15 September 2006

Times, They Have A-Changed

If this were 1996, I would be losing my mind. This week, Barenaked Ladies released a new album, and next week there's a new platter on the way from Indigo Girls.

When I was a high school senior (1996-1997) these were my favorite artists. I can remember pulling into my space in the school parking lot (right next to a cow field) and just blasting "Life, In a Nutshell" from BNL's "Rock Spectacle" album. When the Cavalier's rockin', don't come-a-knockin', y'all.

And the night before I graduated Ooltewah High, I saw BNL give a free concert. FREE. I even sat on the stage. To this day, that's a tie for the best concert I've ever attended.

But even more than BNL, Indigo Girls were the sun of my musical universe. From freshman year of high school through freshman year of college, I was some kind of crazy-robo-superfan. I mean, I didn't choose Emory University because Indigo Girls had gone there, but it didn't hurt, you know?

I saw the ladies play five times in a single year. I knew the words to every song. Hell, my first AOL screen name was Indigomale. (Someone had taken Indigoboy already, damn them)

I have a crateful of memories in which Indigo Girls' music is playing in the background. Most of those memories are earnest because Emily Saliers and Amy Ray were the soundtrack to my burgeoning emotional life.

For instance... once when I was about seventeen, my friend Jessica and I were walking across the Walnut Street Bridge--Which is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Snap!--and we heard the strains of "Closer to Fine," that quintessential Indigo Girls song, floating through the air. Time stopped for a second, and then we started racing toward the sound. We discovered two local singers on the back porch of a bar, playing an outdoor show and covering the greatest hit of our favorite group.

And it felt so magical, like this song was being played to give Jessica and me and special moment. Like our entire friendship had just been sanctified because we alone were on the bridge to hear what we heard.

I can remember how I felt when the song was over. Twenty hands were squeezing my chest from the inside. Faster breathing. Eyes a little blurred.

For the five years I loved Indigo Girls, my life was riddled with days like that.

It still is, but now transcendent moments don't need accompaniment. I still love music. (Have you checked out this blog?) But it no longer seems like proof of my life's meaning. I used to love songs when they spoke for my scrambled heart... when some chaos of adolescent feeling I could barely describe was articulated by Emily Saliers' words or the soaring chorus on "What a Good Boy."

These days, I know myself well. I still love artists who can say something surprising or honest, but I don't feel the tumbling-down devotion anymore. I am moved by my favorite music, but I am not defined by it.

I think about those Indigo Girls days, and it's a nostalgia storm. I can hear that music and feel softness for a guy who felt so deeply about so much that he thought his heart was going to punch a hole through his ribs.

But I can't listen to new releases from Indigo Girls or Barenaked Ladies. Rather, I don't. I hear samples, and they just don't interest me. For me, both acts may as well have vanished after 1998.

Have you guys had that experience? Is there some defining artist from your past who you haven't taken with you to the present? Is there music that feels left behind--a monument to someone you had to stop being so you could enter the next part of your life?



At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Laura B said...

Hi, Tori Amos. I believe it was you who introduced me to her in 1992 by sending me home with a tape copy of Little Earthquakes accompanied by a 2 page HANDWRITTEN guide to the songs. The guide was, of course, accompanied by little stars by favorite songs and instructions like, "Lie down on your bed and close you eyes during this song. You'll know why when the music starts." And indigomale, I think you'll also remember raisngal, your pal on AOL.

Not only did Tori embody all of 12-20 year-old qualities that often left me feeling alone (female, damaged by men, rejecting the oppressive Christianity of the southeastern US, clearly titillated by the use of strategically-placed swear words), but she played the dang PIANO. Just like me.

Nowadays, her music seems quaint, full of nostalgia, and mostly irrelevant to me. I'm like you: the music I gravitate towards might elicit visceral reactions--strong ones even--but without the use of confessional lyrics that illuminate my emotions for me. I want complex, hazy, implied emotion. I want obscure lyrics. I want no lyrics even. And no piano is ok, too.

At 7:56 PM, Anonymous AdamH said...

Moxy Fruvous' music is still important to me, but it's not the be-all and end-all that it used to be. Revisiting it is fun. Listening to concerts is fun. I'd be there in a flash if they put on another concert. Do I think that will ever happen? Nope, and I'm OK with that.

At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Carrie said...

Um, you should so listen to Indigo Girls still.
I got my first IG album in 7th grade. Listened to them through high school and after and now (I graduated in 94 and it shocks me to know that I am older than you...)
Anyway, their old albums are super nostalgic to me, but their new music has become that way too. And it is good, good music.
Give the new album a try when it comes out. Or at least get one of the last ones, All That We Let In or Become You, and take them on a road trip. Put them on your iPod.
The albums are both amazing and will take you back to the good feelings you had when you were in high school.
I think Amy and Emily have grown in the same way I have grown, and their music still hits me just as deeply as it did when I was younger.

Just my thoughts..... I like this blog a lot. I've never commented, as I am a lurker by nature. Thanks for all the great music insight.....

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Mark Blankenship said...

I will certainly give the new(er) albums more of a listen. After writing this post, I pulled out my older CDs, and it was really exciting to hear all the old songs again.

Maybe the way I connect these songs to my past has kept me from hearing the new ones with an open ear. I'll give it a shot.

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous sockonthefan said...

Hey Markie! Or, shall I say Marcus?
So, what was your favorite concert?

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Jenni H. said...

i was stood up by a 50 year old lesbian who invited me to see the indigo girls this summer. so that was rad. i've seen BNL more times than i can count. including a concert they had with Dave Matthews at which I was POSITIVE i was going to lose my virginity to him.


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