Indigo Girls One Perfect World: Politics, Gay Marriage and Making Music

By Filipenko, Cindy | Herizons, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Indigo Girls One Perfect World: Politics, Gay Marriage and Making Music


Filipenko, Cindy, Herizons


It's a typical muggy July afternoon in Vancouver. Inside the Commodore Ballroom--a relic from the '20s restored to its art deco splendor five years ago--the Indigo Girls' sound check is dragging.

Amy Ray, the dark-haired Indigo Girl known for her gravelly vocals and edgier songwriting style, is a little frustrated as she runs through the evening's set list and corrects the levels for the duo's plethora of stringed instruments.

When Emily Saliers, the blonde musician that your parents would really like, joins her on stage, there is a high-frequency problem that's making Saliers' s's sound slippery. The technician knocks the tone down, but the result sounds a little muddy for Ray's taste.

"Are you singing it the same way?" Ray asks Saliers. Saliers assures Ray that she is. After a couple of alterations, Ray seems happy. By the time they getting around to checking the acoustics on "Perfect World," the sound is--well, perfect.

It's been almost a year since the Indigo Girls have been on tour in support of All That We Let In, their ninth studio project. Vancouver was the only Canadian gig on this leg of the tour, and Herizons was lucky enough to score an interview with North America's best known feminist sirens.

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What makes this Atlanta-based duo engaging after more than 20 years of performing is the fact that they have remained true to the two major conventions of folk music: producing lyrically strong acoustic music and speaking up on political issues.

And like most politically-involved Americans, the openly lesbian Indigo Girls have definite opinions on the upcoming US presidential election.

In Georgia, Saliers has been actively supporting Cathy Woolard, an out lesbian vying for a congressional seat. Both women agree the most important thing is getting people motivated to vote.

"I think a lot of people are apathetic and don't vote because they feel they get very little real information about what's going on," Ray says.

The Indigo Girls even offer space at their concerts for voter registration. Ray adds that supporting a free and independent press is essential to a fair representation of issues on both sides of the border.

"It reverberates when any country has a right-wing government," says Ray. "Like the Zapatistas used to say, 'Take care of your own neighbourhood and it will spread throughout the world.' "

The avid politico seems surprised by the recent Canadian federal election.

"I didn't realize there was any chance that a right-wing person could get into office--Canada has always seemed so practical," observes Ray. She adds that even when Canadians are moderate, they're often more progressive than their American counterparts.

Saliers, who has been politically and musically active through the Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. administrations, has no problem ranking the current Bush administration.

"It's the worst--with the development of Homeland Security, pre-emptive strikes, going to war over lies told to the public, creating an environment of fear--with very simple, childlike guides like a colour code for the alert stages," says Saliers. And that's just for starters.

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"There's really deep shit going on, and it's just so simplified.... I think this is a really bad administration and it's causing horrible problems, not just in our country, but all over the world." The Reagan administration was the start of a new low in American politics, according to Saliers.

"With trickle-down economics, turning a blind eye to AIDS and ignoring urban communities, they had a really bad effect that has carried on.... But [the Bush administration] is worse, indeed."

Ray chimes in that one of the most effective ways of stemming the conservative tide is coalitions and alliances.

"A lot of the time we're fighting the same enemies, especially as corporations become more dominant in the power structure. …

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