DEEP SOUTH GIRLS
America’s Deep South has a turbulent history. That band of states hugging the lower corridor of the mainland – Texas through Florida – succeeded during the Civil War. Soon after they became the butt of pretty much every geographic joke America could imagine. Native Georgian Emily Saliers, one part of duo, INDIGO GIRLS, makes a convincing case that those jokes are at best ill-judged, at worst fabrications. “The South was a fascinating place to grow up. It’s the birthplace of the civil rights movement in the US. It’s a tremendously painful and difficult yet inspiring history. There are dialogues here in the South. Living here is as good as politics and human conversation get in the face of this nation that’s so polarised. Atlanta is the place to be.”
Emily and fellow Indigo Girls band member, Amy Ray (they share vocal and guitar duties) know a thing or two about politics and fighting for causes; it runs through their blood and their music. Saliers grew up in the hotbed of political activism – Yale in the 1960s in a stridently liberal family. But for Saliers, despite a devout fan base at heart there’s a simpler message: “Indigo Girls audiences tend to be involved and whenever we bring up a local issue, they burst into applause. They know what we’re about. And even those that are there for a good time are at least there in the spirit for change.”
For the pair, like many others, the change is political, environmental and social – but more specifically personal. As openly gay musicians there have been battles, but it hasn’t typified their career. Saliers easily pinpoints one recent unsavory incident. “We had this one tour all set up, paid for and everything. It got cancelled. Word got to parents that we’re lesbians and they objected to that. But we have always been outspoken and radical ….so it kind of goes with the territory.”
The band’s biggest hit to date was their 1988 single Closer to Fine but it was a contribution to the compilation Grateful Dead tribute album Deadicated three years afterwards that sparks Emily’s memory. “We’ve always had tremendous respect for them and then got to open for them in Eugene, Oregon about a million years ago… or maybe it was the very early nineties. It was one of the highlights of our career.”
For a band reared on lush country-folk acoustic music, it was a rare treat to work with a band that codified much of the folk-rock formula in the late ‘60s on American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead, “To see Jerry Garcia (lead singer, guitarist, chief beard-wearer) listening to us play at the side of the stage and we were just babies. It’s just another moment in a wonderful career – but that one performance in particular stands out.”
The Indigo Girls will be causing audiences to swoon at The Canberra Theatre on Wednesday April 27. Tickets start at $89.90, and are available through www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au.