Indigo Girls

“Well, that can’t be a coincidence”, I thought as a CD title caught my eye in my local Long Beach music store. The album in question was simply titled Indigo Girls. It was on sale, so being a newly-ish minted gay, I bought the CD in a show of solidarity.

My rationale?

Cyndi Lauper talks about it in her 1983 song She Bop…

“Well, I see them every night in tight blue jeans.

On the pages of Blue Boy magazine.”

Blue Boy magazine was a glossy tribute to twink pulchritude. A gay porn magazine, in other words.

Indigo is a shade of blue.

I’ve apparently been jaded forever. But just the right amount. Maybe it’s just in my head that a gender pronoun and shade of blue equals some gay code – indeed, to hear them tell it, they went shopping through the dictionary for words that resonated…indigo struck gold for them for whatever reason – but in my music store, this CD priced at $7 resonated with me.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

I’ve owned every album.

Committed more song lyrics to memory than I thought I had the capacity for.

Lost my shit in the theater when they showed up as extras in Boys On The Side…embarrassing my friends by frantically whispering, “That’s the Indigo Girls!” in the darkened theater.

Seen them in concert in a half dozen cities on two continents..

My favorite performances being their zoo concerts. I’ve seen five zoo shows here in Portland and two more at the zoo in Seattle. The crowds at the concerts used to skew heavily lesbian, given their sexual identities. Once Lilith Fair took the music world by storm and sent female singer/songwriter types on a never before seen trajectory of success, those crowds started to straighten out.

My concert attendance started to fall off then, too. Where I’d always loved the live music experience Indigo Girls concerts provided, it was also a safe environment for me as a gay man…to flirt. Safe, because other guys there were like minded, both in bed and in musical tastes. It was as good a starting point as any for selecting a mate, right?

Never happened.

Matter of fact, the closest I got to an Indigo Girls concert love connection was attending shows for a few years with Sacha. You’d have thought that the Valentines Day show we saw at the Aladdin Theater would have put me off their concerts, but I was a super fan and after that show where Sacha and I argued through the entire thing…well, I started going mostly alone or with girlfriends.

No, what put me off was the intrusion of straight men at the shows. I’d loved the strong female vibe I encountered at their live shows. It was such a safe feeling.

A generous space.

When I looked up at one concert and saw my handful of musically like minded gay men replaced with straight guys who were canoodling through the concert until fuck time…I was done.

Until

A few years back, IG got together with a symphony.

It was crazy.

Rib and I went down to Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle and saw this show. Indigo Girls backed by the Seattle Symphony.

By “crazy”, I mean AWESOME.

Their music lends itself to the process. It’s always featured eclectic instruments, so switching to classic orchestral instruments wasn’t a huge stretch.

The Girls are storytellers, so watching their show always included an intimate glimpse into their music and personalities. My favorite story of this night was the story about the symphony performance itself.

The symphony had been practicing their set independently. The Indigo Girls, of course, had the material down. But they never practiced together until the day of the show!

The Indigo Girls roll into town – I am pretty sure this was before Amy married a girl from Seattle, so she wasn’t a randomly occurring celebrity in town yet – do a couple numbers with the orchestra and then peace out until showtime, hoping for the best.

Why is this anything important to know?

Well, Today I Learned on the Facebook that there was a symphony album coming out. Twenty-two songs, with a video of Galileo to kick it all off.

I.

Was.

Excited.

I watched the video a couple of times. It’s not their best live performance, but I can only take their word for it when they talk about the humbling experience of putting your voice in front of a giant machine like a symphony orchestra.

Viewed through that filter? This is incredible. If nothing else, it elevates the majesty of the stories their songs have always told.

From almost 1990 to almost 2020…these ladies have been and have made an enormous impact on my life. I jokingly say that at the end of my life, my relationship with my cell phone carrier will be the enduring relationship of my lifetime.

Compared to my musical relationship with Indigo Girls (they prefer no article in their band name) and Melissa Etheridge, the more accurate statement would be that the relationship with these two acts shaped the adult gay man that I became and one of the significant relationships of my life.

Interesting recipe, equal parts family, catholic school and music subculture equals…me. What an arc it’s been for us both.

And I can’t wait to hear this album!

Indigo Girls

Happy Anniversary ME

Today in Music History: Melissa Etheridge released her first album 30 years ago.

I am not this old.

I remember hearing about her from my Hair Guy in SoCal. Well, my aunt’s Hair Guy. He was one of those people that visually made you stand back, shared stories that made you worry about his judgment and was probably stoned whenever and wherever you saw him.

He kinda looked like Gregg Allman.

But once you got to talking to him, he was one of those guys that ended up being insanely charismatic. Punctuating his stories with “dude” and “man” in a way that drew you in and then pulled you along for the ride.

Somehow, this generated a credibility, too. So when he told me about this singer after I complimented his choice in music, I knew I had to hear the whole album. He’d effused about the weight of her music, inadvertently bringing to mind The Band and Robbie Robertson for me. Stopping himself midcut to repeat the song Bring Me Some Water and then again during the song to feel the music.

Yeah, he was that type of guy. But it worked for him because he was so genuine with his expressions.

I picked up the disc and proceeded to annoy my roommate playing it on repeat for just about ever.

Somewhere along the line, I learned she was “from” Leavenworth, Kansas. Having spent some of my formative years in Atchison, which is just an hour-ish northward, my connection to her deepened.

What’s that fauxnomenon (Chrisism) called?

Never mind.

Each new release after that disc was an event for me. Seeing her in concert was an equally rewarding experience. I’ve seen her at least a half dozen times, and that seems like a low estimate.

She’s a story teller.

If you listen to her music, the lyrics will bare that out. Still, listening to her chat up the audience between songs as she casually strums her guitar is an added layer of intimacy to the feelings she evokes with her natural raspy voice.

I saw her post-cancer tour when it hit Portland and the connection to the audience was palpable. My desire to perform is nil, but in this situation I wondered what it must be like to stand alone at the front of the stage in Portland’s Schnitzer Auditorium and feel the love and gratitude rolling in from the crowd like a damn emotional tsunami.

She gave us plenty back that night.

Just like she had in every show and album. So, happy anniversary, Melissa Etheridge. Many happy residuals…er, returns!

Happy Anniversary ME

Mind Over Matter, Eh?

You ever have one of those days where you wake up with something on your mind that you just. can’t. shake?

Me, either.

It doesn’t have to be breakfast just because it’s my first – and probably last – meal of the day, right?  I mean, Chipotle opens at 10:45. That’s lunch time, definitely not breakfast time.

I feel like that argument clears me of any bad judgment…somehow.

Karmically, I feel vindicated because Digging Your Scene by the Blow Monkeys just came on.  That’s obviously a reward, or something.

Like breakfast with your best friends from college.  Maybe Shakespeare’s Sister and T’Pau will stop by.

Damnit.  It was breakfast.

Mind Over Matter, Eh?