These days, it's not hard to see that everything we do -- everyday acts of driving to work, watching TV, taking a shower, eating dinner, reading a book to relax and everything else in our 24 hours -- is political. Everything. It's easy to see how you differ in your life choices from the neighbor who voted for Bush or the father who wants to see you make more money or the co-worker who spent weeks working for John Kerry and can't seem to accept defeat.
One Athens, Ga. group not only accepts the notion that everything is political, they embrace it. Their music often weaves together strands of the politics and loves that comprise Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, the pair that got together 20 years ago to become the Indigo Girls.
They wear their proverbial hearts on their proverbial sleeves, embracing yuppie-sanctified environmental causes, the fight for the rights of indigenous peoples, women's rights, the struggle to abolish the death penalty, and other efforts made popular by educated white folk now in their 30s and 40s (and beyond). And they lace those overtly political statements over and under and through their love stories about women.
In some ways, it's easy to make fun of the Indigo Girls. They embody a certain folky righteousness that made Joan Baez both poignant and ridiculous in her own way. She sang her Vietnam protest songs with an earnestness and beauty that broke people's hearts, even as it eventually made her the butt of jokes both in and outside of her counterculture turf.
The Indigo Girls walk those same blurred lines between being intelligent citizen-activists on one hand and being artist-entertainers on another while being know-it-all-pains-in-the-posterior. They don't seem to care much if they step over the lines and back again. They're too busy with their music and causes to worry whether or not mainstream media is poking fun or erecting statues in their honor.
On a promotional CD sent to promote sales of their "Cold Beer and Remote Control" single, Ray said of activism, "I'm not able to define myself by being an activist or a musician separately, or one or the other as a priority because it's melded in my life. I mean I would, I would definitely be an activist if I wasn't a musician, but I don't think I'd be a musician if I wasn't an activist.
"We try not to lose sight of just being musicians sometimes, too. I make a concerted effort to learn how to play better, but the thing that inspired me to do that was my activism because it gave, when we started working with indigenous rights, it opened up so many doors. Not just indigenous rights doors and not just environmental doors, but everything about the world, I could understand it better because of the activists that I met through that."
Ray, who is the edgy rock foil to Salier's sweet poet, has a new solo album out.
"Prom" whirls her anger with a homophobic culture together with a knack for sugary guitar-pop. Together, the seemingly disparate elements burn hotly, giving off a whiff of punk ozone and the Bangles' ear candy.
It's not unlike what the best of the Indigo Girls can be.
Sa Sept. 17, 8 p.m. State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave. S. $40-$42. 339.7007, www.hennepintheatredistrict.com