'Indigo Girls: It's Only Life After All' - music documentary's much closer to fine

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday April 2, 2024
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Indigo Girls Emily Saliers and Amy Ray<br> (photo: www.indigogirls.com)
Indigo Girls Emily Saliers and Amy Ray
(photo: www.indigogirls.com)

Since the summer of 2023, when Greta Gerwig's Oscar-winning box office blockbuster "Barbie" opened in theaters, prominently featuring the Indigo Girls' "Closer To Fine," the queer musical duo has been having a boffo year.

In addition to a 2024 concert tour schedule including with another lesbian icon, Melissa Etheridge, and the release of "Glitter & Doom," a jukebox musical movie comprised of Indigo Girls' songs, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are the subjects of a marvelous and long overdue documentary, "Indigo Girls: It's Only Life After All" (Oscilloscope Laboratories).

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers in 'It's Only Life After All' (photo: Oscilloscope Laboratories)  

Directed by Alexandria Bombach, "It's Only Life After All" is the generous and celebratory film that the out musical duo and longtime activists deserve. Bombach makes expert use of vintage and recent concert footage. She incorporates multiple sources for interview footage, such as MTV and VH1, as well as talk shows hosted by David Letterman and Jay Leno.

Of particular interest and value is the video footage provided by Ray who was notorious for carrying a video camera around with her everywhere, documenting their career. Bombach also makes excellent use of this wealth of visual material.

Equally impressive is the scope of the doc. While it ends before the "Barbie" boost, "It's Only Life After All" goes a long way in filling in any blanks and answering any questions fans and newcomers alike might have.

We get in-depth portraits of both Ray's and Saliers' early years, including how they came to music. Their meeting at school in Atlanta in 1975 as the girls who played guitar, and sang together in choir, resulting in their becoming best friends.

Then, after high school, how they both ended up at Emory University and still making music together, formed the duo we all know (and love) as Indigo Girls in the mid-1980s. From their early performances in Atlanta's Little Five Points to the release of a 1986 EP and 1987's full-length "Strange Fire" album.

Of course, it was 1989's self-titled LP, containing "Closer to Fine" (from which the doc also got its name), that led to their breakthrough, opening for R.E.M. on tour, and earning a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. With all the attention, Ray and Saliers also had to deal with the spotlight that kind of popularity brings, which includes the issue of coming out publicly.

A photo of young Amy Ray and Emily Saliers in 'It's Only Life After All' (photo: Oscilloscope Laboratories)  

As anyone familiar with the band knows, Indigo Girls' grassroots community activism is as important to the pair as their music. "It's Only Life After All" spends a generous amount of time focusing on that aspect.

Known for supporting multiple causes, including LGBTQ, indigenous, environmental, social justice, and empowering the disenfranchised, among others, the doc honors the contributions the duo has made for many years. Rating: A-

"It's Only Life After All" will screen at more than 40 theaters across the U.S. on April 10 (including the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., SF, and The New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St, Oakland), with a few select dates from April 11 to 18.

For more information and to find a local showing, visit www.indigogirls.oscilloscope.net

Indigo Girls perform in San Francisco at The Masonic, 1111 California St., Sept. 25. $75-$145. www.indigogirls.com

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