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10 things about the Indigo Girls

Emily Saliers and Amy Ray – the iconic folk-rock duo better known as Indigo Girls - will headline Tacoma's Pantages Theatre at 7:30 tonight. Here are 10 things you should know about tonight's main attraction:

1. The duo first performed under the name Indigo Girls while living in Atlanta in 1985. They had previously used the less-memorable moniker, the B-Band.

2. Saliers and Ray typically write separately, but hash out song arrangements together. “All Music Guide” notes how the women’s distinctive songwriting styles complement one another, with Saliers drawing for a more traditional, Joni Mitchell-style folk tradition and Ray being influenced by heavier rock bands, such as the Jam, the Pretenders and Hsker D.

3. Indigo Girls broke through nationally with their third, self-titled album in 1989, a disc bolstered by a cameo from fellow Athens, Ga., rocker, Michael Stipe on the track “Kid Fears.” Saliers and Ray won best contemporary folk recording for their major label debut.

4. Despite the band’s sustained popularity and avid following, only two Indigo Girls albums – “Swamp Ophelia” in 1994 and “Shaming the Sun” three years later – have cracked the Billboard 200’s top 10.

5. The duo’s activism includes founding the nonprofit Honor the Earth organization in 1991 to raise awareness for indigenous environmental justice. Through the years, they also have supported various groups fighting for women’s rights, civil rights for same-sex couples and the abolition of the death penalty.

6. Ray has been prolific even when she’s all by herself. She has released four solo albums - “Stag,” “Prom,” “Live from Knoxville” and “Didn’t It Feel Kinder” – since 2001.

7. The duo has gone indie again. After 10 major label releases, the duo issued last year’s “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug” on their own imprint, IG Recordings label, distributed by Vanguard.

Limited edition versions of the album feature a second disc with Ray and Saliers playing the songs unplugged.

8. Not that going independent was a stretch. Ray started her nonprofit indie label, Daemon Records, in 1994.

9. Indigo Girls are tight with South Sound superstar Brandi Carlile, with whom they’ve collaborated several times. Carlile contributed backing harmony for “Last Tears” from the duo’s “Despite Our Differences” album, and the Indigo Girls returned the favor by singing backup on Carlile set staple “Cannonball,” which came out the next year.

Ray also appears on Carlile’s “Give Up the Ghost” CD, and Ray’s solo project, Amy Ray’s Rock Show, opened for Carlile just last month.

But don’t get too excited about any unannounced special guests; Carlile will be busy playing to a full house at Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theater tonight.

10. Later this year, Indigo Girls will play the newly revived Lilith Fair festival.

Also confirmed for the eclectic, estrogen-powered music festival – which was popular in the ’90s but has been dormant the last decade – are Heart, Mary J. Blige, Norah Jones, Miranda Lambert, Erykah Badu, Carlile and others.

Venues have yet to be announced, but there will be a Seattle area stop, according to the festival site, www.lilithfair.com. Ernest Jasmin: 253-274-7389

ernest.jasmin@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/tacomarockcity

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