? Also turns out, Joan Baez was playing and the old ex-hippie fogies came out of the woodwork, in thick-soled tennis shoes. A lot of the ex-hippies have since turned into Republicans, so maybe that’s why a lot of them didn’t quite look the part. Apparently, Joan had a well-publicized affair with Bob Dylan in the 60’s, which does up the coolness ante somewhat.
Not being of the generation that knows all about Joan Baez, we assumed she was opening for the Indigo Girls. In fact, I had mixed her up with that one-hit-wonder curly-haired chick from the 90s who sang the song that went “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?…” So you can imagine our alarm when suddenly at 7 o’clock the Girls start playing “Least Complicated” and we’re approximately half a mile from our seats, drinking wine coolers on a bench. CRAP. GO!
Pretty much everything they played sounded great. They switched guitars literally every time they played a different song; they were all about the music, no frills of any kind; every single thing about them said simply, “We’re authentic, and we enjoy what we do, and we’re good at it.” The only downside was our constant fear that each song they played would be their last, given that they were opening. But they played for a full hour, and then came back to perform some classics with Joan at the end, whom did prove to be a class act.
A word about Amy. Holy crap. The woman is charismatic in person. I think part of the perception of the Indigo Girls is that Amy is the fierce, butch one, and Emily runs a bit sweeter and more feminine. Their songwriting and singing styles reflect this, but Amy also exuded an unexpected vulnerability and joy as she performed. She wore a skinny tie and checkered pants with a white shirt and carried herself with a cool masculinity. It must be said: she is sexy as hell, and surely most gay women in the world would desire her. I got it! I felt so cool. Kudos to me! I get it, ladies! High fives! You know how it’s kind of fun to figure out which straight women would be sexy to straight men? (Umm…Scarlett Johannsen = sexy, Nicole Kidman = not sexy, am I right?) It was like that, only with gay women. As a gay woman, Sarah confirmed my suspicions (only after checking the gay manual first, naturally). But of course talented and confident musicians playing guitar on a stage are hot, regardless of gender or sexuality or even the basic tenets of physical attractiveness. So really, it was a no-brainer. Back to the music.
“Three Hits” is one of my favorites of theirs, which they did play. Though this isn’t actual footage from the concert we attended, this is what they look and sound like these days:
We really also wanted them to play Closer to Fine, because it’s probably their trademark song, and the one we’ve been listening to the longest. And then they did, and everyone stood up, and sang along, and it was beautiful. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people who love the same song as you – a song that was never mainstream, a song that we’ve all listened to at home, on our own time, memorizing the lyrics. There was a sense of fellowship. I am a TOTAL sucker for fellowship and community and music…I mean, does it get any better than that? So I almost cried, and I almost turned to hug Sarah, but we are SO not cheesy like that – it would’ve only been acceptable as a joke hug. But we were totally hugging each other in spirit as we sang along. Invisible spirit hugs aren’t cheesy at all!
The Girls back in the day, playing Closer to Fine in 1989:
The next day, we talked about which celebrities we’d like to invite to our upcoming cabin trip in August. Obviously, the Indigo Girls. Can you imagine the philosophical discussions, not to mention the campfire music? They’d switch guitars every time, but still. Also, Michael C. Hall, star of Dexter and Six Feet Under. Have you seen previews of the final season of Dexter? Oh man. Looking good. Which then led us to watching that one harrowing episode of Six Feet Under involving David and the hitchhiker, just to see the contrast between Mr. Hall’s two roles. So yeah, he’s awesome and he’s invited. Also, Peter Krause, because he’s also brilliant and lovable. And Paul Rudd and Tina Fey are on the list. We threw in a couple of writers who seem like good sports: Augusten Burroughs, Cheryl Strayed, Anne Lamott. We thought about adding the cast of Dawson’s Creek, and keeping them in a separate room from the true artistes, but then decided just Pacey would be enough, and since he was on the well-respected sci-fi show Fringe, he could hang with the others. He was the only good thing about that terrible, terrible show anyway, other than the fact that it is the perfect show to ridicule and watch every single episode of.
[While looking for an image to insert here, I just fell into an abyss of Dawson’s Creek blogs, gifs, memes, quotes, etc. and wasted two more hours of my life on this show. I shall therefore punish myself by not linking to a crying Dawson meme.]
Sarah and I would be too intimidated to utter more than a few syllables during this cabin trip; at most we would attempt to offer the artistes drinks.
“M-m-may we g-get you s-s-something to drink?”
And now for what is most likely my favorite Indigo Girls song of all: Mystery. (It’s lesser known).