Saturday, November 24, 2007

those were the days

I was informed by an otherwise nice, punky little dyke chick in 1996, that the Indigo Girls were "passe." We were both holding guitars, it was nearing midnight, we were sitting in the big, empty meeting room at Camp Sister Spirit in Mississippi, directly under the bunk room where we'd all soon be tossing and turning and trying to sleep. It was spring. I had begun the opening chords of "Closer to Fine," and this woman rolled her eyes and told me the Indigo Girls were passe. She started plucking out the opening chords of Ani DiFranco's "Both Hands" and it was like we were suddenly engaged some kind of lesbian dueling banjos.

I did not believe, at that time, that the Indigo Girls were passe and now, nearly twelve years later, I think they have slid past passe and maybe come to rest as "classic." We'll see. Nevertheless, they obviously continue to speak to new generations of lesbians, as evidenced by South Carolina Girl who loves them and is about to go see them in concert for the first time ever. That it's possible for a lesbian on this planet NOT to have seen the Indigo Girls yet... it boggles my mind. But it's true: the Indigo Girls are still playing the same songs, putting on the same shows and there are 20 year old baby dykes waiting in line for their first tickets, who will soon, for the first time, hear Amy and Emily say "thanks y'all" at the end of every song, who will go home swooning.

Amy and Emily are starting to look their age. I was just scrolling through a Google image search for pics of Amy and... wow. Yeah. They're getting doughier and doughier. I guess that's what happens when time passes. They were probably my age when I first started listening to them, and that was about 15 years ago. You do the math. And Amy's changing her style, in the most recent pictures I saw, she stood in plaid, punk-rock, bondage pants with a black and blue, messy, punk rock hair-do, her eyes rimmed in black liner looking out blankly from her doughy, aging face like some latecoming punkrock grandma. I wish she'd smile more in her pictures.

But I digress on top of digressions. The point of this whole post was to tell South Carolina Girl the story of the time I met Amy Ray. It's not that exciting really, but here it is. It was 1996, several months after my lesbian guitar standoff in Mississippi, and my girlfriend and I got tickets to see the Indigo Girls play in Knoxville, TN. At this point I'd probably seen the girls about four times already and I was actually on the verge of agreeing that they were passe, but my girlfriend had never seen them so we decided we'd make the drive from western North Carolina over to Knoxville since that was as close as they were gonna get on this tour.

At some point a vague acquaintance of ours, Amy Beerd, asked if she could ride along with us. She didn't have tickets yet, she told us, but that's ok because she knew the girls and as long as she called Amy Ray a few days before, Amy would be sure there was a ticket for her at will-call. She knew the girls? Amy Ray was going to leave her a ticket? She was going to CALL Amy Ray??? Of course we welcomed her to ride along and waited to see how it would all play out.

I was skeptical, to be honest. When we picked Beerd up the day of the concert, she was carrying a long-sleeve t-shirt that, she explained, was a gift for Amy. "I told her about this shirt I got and she said it sounded cool so I decided I'd bring it to her." Part of me was excited but another, bigger part rolled my eyes and wondered if this was all a big put-on. I held my breath as Beerd gave her name to the guy at will-call and, after some hesitation, he produced a ticket for her. The ticket set aside by Amy Ray. "What about my backstage pass?" She asked the guy, who looked around in confusion and explained there wasn't any pass, only a ticket.

"Well that's weird," Beerd lamented. "She usually leaves me a pass too. I guess she's just busy, maybe it slipped her mind." Yeah. I'd say she's busy. We went into the huge, grassy amphitheatre and watched the whole, lovely show while Beerd's wheels turned, trying to figure out how she'd get that t-shirt to Amy Ray. At the end of the show, we followed Beerd right up to the gates that led to the "backstage" area of the amphitheatre, which was just a big parking lot separated from the concert area by a chainlink fence. "But I need to see Amy Ray," she was telling the guard. "I know her, we're friends." Yeah, right. The guard was unmoved.

Turns out they really did know each other, they'd met years before when the girls played all the little clubs up and down from Georgia into North Carolina. Beerd and all her friends would always go see them, then after the shows they'd all hang out together, closing down bars and carousing. They'd managed to stay in touch after the girls got really big and it was true, whenever they were playing nearby, Beerd could count on Amy Ray to leave her a ticket if she was reminded.

Despite Beerd's pleas (she kept holding up the shirt to the guard and saying, "But I promised I'd bring this to her!") we were not allowed backstage and she had to quickly throw together a plan-b. We followed her as she followed the chain-link fence. It turned and led us far away from the stage, but Beerd had an idea. Eventually we reached the end of the fence, it opened up to nothing and let us out of the crowded ampitheatre. At the end of the fence, Beerd simply turned around and walked back down the length of the fence, ON THE OTHER SIDE.

In theory, we'd end up on the other side of the fence backstage. In reality, we ended up in a dry culvert which ran along behind the backstage area. The only thing that separated us from the girls was a ten foot embankment and lots of rocks. We started climbing.

As soon as we emerged from the culvert and onto the solid pavement of "backstage," a swarm of yellow-jacketed security guards descended from all corners and we heard shouts of "You can't be back here," and "This area is restricted." Suddenly, like Moses parting the Red Sea, a figure appeared in the midst of all the yellow jackets, held up her hands like Jesus and dispersed the whole mob of security with two words, "They're ok." It was Amy Ray.

Beerd ran up and hugged her and my girlfriend and I slunk sheepishly along behind her, starstruck and embarassed. Once the embrace was over, it was obvious that Amy Ray was not quite as psyched to see Beerd as Beerd might have imagined. Beerd introduced me and my girlfriend and Amy Ray looked at each of us in turn with her deep, intense eyes, and nodding at us, her arms crossed over her chest, she was as sexy as I ever imagined she would be. But then, before Beerd could get another word out, Amy Ray began to explain why she wouldn't be able to hang out with us. She motioned over her shoulder to the big black truck parked nearby, "I've gotta finish up here and then drive all the way back to Dahlonega tonight, that's nearly a four hour drive," etc, etc, etc.

It was kind of sad, actually. I could see the whole story, see Beerd as the hanger-on, see that the girls had moved so far past that particular version of their past. Beerd gave her the t-shirt, Amy Ray walked us over to the gate where we'd originally haggled with the guard. We were all giddy as we left, even Beerd who still somehow hadn't felt the impact of what felt, to us, like rejection. At least we hadn't had to climb back down into the culvert to get out.


Blogger south carolina girl said...

hanging out with her would have been cool but i'm sure seeing her was pretty cool, too.

i am so happy i will get to go to a show! i hope for more but i am glad for this one. :)

3:11 PM  
Blogger heather said...

i don't listen to them much anymore either but still... damn. that close to amy-smoldering-ray? i'm jealous.

9:02 PM  

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