Amy Ray and the Butchies, Family OutingPlush, Saturday, May 14
A nightclub named the Surly Wench must be a tempting venue when you're gay and half of the iconic, beloved pop-folk duo best known for two-part harmonies, cerebral lyrics and a creative writing name: The Indigo Girls.
Instead, newly recast Indigrrl Amy Ray--without usual shadow Emily Salier--thankfully took the high road to her humble musical vision last Saturday night at the aptly named Plush.
The Indigrrl Gone Wild theme wasn't fully realized by her headlining set, though Family Outing, featuring Donna Dresch from Team Dresch (the Oregon rrriot girls who make me miss the Lunachicks very much) were on board to keep the lineup's edge serrated, anyway.
For her part, a solo Amy Ray likes to mix up her studio explorations with a live Neil Young fetish and an eclectic approach--probably indulged to the point of tolerance by her loving fans, but to no one's surprise.
With her backing band, The Butchies, drawing just enough attention to her low-key demeanor and throaty, histrionic voice, all the great contradictions of live rock were paid homage: Crazy Horse, the Old 97s, Emmylou Harris and, of course, those navel-contemplatin' gazers the Indigo Girls, too. The Butchies, each technically solid and kinetically synched with Chief Amy, took to the various strumming, chugging, backcountry pickings and plaintive slow-burns equally well.
But the crowd, patient during between-song fumbling and cul-de-sac song intros, let their heroine feel it, too, when it appeared she was about to play her last song, extending their cheers far into the next song's intro.
"Hey, jeez, alright, Tucson, you guys are really something, you know that?" declared Ray, maybe a little embarrassed she didn't have more material, with more focused polish, to offer the loyal.
As the band lurched into the evening's first real rave-up and last song (the entire set was only an hour and 10 minutes), "Johnny Rottentail," (from her 2001 solo disc, Stag), Ray tried to vamp it up, trading solos and riffs with her rhythm section like Old Man Neil himself. She beared down and jammed the bashing, rocking ride-out as she sweated profusely.