Amy Ray - guitar, vocals; Emily Saliers - guitar, vocals; Sara Lee - bass, pennywhistle, vocals; Jerry Moratta - drums, percussion, vocals -; Jane Scarpantoni - cello, mandolin, pennywhistle,vocals; Guest:; Cooper Seay- vocals on last song
Recorded by the Bill Graham Presents crew at the annual Laguna Seca Days festival in Monterey, California during the spring of 1995, this day's performance captures the Indigo Girls as part of a stellar lineup that included their friends Widespread Panic and headliners George Clinton, The Black Crowes and Bob Dylan.
At this point in time, it had been 15 years since Emily Saliers and Amy Ray had teamed up in high school and began establishing their reputation on the Atlanta folk club circuit. Issuing their first independently released album in 1987, the duo would catch the attention of Epic Records the following year. Epic would release the Indigio Girls self titled album in 1989, which featured Salier's "Closer To Fine." This song, which has since become a sort of anthem, would score the girls their first hit and the following year the album would win a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Follow Georgians, R.E.M., would contribute to the album and invite the Indigo Girls to open on their tour that year, raising their profile considerably in the process.
Over the course of the next several years, the Indigo Girls would release three more acclaimed studio albums as well as a live disc, which would cement their reputation and gain them legions of fans. Their gift for pure vocal harmony and ability to engage audiences both large and small would be key elements to their longevity. Choosing ideal musicians to augment their sound on stage would also help them become far more engaging live than in the studio. Musically, they would develop far beyond their initial folk roots, varying between the emotional ballads and uplifting socio-political commentary that typified Emily Saliers writing, and the darker hard-edged introspective leanings of Amy Ray.
This tour, which was in support of their highly acclaimed "Swamp Ophelia" album, would soon be immortalized on the 1995 double live album 1200 Curfews, which has since become one of the most appreciated albums of their career, capturing the undeniable chemistry of the girls on stage backed by a stellar rhythm section of Sara Lee (of Gang Of Four, League Of Gentlemen and B52s fame, to name but a few) and one of the most ubiquitous drummers here in the Concert Vault, Jerry Moratta, whose long list of achievements could easily fill this page.
This performance captures the same lineup in prime form, performing much of the material that made 1200 Curfews such an outstanding live album, as well as choice material from their earlier albums. The performance also includes three compelling covers that prove them gifted interpreters of other's material.
The set kicks off with a pair of key tracks from the 1992 Rites Of Passage album, beginning with Salier's "Galileo"(their highest charting single to date) and Ray's "Three Hits." Three songs from their earliest repertoire follow in fine form, but the set really begins taking off as they dip into the new-at-the-time "Swamp Ophelia" material. Ray's vocal and songwriting talent shine brightly on the psychologically compelling "Reunion" and haunting "Fugitive" and the vocal harmonies soar on Salier's "Least Complicated" and "Power Of Two," which perfectly conveys the desire for understanding in human relationships and remains one of the pinnacle songwriting achievements of her career.
Following Ray's rocker, "Joking" and the old-timey feel of "Crazy Game," which was the first song the girls ever released, they take on two remarkable covers in the form of Dire Straits' frontman Mark Knophler's "Romeo And Juliet," followed by Joni Mitchell's "Real Good For Free." These are both impressive, highly engaging performances that easily hold their own with the originals, while conveying an insight and originality distinctly their own.
These covers lead up to the most ambitious closing sequence of their set, which pairs up Ray's driving "Touch Me Fall" and "Go (The Suffragette Song)," the latter of which would turn up as the opening number on 1999's Come On Now, Social album four years later. In between is a remarkable jam that allows Ray, Salier's and their talented band to thoroughly stretch out. Totaling 17 minutes, this is a powerful and thoroughly engaged performance that leaves their folksy roots behind and proves them quite capable of holding their own with the other heavy hitters on this day's bill.
The Festival audience clamors for an encore and the girls oblige, first delivering a performance of "Closer To Fine." This engages the large audience in a sing-a-long two years prior to it becoming a Lilith Fair anthem before they close the performance with a powerful reading of Buffy St. Marie's "I Buried My Heart At Wounded Knee." Bassist Sara Lee, who has been outstanding throughout the performance, is utterly remarkable here and this number typifies the Indigo Girls ability at conveying a politically motivated lyric with great emotional impact.