Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Three Streets Off The Grid

June 23, 2018

“I wish I was a Nomad, an Indian, or a Saint. Give me walking shoes, feathered arms, and a key to heaven’s gate…”

            One show is never enough. Two is just a tease. But five is a vacation, and I’m so
grateful the Pacific North West leg of this tour was so robust. After a couple seated shows, I was psyched for the outdoor venues.

            After coffee with friends in Federal Way, WA, and a stop at the gas station to fill it up again, I grabbed a quick snack, and I was on my way back home to Portland, Oregon… once I made it through the Tacoma Traffic.

            I love the trees in Oregon. The Douglas Fir is my favorite. They are monstrous, and part of my allure to Oregon. When their green tops, high in the sky, are laced with the Pacific mist and fog, they resemble creepy alien movies. Did you know, Pine Needle Tea contains a shit ton of Vitamin C? Also high in Vitamin A too, Fir needles are the same, though they actually taste more like citrus and less like turpentine. When I worked at Sly Park Environmental Science Camp during AmeriCorps NCCC, we use to pluck them from the branches with the kids and chomp ‘em up on our hikes.
            Though I have mixed feelings about zoos and zoo concerts, I’ve been to a handful of shows at the Oregon Zoo, in Portland, over the years. Normally, I arrive well after the doors open to miss waiting in the long lines in the hot, setting sun. This year, I was on time, and had to wait in line before beginning my strool through the zoo grounds to the amphitheater.

            Since I’ve moved here, the Oregon Zoo has undergone several renovations to enhance many exhibits, as well as the amphitheater, which provide better views of the stage. The shows are General Admission and folks pack the large sloped lawn with blankets and low chairs. To the right of the stage are the reserved patios and cafe. To the left is the renovated elephant habitat. Though, the best spot in the venue is in the stage pit located right down at the stage. The pit must hold no more than 400 comfortably, but the venue itself holds about 2,700. This space allows for a party without standing in the view of anyone on the lawn.

            It’s at this time that I must share with you the story of The Flap. Let it be known, that I am not afraid of birds, rather, I appreciate and respect the space between them and I. My friend, Amy S, has not been so lucky.

            On May 13, 2016, the Indigo Girls played a show at Portland’s First Congregational Church. It was a benefit for reconciling ministries network. It was inspiring to hear songs like It’s Alright, Go, Our Deliverance, Rise of the Black Messiah, and Let It Ring in a church, though we were on the second floor and it was sweltering. Before this benefit show, Emily and her father, Don Saliers, did an intimate performance during the United Methodist Church General Conference at the Convention Center. We had appetizers and made conversation with the conference attendees upon arrival.
            Then, the evening’s events started with a ceremony performed by an Indigenous group from Central and South America. Amy S, in her sundress, sat second row on the isle. We hear the flapping of a chicken coming up the aisle from behind. Held by its feet, the chickenman tousled the bird around as if he was wafting burning sage through the air with it.
            At the time, I was so sick. A severe sinus infection, undiagnosed at the time, which would then cause conjunctivitis the following day. I had suffered through the work day excited about the shows, but was heavily self medicated on medicine cabinet leftovers. In slow motion, I watched the wavering chicken approach Please don’t snap her neck. As she passed, her feathered wing gently caressed down Amy’s bare arm with such force I felt the breeze that carried through Amy’s windblown hair. In slo-mo awe, grateful I didn’t take that aisle seat, please don’t snap her neck was still my main concern.
            Drums, chanting, prayers, introductions, photos, and a safe chicken, the night proceeded. Emily and her Dad, Don referenced the book they wrote together, A Song To Sing, A Life To Live. They shared stories, sang church songs, and surprised us with All That We Let In with Don singing Amy Ray’s parts. They even did a snippet of Hammer and Nail to demonstrate its likeness to an old gospel.

            Now, 3 years later, here we are, at the Oregon Zoo, and the zookeepers begin the Birds of Prey Pre-Show. The hawks are suppose to fly from one post to another, around the lawn, and grab food in the air on the way back to their box on the stage. Fuck that. Any situation that begins with “everyone, stop where you are and get down,” I’m out of. I shook my little tail feather side stage, covered my beer with my hand, and hid behind the volunteer security. Who was a lady about 70 years young, mind you. Luckily, I had made it out of the pit just in time to turn back around and watch Amy S’s blue hair get fluttered in the wind by the low flyer’s swift buster of flight.

            What are the chances of getting flapped at an Indigo Girls show twice?! I laughed! I laughed so hard.

            By now, our area was filling up and our friends began to arrive. Jiblet from LA, Angela and Grant from Canada, many re-peat concert acquaintances, and even local Portland musicians, Kaia Wilson and Lindsay Fuller. Then, out of my peripheral vision, I see a flash of short platinum blonde hair and a large cardboard sign on which one side read, “see you at the next show,” and the other read, “Get Out The Map” with a list of 5 cities along side empty check boxes. I had met my concert sprit animal, and of course, her fucking name was Amy. So we call her Munkers, and though we each weren’t attending the same 5 shows, I knew we were gonna have fun at the gigs that overlapped.
            Lucy Wainwright Roche’s set started and there were several beer runs and merch visits. Though I do love when Lyris accompanies Lucy. Lyris brings so much more life to her music. After many stages of hair, Lyris is finally rocking the mo-hawk and I love it. Amy Ray was wearing her Fern Gully Chic pants again, with the new button-up with red trim and arrows. The style of the new shirt still reminds me of the St Pepper’s jacket she wore in the Joking music video from 1992. Emily had on a clean pair of jeans with various tears and a cool left pocket. She had on a black tshirt I hadn’t seen before with what looked to be a green or yellow abstract bird along the neckline. Over the tshirt, she had on a red and black plaid short sleeve, opened button-up.

1. It’s Alright – Opening with this song is always so poignant. The addition of Lyris on violin really helps glide you right into the night. My coworker Kathy popped out right as the song started and we confirmed we’d meet right in the same spot for Melissa Etheridge in July!

We cheered big for It’s my thirst that brought me to the water – give it all up and she carries me on – it’s alright!

2. Devotion – Devotion also always just feels right in the beginning of the set. Emily invited Lucy back out to the stage, “We’ve known Lucy a looong time!” The backdrop of Doug Firs was so cool and Emily’s hair was glowing in the sunlight. I was so glad to be standing on her side. Also, from this angle, the mic stand doesn’t block Amy Ray’s face!

Angela and I harmonized, The book of days, the way things lay, its just space and time, we gave it up, all for love, that wont be defined… then we cheered loudly at the end of the song and Emily smiled at us. “YAS! So good! So good!” we loudly echoed. I was starting to feel my beers and slip into my happy place! 

3. Pendulum Swinger – Emily bantered, “We saw an owl backstage, and a porcupine.” Amy reminder her, “We fed the giraffes!”
“That’s right, and some elephants were hanging out during sound check,” Emily remembered.
Amy waves to the elephants since you can see them from the stage and she says, “It’s a mixed feeling. Complex” We cheered.
The strumming of Pendulum Swinger started and Emily said, “Let’s everybody vote in the midterm elections!” More cheers, then she shouted, “I’m gonna!”

We were so excited to hear this song since it had been a while and it’s forever appropriate. I’d say we brought back the Pendulum Dance, but did it really go anywhere? I mean, come on, I’m sure you know how to whip it, hip it, sling it, and swig it, baby! Some choose to be discrete with their pendulums, but it’s 2018 and like I said, I was starting to feel my beers. Amy S’s smiling eyes and mischievous smirk brought me such joy. I was laughing so hard, but Angela wasn’t playing along. She don’t like to whip it in public. But Emily laughed at us from the stage and Munkers caught on pretty quick.

…if we’re a drop in the bucket, with just enough science to keep from saying FUCK IT…

4. Gone Again – I had been waiting for this, as it’s normally a show staple when Lucy is on Tour. It’s actually one of the very few songs Lucy plays guitar on when she’s on stage with the ‘Girls. Since Gone Again and Salty South have a similar chord structure, Angela and I tried to sing the Salty South lyrics while the girls played Gone Again. Two things. 1. It’s easier to sing Gone Again to Salty South cause I know those lyrics better. 2. I have to apologize to Jiblet for my singing, cackling, side comments, gasping, guzzling, and who knows what else! Re-watching my videos, I realize I was LOUD. Thank goodness she likes me, or else this would have been the about the time I got an elbow to the face.

Honey all this is to say, every dog don’t got it’s day…

Emily’s banjo solo was off the hook, and looking back at my videos, I see little floating blue lights for the past 2 songs. That’s usually my Meme when she shows up in photos. I’m not surprised she’s dancing at the Portland show with me; She loved that beat!

5. Hope Alone – This seems to be the new sing-with-Lucy-at-every-show staple this tour. Hope Alone was performed in heavy rotation in the late 2000’s with Brandi Carlile, and it’s always most welcome to come back. By now, it’s taking on anew and setting its gorgeous roots in this tour. Amy plays the 12-string on this song, and Lucy’s voice supplements. The cool air felt great as the heat was starting to break.
6. Three Hits – First time this week! During this song especially, I love the force Lyris adds and I love when you can hear Amy stomp on the stage. We sang loud and at the end of the song, Amy Ray smiled, gave thanks and kinda gave herself a little hug in appreciation of our cheers!

Well the first two might release you, but the last one sings in me son…

7. Get Out The Map – This is the other song Lucy plays guitar on. I took this chance do a beer run and stop to chat at the merch table. The sky was losing its baby blue and the treetops were dark and golden with the sun set.
8. Shame On You – I hustled back down the pavement, elbowed my way through the tight crowd, tried not to spill the beers, and was back in my front row spot for…

My friend Tanner, she said she knows me and Jesus, we’ve got the same heart. The only thing that keeps us different is that I keep FUCKING UP!

9. Fill It Up Again – It felt like the show had just started and I wanted it to last all night. We were energized and having too much fun!

10. Spread The Pain Around – This has been another show staple for the past 4 years. Lucy sings, Lyris plays the bouzouki, and Angela and I totally agreed that we’ll never get use to not seeing Sully as Indigo’s Guitar Tech.

Someone yelled out Power of Two. Eye roll.

11. Elizabeth –There was a 24-year-old woman in the audience with a sign that stated she’d been listing since she was 3! Emily called her out and talked about it on stage, “That’s awesome. Thank you!”
Amy chirped, “Dark child.” Haha! Yeah, we are! We all laughed and Emily gave her Elizabeth intro,
“This is a song that I drudged up from some memories from college. I might as well been 3 years old. Sometimes you think back on special things that happened in the past with other people and they get real big… in your head. But this took place in New Orleans at a bar called Lolly’s on Toulouse St, and there was a band called Lil Queenie, and a song called My Darlin’ New Orleans, and a lot of whiskey.”
12. Chickenroot –Just as good, if not better than the show before in Tacoma. The sun was setting. Red lights came on for a dramatic flair. These seemed to be bumped out of place as it normally comes towards the end of the set. This show felt like traveling through time and space. No rant, just Bitterroot River wedged in the middle, though Angela and I agreed that the political climate is such that a political rant, ala mid-90’s, would be appropriate. Emily’s solo was off the hook! Amy’s hair was in her face. I lost my shit. The zoo lost it’s shit. The elephants, I’m sure, lost their shit.

Yes, I’ve been travelin’ too…

13. Let It Be Me – This is another political song that has comes in waves, usually around election times, or when the ‘Girls are frustrated with current events.
14. Sugar Tongue – This was Amy’s redemption song after her fuck-up in Kirkland! Nailed it! I’m obsessed with this acoustic version with just Amy on electric, and Emily on 6-string. To me, it has a totally different vibe than it did 10 years ago. They must have had time to run through it in Soundcheck.

15. Woodsong – So much fun! Lyris’ intro felt country! Another staple that we took the chance to scream-serenade. I think we may have even been louder than Emily.

Yeeeeaaaaah but what it takes to cross the great divide, seems more than all the courage I can muster up inside…

16. Dairy Queen – Back in full force, with harmonica and all. This was a fun addition to this tour. It brought me back to all my old bootlegs when it was rumored to be on what was to become ATWLI.

17. Hammond Song – The energy in the pit was amazing, time was flying by, and I thought we were only half way through the set! Sometimes on this song, they have the vocals cranked up like this…
18. Go – The stage glowed purple, my power color, and being outdoors sparked something in Go. It was starting to obtain the energy it would use at the next two shows.
19. Galileo – His head was on the block.


20. Share The Moon – Still not Point Hope, but I realized Moon was becoming the Encore staple.

I could go one day without Colin…

21. Closer To Fine

We basked in the afterglow of the show while the stage was torn down and packed up. We chatted, and waited for the crowd to thin out before making our way back to the car. I dropped Angela and Grant off at their hotel downtown; I parked the car at my apartment, fed the cat and met up with them again for a nightcap.

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