I’ll come clean: I’m an Indigo Girls virgin. Their debut album came out in 1989. I came out in 2009. By then, the lesbians-with-guitars niche had been filled with new artists: Kaki King, Tegan and Sara, Feist, and Regina Spektor were all frequent guests on my Pandora stations. The only Indigo Girls song I’d ever heard was the ubiquitous TJMaxx jam “Closer to Fine.”
Little did I know what a good time I was missing! Like free-range barbeque, the duo served activist appeals and existential musings with a deliciously accessible southern tang at their Tacoma show this Friday.
The two women are complementary opposites. Amy, with her forceful, raspy vocals and butch swagger, has a distinct magnetism. Emily is soft and sweet, lending a thoughtful, almost ethereal layer to the songs.
“Even when it’s a serious song, you can have fun playing it. That’s the beauty of music,” said Ray. She proved it was possible to have fun listening to it too—the lush, layered harmonies in “Fill it Up Again” and the foot-stomping chorus of anti-death-penalty number “Shame on You,” kept the mood dynamic and visceral. “Dairy Queen” epitomized this balance—a thoughtful, but upbeat reflection on love and aging that starts off with the irresistibly funny line, “I heard you were drunk and mean/down at the Dairy Queen.”
The Indigo Girls is definitely a “sitting-down” concert—the crowd was almost exclusively 40-plus (though I spied one giddy teen in the audience) and consisted of a mix of crunchy gay gals and jersey’d Seahawks fans. There were no theatrics or distractions—just the Girls, a small backing band, and shy but talented violinist Lyris Hung. And with 25 years of lovingly crafted music to draw on, that’s all they need.