w/ Michelle Malone
Sat. Feb. 9
Charleston Music Hall
37 John St.
Before the 10 studio albums, Lilith Fair, and … well, the more than two decades of touring, the Indigo Girls were regulars in the Charleston music scene.
“We played in Charleston a lot,” says Amy Ray, who’s been performing with Emily Saliers since they were in high school together. “We played at Café 99 on Market Street and the Breach Inlet Yacht Club out in Mt. Pleasant. We spent about two weekends out of every month out there.”
It was always a big party, she says.
“We’d be staying at some cheap hotel, and I’d be sitting outside the door in a little lawn chair at three in the morning with a pile of beer beside me, writing my term paper for when we got back,” she remembers. “That’s just the way our life was. It was all about the beer, the gig, and the friends. The Charleston gigs were definitely some of our favorite memories of our early days.”
In all the years since, there are some things that their audience has come to expect. An excited fan posted on one message board that she’d snagged “front row seats, Amy side.” Knowing where they’re standing on stage isn’t just predictable for the crowd, it’s practical for the musicians.
“It’d be weird to sing with someone this long and not know where you’re going to be,” Ray says.
The latest stop in Charleston is the second in support of Despite Our Differences (Hollywood), the duo’s latest studio album. Sunday’s show won’t include the full band, but the Girls will be bringing keyboard player Julie Wolf for a little accompaniment.
“It enables us to do some of the more piano-based songs we don’t do as often,” Ray says. “A song like ‘Deconstruction of Love,’ where it’s so focused on the piano that it’s more fun when we have a piano with us.”
Opening act Michelle Malone — a longtime colleague from the Atlanta music scene — should also get in on the action.
“She’ll probably be out there half the time,” Ray says. “She just sings with us a lot. It’s fun to have that third player sometimes.”
The acoustic set rules out some of the Girls’ electric tunes, like the new album’s crank-it-up track, “Rock and Roll Heavens Gate.”
“We don’t usually do it when we’re alone in a duo because it’s kind of hard,” she says.
But fans of Ray’s electric-guitar laden offerings shouldn’t fret — the pair has some of the older favorites like “Go” down pat. Set lists change from day to day, so there’s no sure thing for the Charleston show — except for such popular Indigo Girl anthems as “Closer to Fine” and “Galileo.”
“They just really hooked in to some part of the audience,” Ray says. “Even if there are high school kids in the audience, they sing along.”
As for what a particular song might mean to Ray, she says it can change from night to night.
“It could be something a fan says to you outside that makes you think about the song differently,” she says. “Or the audience decides to sing along to the same line in some weird coincidence. Or you’re in a town that reminds you of where you were when you wrote the song.”
Once the tour wraps in the spring, the Girls will head back into the studio with Mitchell Froom, the producer from the 13-song Despite Our Differences. Ray’s looking forward to recording new material, but the Girls aren’t planning to veer off the truth that has been at the center of their career since they were rocking Charleston 20 years ago. “Because the central focus of what we do is all about harmony, that’s always going to be there.”
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