The Rich Girls Are Weeping

29 March 2007

"I'm totally straight," he told me as I perused his iTunes library over the network this morning. I admit, I'm not entirely sure why he felt the need to tell me that. I wanted to tell him that having the Jesus and Mary Chain, The Mountain Goats, and the Indigo Girls in his iTunes library was definitely not an indicator of his sexuality, not in the slightest. Because every dude I've ever known who was into the Indigo Girls was really, really straight -- and always seemed to enjoy going to their shows because it was a total low-pressure situation in terms of female interactions. It's kind of sweet, actually -- my friend Dave the Indigo Girls Superfan was always that one guy rocking on the front row at their Austin shows in the mid-90's. I left disc one of live album 1200 Curfews in my other friend David's car on a roadtrip to Dallas. I never got it back, and was later informed that he listened to it constantly, much to the irritation of his girlfriend(s). And of course, there was that oh-so-sophisticated high school boyfriend who made me a mixtape with "Strange Fire" on it that was my first exposure to the band.

It's funny, though -- I've found myself thinking about a lot of things in the past lately (big life changing events will do that to you, I guess) -- and I wanted to post these two specific Indigo Girls songs for you -- which was kind of weird, really -- until a) realized how integral my Indigo Girls fandom was to my general transpottery state (more on that below) and b) I found out that they'd recently played a show here at Town Hall.

See, if it wasn't for my Indigo Girls fandom, I might not have discovered Kelly Hogan, who was a cohort of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers in the Athens scene back in the day, when she was the lead singer of The Jody Grind. And if I hadn't doggedly pressed people to listen to Kelly Hogan's long-forgotten solo album The Whistle Only Dogs Can Hear (released, perhaps not coincidentally, by Amy Ray's Daemon Records), it might have taken me a lot longer to discover her SBFF Neko Case. Which would have been sad, really.

Other favorites I discovered more or less via the Indigo Girls are the deceased Benjamin Smoke (Daemon Records also released albums from his bands Smoke and The Opal Foxx Quartet, check out the documentary directed by Jem Cohen about Benjamin's life if you can -- it's a lovely and sad film; Benjamin is also the subject of Kelly Hogan's song "Sugar Bowl"), John Wesley Harding (who also has a Kelly Hogan connection, she sang backup on his album Awake and they did that killer duet of "A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock'n'Roll") and pre-Girlfriend Matthew Sweet (who was in a band with Michael Stipe's sister Lynda called Oh Okay in Athens; Oh Okay was a precursor to Magnapop -- remember them?). Good lord, why do I still know all this stuff? Anyway, I also must confess that the Indigo Girls discography was the first Web site I ever visited, with antiquated text-only browser Lynx -- ca. 1993. So, in a roundabout way, they're kind of also responsible for this blog. Oh, dear.

Anyway ... There was one summer when I was in high school (which was, oh, a billion years ago) that I wore out (literally!) a mix tape I'd made of the best (in my mind, anyway) bits of the Indigo Girls' rapidly burgeoning oeuvre. I remained a rather staunch fan until the release of Shaming of the Sun in 1996, when they kind of just lost me. In my mind, their last great release was the aforementioned double live album 1200 Curfews (1995), which just happens to be the album that launched the whole conversation chronicled above that spawned this entry. Another co-worker had caught that Town Hall show; I mentioned to her that I'd actually thought of going (because Town Hall is a great venue), but decided against it, since I hadn't listened to their albums in over a decade. She pointed out that most of the crowd at Town Hall that night probably hadn't either; they all seemed to be there solely to hear Amy and Emily to trot out the the oldies but goodies. Which makes me wonder, did they lose a lot of fans at that point in the mid-90's? I remember their last great LP, Swamp Ophelia (1994), created a lot of furor -- it was as if they'd simultaneously done a Dylan goes electric and a Melissa Etheridge-esque desexualization OR Lilith Fair-fueled in-your-face dykeing-up, depending on your POV -- and people were not happy. Now I'm wondering -- was that when they actually came out? I can't remember.

So anyway, I've been listening to 1200 Curfews all day with a sense of nostalgia -- their first five albums were great, but maybe I just outgrew them? Or they went off in a direction I couldn't follow? I'm still working on how that happened. Anyway, like I said, if it wasn't for them (and that weird, weird boyfriend), you probably wouldn't be reading this right now...

Indigo Girls -- Midnight Train to Georgia (live) (yes, a cover of Gladys Knight and The Pips' version)

Indigo Girls -- Thin Line (live) [my favorite, favorite, favorite song of theirs, I think.]


And now in a total 180, everyone come out to Bootie NYC, Vol. 2 tomorrow at Element (225 E. Houston), okay? We'll be there with our fancy shoes and party dresses on. Hells yes. Because the mashup isn't dead yet, and we've still got a whole lot of dancing to do. Featuring the sparkle-tastic dj skills of our fave Party Ben, A+D, and tons of others.

A plus D - Standing In The Way of Connection (The Gossip vs. Elastica)

Party Ben -- Every Car You Chase (Snow Patrol vs. The Police)


Also, I had dinner with renaissance man Matt LeMay at adorable Indian joint Dimple the other night (it was delish, thanks), and we talked about the New Get Him Eat Him record Arms Down and his upcoming 33 1/3 title about Elliott Smith's XO (I can't think of anyone better suited to write that one, except maybe ... me -- but I never finish my pitches!) To herald the release of Arms Down (June 5) and the band's summer tour, GHEH is releasing high-quality digital versions of their darling tour EPs for free for a limited time.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thing #87656798684-B§4.23 that I will never forget:

Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrapped my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety til I sank it


"I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind. Got my papers; I was free."

That was so, so long ago. I was in high school. I'm sure my hair was either very short, or so long I could sit on it. I'm sure that I wore as much black and much more eye makeup than I do now. I'm sure I had a crush on something tall, dark, and dorky. I'm sure I went home from school to books, handwork, and college radio. I'm not sure that now is so different.

Thursday, March 29, 2007 5:03:00 PM  
Blogger cindy hotpoint said...

It just dawned on me: I think the later Indigo Girls albums lost the sing-along-ability that was their strength. Even though they grew lyrically and musically, it was too hard to sing along anymore. (And you know, some die-hard tMG fans would argue that the same thing's happening there, now, too. They can get pretty grumpity about that as well.)

Huh, I see your point about now being a lot like high school. Weird. I don't spend as much time on the phone, though!

Just, dude, don't let me date any jerky guys on the debate team or fruity weirdos on the dance squad, okay? I don't think I could go through that social stigma again!

(One of my weirdo high school boyfriends lives here, btw. He's incredibly rich and successful, apparently. No, I'm not looking him up. Ew.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007 5:19:00 PM  
Blogger karen said...

kelly hogan was in the jody grind? it all makes so much sense now. i'm hardly a jody grind superfan or anything, but that's one of those things you hear and can't believe you didn't already know.

Thursday, March 29, 2007 5:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude. You dated a flaggot? ;)

What's weird to me was that when I was exposed to the Indigo Girls, I wasn't at all aware that they were Lesbians with a capital Sappho. For me, Indigo Girls fit in with Michelle Shocked, Sarah McLachlan ("Vox" was awesome in 1989), Edie Brickell, Hope Nicholls, Brenda Khan, etc. They were chicks with guitars who didn't sound like anyone else. I didn't think about sexuality. For that realm I was much more concerned with boys in eyeliner and black lipstick who had stupid proto-emo-combover hair don'ts. But the whole chick with a guitar thing? That was about being S to the M-A-R-T. That's when I was going to go to Pratt or Parsons to do some kind of art, or the New School for creative writing...or to NYU for the sake of going to NYU. I was going to find a boy who had a band and we would be smart together and live some sort of Weetzie-Bat and Dirk/Secret Agent Lover Man esque existence in an awesome walk-up loft in a seedy neighborhood. It's scary to think about the fact that those years are almost 20 years ago, that New York is almost totally gone now, and that I'm still looking for Secret Agent Lover Man, though I expect it's more about Nick Cave than Francesca Lia Block at this point.

Thursday, March 29, 2007 5:31:00 PM  
Blogger cindy hotpoint said...

I'm telling you, it was the one-two punch of Melissa Etheridge coming out first AND the Lilith Fair that made sexuality an issue -- just kind of across the board. Seriously. I never really thought about the IGs' sexuality either, until everyone ELSE did. Then, it sort of turned into one of those, "Oh, only lesbians like them!" kinds of things. But maybe that was just in Austin? I wouldn't be surprised, actually.

(BTW, in the interests of full disclosure, the very first shows I ever went to in Austin (on my second night in town, no less -- Aug. 1994) were the Girls' two-night stand at the backyard in the company of Superfan Dave. We got there early enough for soundcheck, it was AWESOME.)

Also, um, you totally namedchecked flaggots and Wheetzie Bat. This may be why you're my best friend. And no, he was't a flaggot -- he was on the MODERN DANCE SQUAD. Just one in a long line of guys I've dated that I found utterly mortifying. Seriously. Then again, he also got me that subscription to Spin for my birthday and made great mixtapes, so he wasn't ALL bad.

Karen: Yeppers! Isn't that wild? I can't believe, sometimes, that I've been a fan of hers since I was about 16 years old. I was thrilled to find a Jody Grind record @ the WFMU record fair last year. I almost cried!

Thursday, March 29, 2007 5:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a straight guy who was a huge Indigo Girls fan in my undergrad days, roughly 1994-1999. I even had dinner with them once, when we brought them to campus in 1998. (Joan Baez was in town, and she showed up for a few songs.)

I agree that Swamp Ophelia was their last really great studio album, although Shaming of the Sun was enjoyable enough and Come On Now Social had a few moments. (That was the last one I bought.)

1200 Curfews is their magnum opus. Amy's solo album Stag is probably the best thing either of them has done since then, and her tour behind it with The Butchies backing her up was fantastic.

Thursday, March 29, 2007 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger carolyn rhea drapes aka chacal said...

i'm liking this idea of sing-along-ability and popularity. as adapted from our emails, here's my take on all this, which was spurred from having just watched this great series on ovation tv, which is unfortunately, not on dvd.

it's main thread traces "tin pan alley" type writing and that elusive idea of singability; that even as late as songs written for britney spears' confirm this pattern. as far as "pop" songs are concerned, there must be a certain level of sing-songness by all.

while a singer/songwriter may craft their work as art and self-expression, lovers of popular songs will always insist that they be singable. what makes a great singer/songwriter song is the connection to its audience by allowing them to sing their songs easily and joyfully, whether in car or shower. this is what bird, the indigo girls, newsome, and others forget from time to time.

now if they can recover their senses and look back to what made them popular, so much the better for all. usually, that tap on the shoulder comes in the form of lackluster sales even though they have good, even great reviews. i believe this kind of connection also works for aethetics surrounding film, literature, art and architecture.

Friday, March 30, 2007 3:41:00 PM  
Blogger d said...

I just had a terrifying kid fears flashback. damn you rich girls! damn you to heeeeeell!

Friday, March 30, 2007 10:52:00 PM  

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