Ten years ago Atlanta musician Kristy Lee brought her guitar to the beach for Memorial Day and the UnLeashed Music Festival was born. This seems appropriate for a weekend born of spontaneous gatherings. This year West Coast phenom Brandi Carlile and luminaries the Indigo Girls join Lee to ensure that this year’s festival is the best to date.
Coming to the Gulf Coast is a tradition for Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls. The IN recently spoke to Saliers about her love for the area’s beaches and her expectations of the Memorial Day weekend performance.
“I love Pensacola,” Saliers said. “I love the white sand, the scrub pines, the beautiful water. I’ve been going down to that part of the Gulf for 30 years now and I haven’t been to a beach that’s more beautiful.”
Saliers and Amy Ray, the other half of the Indigo Girls, are looking forward to their return performance in Pensacola and the energy the crowd will bring.
“We will be playing as duo and that allows us to be spontaneous,” she said. “Speaking for myself, I will be in great spirits because I love this area. It’s a music festival, people get rowdy and are full of energy; it’s just going to be a lot of fun.”
Although the Indigo Girls have played together and solo at the 30A Songwriting Festival for the past four years, they haven’t performed in Pensacola proper since a 2002 show at the Saenger Theater.
Their fans are excited to see them back too: VIP tickets for the 4-day UnLeashed Music Festival sold out within days of going on sale, and producers even released a second-chance round of VIP tickets that sold out. Same day tickets may be sold at the door if numbers allow.
Self-described newbie fan, Sarah Everhart sees the event as a catalyst for major Memorial Day weekend growth in the future. “I know that their performance will be legendary for Pensacola,” she said. “After decades of gathering at the beach it’s about time that we draw serious LGBT artists to Memorial Day weekend. And how perfect for the Indigo Girls to be the act that takes the lead. This is going to be huge. I won’t be surprised if next year’s MDW crowd doubles in size.”
The Indigo Girls are known for their Grammy-winning, decades-spanning career, which has produced 14 full-length original albums as well as live recordings and solo projects. Ray is currently in the studio for her fifth solo album. The Indigo Girls are recording a new album with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in June before embarking on a summer tour with Joan Baez. The new record should follow in 2014. In the meantime, Saliers has been working on her own highly anticipated solo record.
As a duo, the Indigo Girls’ signature sound is a harmonic blending which sounds as good in 2013 as it did in their 1985 debut. Saliers’ sometimes moody, always poignant songwriting brings to mind Joni Mitchell or Patty Griffin, while Ray’s influences increasingly reach into indie and punk rock for an edgy, forceful sound wrought from mandolin and electric guitar. The result is a sound that is passionate, energetic, provocative, and just plain fun.
Although Saliers and Ray have been writing for decades, they haven’t run out of things to say. Saliers, whose writing is marked by detailed images and perfectly captured moments, said, “I see everything in life in metaphors—if I want to express something I need to find an image, but I need to have seen it.” Mentioning the images in “Fleet of Hope” of a harbor clinging to a jetty, we learn that the song was penned along the Gulf of Mexico. Go listen, and don’t let the chance to see these amazing musicians on our own shores be the one that got away.
UNLEASHED MUSIC FESTIVAL
WHEN: Thursday, May 23 – Sunday, May 26
WHERE: Flounder’s Chowder House. 800 Quietwater Beach Drive
COST: Four day passes $100; day passes may be available