New Addiction: Indigo Girls

(Photo by Ziona Kocher)

When it comes to Athens Music Junkie, I always feel like I’m pushing a line when I talk about the Indigo Girls. Technically they’re an Atlanta band, and while we do cover some Atlanta bands from time to time, it’s rare. But really, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are, if nothing else, honorary members of the Athens music scene. The first time I finally felt completely justified in labeling the Indigo Girls as an Athens(-ish) band was when I saw them categorized as “local” at the Wuxtry. I figure, if the Wuxtry says they’re local, who am I to argue?

Ray and Saliers met in elementary school, and started playing together in high school, but it wasn’t until 1985 that they adopted the name “Indigo Girls.” It was around this time that they started playing in Athens, traveling from Atlanta where they both attended Emory University. They frequented the Uptown Lounge, and Amy has even said that “when we started playing there is when things really started happening for us.” As the pair built up a fan base, they continued coming back to Athens, even mentioning the drive from Atlanta in their song “Chicken Man.”

In 1987, Ray and Saliers worked with Athens icon John Keane to release their first independent album, “Strange Fire.” Keane worked behind the scenes on production, engineering and mixing, and he also contributed various instrumental performances on a number of tracks. A year later, the pair performed with Michael Stipe at the Athens Music Festival, playing a mix of R.E.M., Indigo Girls and cover material. It wasn’t long before Ray and Saliers were working with John Keane again, this time on their eponymous Grammy-winning album released in 1989, which features the boys from R.E.M. on a few tracks, one of the most memorable being Stipe’s contribution to “Kid Fears,” a favorite of the AMJ staff.

The Indigo Girls continued coming to Athens to play, and continued to find a great deal of support here, as is evident in the home video they released, “Live at the Uptown Lounge,” in 1990. Recorded shortly after touring with R.E.M., it is clear that Ray and Saliers are far more comfortable in a small venue surrounded by fans singing along than in the big theaters they had been playing in. In the interview segments interspersed with concert footage, the two mention that to them, Athens in old stomping ground, and that the community there had always been supportive of them. While Atlanta may be their main home, the Indigo Girls will always have Athens as back-up, and as long as the Wuxtry will have them, so will we.

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