Monday, August 29, 2011

My Own Private Lilith Fair

It's only life after all

It was the late 90s and I was a child of Lilith Fair.

It was a great time for female singer-songwriters. My CD tower toppled with titles like Little Plastic Castle, Under the Pink, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and This Fire that spun on constant rotation on my 3-CD changer. If it had sandals, an acoustic guitar, and a vagina, I was listening to it in 1998.

So you can imagine my reaction when I learned that the next assembly at my Tennessee high school would be an Indigo Girls concert.

In an unprecedented move, the Indigo Girls decided to kick off their summer 1998 tour with a tour of Southern high schools. I've never understood why. But I didn't care why. I just knew it was going to be the best day of school ever.

When the fateful day came, I was ready. I picked out the perfect outfit: my offwhite Lilith Fair t-shirt from summer 1997, a floor-length maroon hippie skirt, Birkenstocks, and the pièce de résistance: a crown of maroon flowers for my head that I made myself out of an embroidery hoop and fake flowers from Michaels. I submit the following photographic evidence, taken that very morning:

Lanier and I pose like this in most pictures

I sized myself up in the mirror that day. The tiny bells on my crown were tinkling optimistically. The naked Venus figure on my t-shirt offset my long tiered skirt perfectly. I just knew that the Indigo Girls would know I was a true fan.

When we filed into the auditorium, I was nearly breathless. I snapped this photo of my friends Chris and Jessica waiting for the show to start.

Imagine the scene. Franklin High School auditorium, 1:00pm. I am perched in the 2nd row on the edge of my red plastic seat, tearfully wailing How long til my soul gets it right in exuberant harmony with the Indigo Girls. Rocking. The Fuck. Out.

The rest of the student not.

They are restless, bored--watching the show with approximately the same enthusiasm as had been displayed at a recent assembly featuring actor Chris Burke, best known as Corky from Life Goes On.

This is my life, y'all.

When Emily and Amy said they'd have time for a few questions at the end, a hot wave of excitement rushed through me. What would I ask them?? The resounding silence from the other 800 people in the auditorium meant that I was going to have to think of something, fast.

It was a total accident. Someone, I don't remember who, had recently returned a little stuffed sheep to me that they had had for some reason. It was in my backpack.

Chris with sheep

I called out to them that I wanted to give them a present. I handed the little sheep to Amy. She thanked me and put it on one of the amps along with a few other little doodads. A little black sheep.

It turned out to be a fitting gift. A number of high schools ended up canceling the scheduled Indigo Girls concerts, ostensibly because of profanity in their music, but actually because the Bible Belt often has problems with The Gays and especially The Gays exposing themselves and their lifestyle to Our Children.

Huge, HUGE props to Doug Crosier, our principal, for being such a cool guy. Check out this Rolling Stone clipping about the cancelations, where Doug nails it with a pitch-perfect soundbite:

And as for my sheep, well...That summer, when I saw them play at Lilith Fair, I was sure that I spotted him on top of their amp. Wishful teenage thinking or a symbol of solidarity between the Indigo Girls and their shameless superfan? I may never know.

Discussion Question:
What's the best school assembly you ever had?


  1. kmjd - this is EXACTLY why we love you so much...

  2. The picture of us in English class is amazing. That poor woman never stood a chance of teaching us.
    I think Ms. Freeman took a personal day that day, which in retrospect, should have been the linchpin in our case.
    You need to tell the story of the Sarah McLachlan concert as a bookend to this one.

  3. That is so freaking cool that the Indigo Girls did that. Southern High Schools, wow. It reminds me of Johnny Cash's prison gigs. A ray of hope lighting the way to the outside, the future, where there's the promise of freedom and understanding and grooviness. Or something like that, maybe.

    Also, nice outfit. :)

  4. omg you are so right about Johnny Cash!! very apt comparison

  5. Rocking. The fuck. Out. Amazing.

  6. I enjoyed the concert, though I didn't know all the songs like you probably did K2.

    I will say I had a very memorable experience with Corky from Life Goes On telling him that his work changed my life. A little hyperbolic but starstruck is a funny thing.

    PS - who knew Crosier was so wonderful!? Now I'm curious to hear the goings-on of the administration during our time!!

  7. Also - Indigo Girls are ATLiens (!)


  9. I'm not going to even answer that questions because NOTHING will compare to your story! Really sweet and I love your photos- remember when pictures used to look like that? I went to Lilith Fair too and wore my t-shirt all the way through college:)

  10. thanks for reading Sarah! always nice to hear from another Lilith sister haha

  11. Your principle was "The Crosier-nator" of Franklin, TN and New Orleans? That guy was awesome, we smoked a fatty almost every night in The Big Easy and even more often on school property.

    If you see him, tell him Arty said, "Whippets, whippets good!"

  12. I remember both this and the Corky presentations vividly. I went up on stage with Nick and sneaked a touch of Corky's letterman jacket on the back of his chair.

    I remember two other details from the Indigo show. When they opened the floor up for the Q&A one of our tactless classmates asked, "So... are you guys like, married?"
    And I believe when you were called on you asked, "Do y'all have a mascot?" and then offered up sheep.

    Who knew Crosier was so awesome?! I just remember chanting his name at the new principal the next year.

  13. Alex, you are breathtakingly relevant to this post. Thank you x 1000 for remembering how I segued into giving them the sheep because I really couldn't!

    Also, the CROSIER chanting incident is the stuff of high school legends.