Hope You Could Hear the Indigo Girls Over the Crowd

Indigo Girls
House of Blues
September 17, 2015

Houston, you have a problem.

It's one we've written about time and time and time again, one that used to surface in concert reviews quite a bit until, I suspect, most Press reviewers just gave up and stopped mentioning it. [True — ed.] But at Thursday''s Indigo Girls show, our city's inexplicable disorder reared up again in full force.

Houston can't shut the fuck up.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Indigo Girls have been around since 1987. The video for "Closer to Fine" was once in heavy rotation on MTV — back when they still played videos! Am I right? What's the deal with TV dinners? — as Emily Saliers and Amy Ray built a career on songs both personal and political, marked by their distinct vocals and harmonizing, with Saliers's folk sensibilities playing off Ray's edgier approach.

Last night's show was the first time the band has been to Houston in three years, following the June release of One Last Day, the Girls' 13th (or 14th; not sure how Strange Fire figures into that) studio album. I had to look up that first part, however, because even though Saliers mentioned something about the last time they visited from the stage, I could only make out about every third word thanks to the shitheads around me.

Just so we're clear, not everyone in the crowd was an obnoxious jackass afflicted with verbal diarrhea. Quite a few folks in our vicinity were polite enough, straining like us to hear the songs and the occasional banter. And no doubt the people in the front were well-behaved. On the other hand, they paid more than $100 for their seats.

Yes. "Seats." House of Blues rolled out its rarely used theater setup and had actual chairs in the front of the house. All well and good if you have the scratch, but audience members wanting to see a show and still afford gas to drive home were crammed into the General Admission area around the perimeter. I'm not sure why, exactly. The audience at last year's Tom Jones show were probably, on average, 25 years older and they had to stand like everyone else. 

The reason I bring this up is that in most House of Blues shows, fans who are dedicated enough to arrive early can secure choice locations near the front, meaning the people wandering in to hear "that one song they played when I was in college" are free to loiter back around the bars and yammer their heads off with minimal annoyance. Last night, unfortunately, there was nowhere to run. 

For the louder numbers ("Power of Two," I think, or "Fill It Up Again," I guess), it was tolerable. But the HOB's setup is such that music reaches the back at roughly the same volume as someone talking very loudly about THE FRIEND SHE WENT TO MIAMI WITH LAST WEEKEND. For the quieter songs, forget it. "Southland in the Springtime" (possibly) might as well have been coming from a transistor radio on the other side of a highway overpass.

No lie, I went up to a cluster of six women who were fucking YELLING during "Happy in the Sorrow Key" (maybe) and asked to take their picture, did so, and when asked why, told them, "I'm reviewing this show for the Press and want to show the people who wouldn't shut the fuck up." [Note: For legal reasons, we cannot post the picture.]

Another group were taking selfies (with flash) during "Faye Tucker." Yeah. You know, for my money, nothing quite demonstrates one's lack of situational awareness like grinning moronically and throwing up deuces during a haunting anti-death-penalty anthem.

Or maybe they're just glad she's dead (this is Texas, after all). Here's an idea: Go take a fucking selfie at her grave. It's right here in Houston.

Ultimately, it was a lost cause. Like a hydra with Tourette's, cut off one head, and two more loudly spewing gibberish would take its place. Maybe, years from now when our bodies have evolved past physical reality to become pure energy, mankind will understand our mysterious inability to clam up during shows. Until then, if you want a girls' night out, go to a bar (I understand we have a few downtown). Otherwise, why buy a ticket to a show, come into the city, spend $11 per beer and make everyone around you miserable for 90 minutes just so you can hear "Galileo"? For that same amount of money, you could have bought a bottle of Dom Perignon, watched the video on YouTube 15 times and then killed yourself without inconveniencing anyone but your housekeeper.

We live in a wonderfully diverse city with a lot to offer, weather and traffic aside. But whether due to swamp gas or air pollution or disappointment with the Texans' quarterback situation, Houston cannot put a sock in it during live shows. Last night was a fucking embarrassment and I threw in the towel about two-thirds of the way through. The only good news is, I doubt Saliers and Ray noticed. Maybe next time they come here, they'll play someplace that isn't such an acoustical nightmare.

Like a NASA wind tunnel.

Personal Bias: Not my usual flavor, but I'm always down for "Cold Beer and Remote Control" or "Become You."

The Crowd: Think we covered that.

Overheard in the Crowd: That too.

Random Notebook Dump: "You can watch the band in crystal clarity in the mirror over the back bar. And also check if they're vampires."
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar