Indigo Girls headline second-annual Rendezvous Music Festival in Beaver Creek
Rendezvous Music Festival schedule
Weekend Passes are sold out, but VIP Experience Passes ($405), Strawberry Park general admission Saturday-only passes ($35) and Vilar Performing Arts Center Saturday-only passes ($65) are still available. For a full weekend schedule and to purchase tickets, visit rendezvousbc.com.
Saturday, Sept. 12
9 a.m. — VIP Brunch, with music from John Oates
11:30 a.m. — Gates open at Strawberry Park
11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. — Ivory Layne
12:30-1:15 p.m. — Paper Bird
1:30-2:15 p.m. — Holly Williams
2:35-3:20 p.m. — Drew Holcomb
3:40-4:40 p.m. — Johnnyswim
5-6 p.m. — Chris Stapleton
8 p.m. — Indigo Girls, Vilar Performing Arts Center (doors open at 7:30 p.m.)
The Indigo Girls’ lyrical bent toward political activism wasn’t a conscious decision. They didn’t sit down together one day with pen and paper and sketch a path through the myriad causes with which they would eventually become associated, from championing gay rights to fighting to preserve the environment.
Instead, it was a simple, organic philosophy that grew from being raised in families where they learned from a young age that life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, said Emily Saliers, half of the folk-rock duo.
That fledgling philosophy evolved when Saliers and Amy Ray joined forces to become the Indigo Girls in 1985 and the two began writing songs that provided a mirror for their observations of the world and a megaphone for social justice.
“All the great moments in history have had songs tied to them,” Saliers said. “We really cared about these things and thought, well, we can incorporate this into the time that we make music. We married it all together, and now we can’t separate ourselves from it.”
‘One Lost Day’
The Indigo Girls will headline the Rendezvous Music Festival in Beaver Creek with a show at the Vilar Performing Arts Center today, part of a tour in support of their newest album “One Lost Day,” which was released in June.
“It’s kind of a travelogue record,” Saliers said. “There are a lot of references to places and times, and I think that’s a result of all the traveling we do and how much we sort of observe the places where we are and reflect on them.”
Time and touring will tell which of the new songs resonate most with fans, but the ones that are immediately closest to Saliers’ heart emotionally and lyrically tie into that same thread of activism that’s followed the Indigo Girls throughout their career, including the hard-rocking “The Rise of the Black Messiah,” written by Ray.
“It’s an extremely passionate story of a man named Herman Wallace, who was in solitary confinement for 35 years,” Saliers said. “And it just talks all about mass incarceration, solitary confinement, problems with our justice system. It’s very, very timely. It would have been timely 20 years ago, and it will be timely 10 years from now.”
In “Findlay, Ohio 1968,” another new track, Saliers contrasts her childhood recollections with the social struggle in the United States and a loss of innocence. It begins, “Findlay Ohio, 1968/ Poking hot tar bubbles/ With a stick on the driveway/ Grammy’s a Republican; Nixon is her man/ In two years’ time, Ohio will be up in flames.”
“It’s a different kind of song for me, musically and lyrically,” she said. “I like playing that because I feel very close to it, and it’s always a good stretch for an artist to write and play something that’s slightly different from what’s come before.
“My first thought when we started playing that song was, it’s kind of a random song and no one’s really going to like it maybe — typical insecurities. There’s been quite an attentive response to it. That is the kind of thing that’s gratifying for a songwriter.”
The Indigo Girls mostly write love songs, pop songs and straight-ahead, story-telling rock songs that don’t deal with political issues, Saliers said, but the songs that do dip into that realm have become the duo’s calling card.
“The perception of us is that we’re radical feminists, lesbian activists, and people form opinions about what that means and who we are,” she said. “But in essence, we are just singing about things that we feel.
“Yesterday, I saw a picture of a boy who washed up on shore who was a Syrian refugee, and I can’t get that picture out of my mind, and that makes me want to write about what is f***ed up in the world, what can we do, what can we think about.
“Tomorrow, I might write a song about that, and the next day, I’ll write about, ‘I’m really glad I love you.’ Activism is an extension of our value system. It’s just music and our reflections on life.”
There’s a dichotomy between how men who write about emotional and political topics are judged and how women are judged for tackling the same feelings and day-to-day struggles, Saliers said.
“Women want women to relate to, and they don’t want to see it always from the point of view of a man’s voice — somebody like Springsteen who speaks to, let’s say, the workingman,” Saliers said.
“But there’s also working women and working people and refuges who want to work and all kinds of people, and we talk a lot about that in our songs. I think for people to discover that part of us, they just have to be open minded about what we can bring, what we sing about, what we stand for.”
Saliers said the Indigo Girls are often overlooked because many write them off as an overly emotional girl band — modern-day Anne Sextons with acoustic guitars — and she encourages people to check out these female artists who are embracing very real subjects.
“In the meantime, we have this great fan base that is hooked into what we do and we’re hooked into their support and we’re really grateful for that,” she said. “But there’s always going to be stereotypes and stigmas and things that prevent people from checking into a content that they might be able to relate to.”